SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Napa Valley Surprises

I had just finished saying two days before that you can't find a decent restaurant in a mall. Never say never. We stepped into Napa Valley Grille in the Garden State Plaza, after discovering to our chagrin that a favorite eatery blending the fire of cuisine from south of the border with Japanese dishes had closed. Who would have thought that turning then toward something new would lead to a kind of boon.

Napa Valley's interior suggests California's spaciousness with its vista of wide tables covered with white tablecloths; low lights add warmth and displays of California wines are everywhere, including racks set into the wall overhead. I was delighted to discover a very vegetarian friendly menu, and we approached ordering as if at a Tapas restaurant. Our water had just been poured, and we were promptly served a plate of delicious peppery breads with sides of olive paste and olive oil.

We ordered a few appetizers to sample variety. The grilled Portobello mushrooms served over chic pea fries with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette were my personal favorite. My partner preferred the dish of sweet roasted garlic with goat cheese and a subtle and sweet tomato chutney and Parmesan chips. Our waiter didn't blink when we asked him to substitute the blue cheese with goat cheese, and he was extremely helpful answering questions throughout our meal. We also ordered a satisfying plate of fresh mozzarella and fresh roasted peppers over baby arugula with balsamic dressing that is pretty much standard fare for me whenever I dine at an Italian place. We closed the meal with creme brule and a pistachio gelato with caramel topping -- both desserts were delicate and extraordinary -- and some very fine espressos.

Napas Valley Grille recently launched a Sunday brunch that runs until three and has been very successful, according to the manager. Sample small plates include waffles and cream, Grand Marnier French toast, and huevos rancheros burrito, to name three, and soon there will be jazz.

Try Napas if you want to enjoy some fine samplings of western and southwestern cuisine along with some good conversation. The menu is tasty, varied and generous.

Napas Valley Grille has a location in Paramus on the east coast, somewhere in the wiles of Minnesota and also in Los Angeles.

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