Hats off to Chef Matthew Gilbert. Once again, he has delivered a superb meal — but this time around, he really has outdone himself.
Always focusing on cooking using seasonal and fresh produce, his latest offering is a Springtime Wine Dinner at Napa Grill restaurant where he is head chef. The six-course meal, complemented with a variety of wines, is not heavy but rather, somehow leaves one feeling light. Taste-wise, it is quite engaging.
The restaurant was loud with noise and clatter Monday evening when Chef Gilbert debuted his new menu to a dining room that was at full capacity with guests, setting a warm mood appropriate for Gilbert’s cooking.
He makes it a habit to step into the dining room throughout the night to check in on guests, concerned with hearing both criticism and feedback from diners. I think Napa Grill has been successful thus far because of Chef Gilbert’s relationship with guests, who know that their input is taken seriously and may alter the menu. A complaint about a goat cheese ravioli from the previous winter menu might soon be offered due to popular demand. Democracy at its finest I say.
The spring menu seems to potentially offer future favorites. Starting off, a basil crab cake with mustard aiolo and radish salad was served along with a Chardonnay-Colombard wine from California. The crab cake was soft and juicy, and the dressing served alongside had a nice kick to its flavor, both refreshing and not at all spicy. The somewhat dry wine served was a nice start to the meal, and a good choice, at no point overshadowing the first course.
A baby carrot soup with cumin and dill, served with a 2007 Verdicchio from Marche, Italy was a basic carrot soup and not too heavy. Although very good, it was the least exciting of all the courses.
The third course was a seared scallop dish served with oyster mushrooms, snow peas, rocket and tarragon vinaigrette. The scallops were seared to a perfect firmness, and the mushrooms were an ideal pairing bringing out an earthy, organic flavor from the various ingredients.
The wine served with this course was a 2005 Gewurztraminer Reserve from Alsace, France and my table deemed it the best of the three white wines served so far. It had a slightly heavier body and a sweet taste of herbal flowers that went well with the savory course.
A palate cleanser of muscato butter ice with elderflower gelee was set down, and it was an original replacement to the regular lemon sorbet cleanser. Tasting slightly spicy, it was the perfect prelude to the grilled beef tenderloin.
The tenderloin was topped with a goat cheese polenta, asparagus and basil-pepper relish and alongside it the most fluidly pureed mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Choosing my tenderloin to be cooked medium-rare, it was a reminder that considering vegetarianism would be crazy when faced with such tender goodness. I was quite surprised that somehow Chef Gilbert succeeded in making such a warm winter dish still appropriate to the warmer season.
A 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from California was served and also, as a red wine, was still somehow season appropriate. Not too musky or too rich.
Dessert was a great surprise. A lemon thyme roasted peach, with a chocostretto parfait and pine seed crust were set down last with a 2006 Sauternes Reserve dessert wine from Bordeaux, France. Most votes went towards the roasted peach which was a lovely golden color and somehow still retained a lot of flavor and juice after cooking, the highlight of the last course.
I would suggest starting dinner at 8 and setting aside a good two hours or so. Tell the wait staff that you want to linger over every course and glass of wine. The meal is not intended to be rushed through or to discuss banal business matters over. It’s an engaging experience and should be shared in good company.
Fairmont Nile City
2005 B, Corniche El Nil,
Ramlet Beaulac, Cairo
Tel: (02) 2461 9494