Celadon: A garden spot for California cuisine in Napa, California

No trip to Napa County is complete without good wine and food. The area has an overwhelming selection of both, so how can one choose? I offer one suggestion for a great dinner of California-influenced global cuisine in a literal garden spot in the city of Napa: Celadon.

My experience with Celadon came to be after a few friends walked by it and became enchanted with its covered outdoor patio dining area and eclectic International menu. Two days later, we secured an early Saturday evening reservation (a necessity on weekends).

While Celadon has an indoor dining area, the majority of its tables line a large, covered patio. Excepting truly cold days, the patio, with overhead heaters spaced strategically throughout, is the seating area of choice. Green and white tones, exposed brick, ivy and other plants seeming inspired by English gardens give the dining area a breezy elegance. It reminded me somewhat of my favorite restaurant in Kraków, Poland – Zielona Kuchnia (which I chronicled in the CD here), and so did the execution of its dishes.

The restaurant’s wine and cocktail menu was on par with any in Napa (that is to say it meets Napa’s unparalleled standards), but my group took advantage of the restaurant’s very reasonable corkage fee of $15 for our bottle of Pine Ridge Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon from our earlier excursion.

Based on a recommendation from a tasting room staffer earlier in the day, we shared the macadamia-crusted goat cheese appetizer. It met our expectations and was a sweet start to our meal – sweet enough literally that it also appears on the restaurant’s dessert menu. We also tried Celadon’s fried calamari, which was pleasant though not memorable.

Chicken is not a dish I often choose at a great restaurant, but I couldn’t resist the house-made, pan seared gnocchi, spinach and peas that accompanied chicken breast. That decision proved not to be a mistake; it was a wonderful combination for an early spring meal on a rainy April evening. The chicken breast and gnocchi were both cooked perfectly: tender and seared to produce a dainty, caramelized crust.

One friend ordered a vegetarian dish, of which a grilled artichoke was the beautiful centerpiece. Artichoke is not a vegetable I expect to see as a main dish, and yet this one was hearty when paired with quinoa and red pepper coulis.

The best dish of all was a bone-in lamb loin, served with Israeli couscous. This dish was another recommended above all others to our group, and the recommendation clearly had merit. The lamb was indescribably tender to the fork’s touch and seasoned with a touch of cinnamon and North African spices. If you enjoy lamb, do not pass up this dish!

Unfortunately, none of us left room for their dessert menu, which was good but fairly typical for Northern California restaurants. I certainly do not mean that as a dig in Celadon; desserts simply tend to be somewhat predictable even with California’s pride in its own eclectic style of cuisine. Which I suppose proves that “Californian” is a good style and culture all its own.

Tired of wading through a sea of great restaurants in Napa? Choose Celadon and you will have a winner.

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