The historic manse; photo courtesy of the Silverado Resort.
Foie gras torchon at The Royal Oak; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.
By 707 correspondent, Deirdre Bourdet.
The ~SILVERADO RESORT~ needs no introduction for those who live in Napa Valley. The gorgeous 1870s mansion house and old-money aura are an institution that’s been around as long as anyone can remember. Outside the valley, folks know Silverado for its supporting role as the “Del Oro Spa and Country Club” in the ’80s soap opera Falcon Crest, and as the host of the Senior PGA tour and numerous professional and celebrity tennis tournaments. Thanks to new owners Johnny Miller and his partners, the Silverado Resort is currently enjoying a multi-million dollar renovation aiming to restore the resort to the full height of its former glory.
Not surprisingly for a golf legend, Johnny Miller kicked off the renovation with a total redesign of the north golf course, extending tee boxes, replacing bunkers, and generally making the course eligible to host championship play once again. The north course overhaul is all done already, with new Mini Cooper-like golf carts, state of the art pro shops, and updated condo-style accommodations all in place to make a visit to the resort feel more like a historic vacation destination than a bad flashback.
The fabulous mansion at the heart of the resort goes in for its facelift sometime in the next 24 months, but the food produced there is already experiencing a rejuvenation at the hands of new chef Jeffrey Jake. Jake is a Napa native (a Vintage High School grad), the former chef at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, as well as the former executive chef for The Carneros Inn. He now oversees the Silverado’s banquet dining, the all-day menu at The Grill, the contemporary bar nibbles at the Lounge, as well as the more formal dining at ~THE ROYAL OAK~, the resort’s flagship restaurant.
The Royal Oak has been around for almost 30 years, and yet I had never personally eaten there until the resort invited me in to check out the new menu. I attribute this shocking omission mostly to the fact that Royal Oak is only open Thursday through Saturday nights (and only during the high season, April to October), but also to my fear that the menu would be straight out of Calvin Trillin’s La Maison de la Casa House. I am relieved to report that with Jake at the helm, The Royal Oak is in fact producing some very tasty contemporary cuisine.
The restaurant’s shockingly small kitchen means that the menu leans toward simple, ingredient-driven dishes: think poached shrimp with spicy cocktail sauce, oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab fritters, charbroiled meats, and à la carte steakhouse staples. Despite the classic simplicity, Jake’s modern touch is evident throughout the menu. Charred, perfectly seasoned steaks and delicate seafood arrive from the 2,500-degree Montague charbroiler with your choice of sauce: roasted shallot-sea salt butter, green peppercorn, soy-lime, salsa verde, or Point Reyes blue cheese butter. Tiny roasted beets nestle into luxurious burrata, sheltered by a thicket of watercress leaves dressed with 50-year-old balsamic vinegar. Pistachio-crusted foie gras torchon gets ultra-seasonal with a dab of rhubarb marmalade and a tangle of pickled spring onions and baby chard leaves … a perfect balance of tart, rich, sweet, and salty.
The dated dining room is slated for a makeover soon, but in the meantime, gaze eastward at the pastoral beauty of the golf course, or dine outside on the patio terrace during warmer weather for the ultimate country club feel.
And now I need to rave about the unbelievable Royal Oak servers, many of whom have been working at Silverado for two or three decades. The seamless elegance of these pros transport you to a more gracious era when dishes were finished and carved tableside, and people actually dressed for dinner. I wanted to order something totally old school—maybe steak Diane or sole amandine—just to watch these guys put on their show.
Jake says he plans to phase out many of the old-fashioned menu fixtures over time, but a nostalgic part of me hopes he hangs on to at least some of the classics. The long history and exceptional staff at Royal Oak offer something utterly unique in Napa, perfectly suited to the Silverado Resort’s dramatic setting. Let’s hope the restaurant’s future evolution retains the magic of that legacy. 1600 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa, 707-257-0200.
P.S. The Spa at Silverado just across Atlas Peak Road offers the full panoply of modern services, as well as a sweet afternoon “Happy Hour” deal in the Salon Monday-Friday from 2pm-6pm. For $25, you score an express manicure or pedicure (or both for $45) along with a complimentary glass of Champagne and all-day guest privileges in the gym, pool, and spa. 1605 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa, 707-257-5555.