The Corner, downtown Napa's newest restaurant on the riverfront, is not for the indecisive. The first question of the night is also the toughest: What would you like to drink?
Few wouldn't be intimidated by the 26-page wine list at The Corner, and not just because it contains the most expensive bottle in Napa Valley (a 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti that could be yours for a mere $50,000). The worldly 4,500-bottle collection, most of which comes from owners Trevor and Stephanie Sheehan's own cellar, is unique even in Wine Country. Reflective of Trevor's personal passions and favorite flavor profiles, only a few pages are dedicated to local producers, while 13 are devoted to the wines of France with a focus on rare, old world Burgundies. The oldest vintage available, from the Bordeaux estate Château Siran, dates back to 1919.
The list is so comprehensive that it requires a pilot, so the Sheehan's brought in David Kasper, an advanced-level sommelier, who previously headed the wine program at Thomas Keller's Michelin-starred Bouchon. Many bottles are more suited for special occasions, priced into the hundreds and thousands, but there are plenty of options in the two-digit range, including several from France's finest regions. If you're looking for something under $50, though, you're better off ordering by the glass, where selections range from $11 to $60. Try the white blend from fun-loving and local boutique producer Dirty & Rowdy for $16, or the 2013 Charles Van Canneyt Pinot Noir for $15.
Originally planned as a wine shop where the Sheehans could showcase their vast wine library—Trevor started collecting more than a decade ago—the Corner evolved into something larger thanks, in part, to Stephanie's background in the restaurant industry. Now, it's a restaurant and bar that also happens to house a very cool wine shop. So, if you're seeking a special bottle but don't want to stay for dinner, no problem; or, purchase at retail pricing and pair it with your meal for a small corkage fee.
The Sheehans' based The Corner on the idea of a Wine Country public house. It's dark and industrial and, with more bar and lounge space than tables, it has the potential to become a popular locals hangout. The vibe is casual, but this is no mere pub: The Corner has all the modern design elements, top-notch service, and elevated food (with the price tags to match) of Napa Valley's most sought-after establishments.
Boozehounds will also appreciate Trevor's newest collection: 150 bottles of bourbon and whiskey—the largest (and rarest) display in Napa (nearby Bounty Hunter has the next largest collection of bourbons with just over 40 American whiskeys). At the top of The Corner's list is the 25-year-old Yamazaki, a $500 bottle of Japanese whiskey, and a Macallan 25-Year Anniversary Malt ($350). Look for spirits flights on offer soon, but for now you'll most certainly make due with cocktails designed by bar manager Krysta Angulo, who puts her bio-nutrition degree to work in modern takes on old classics. Take, for example, the Old Fashioned, which comes in two varieties—the smoky Oaxacan (Xicaru Mezcal, Herradu Silver, demerara syrup, mole bitters) and the sweet Coombs (bacon-infused Buffalo Trace, fresh apple cider syrup, angostura bitters), served up with a candied stick of bacon.
"We have something for everyone," says Stephanie, noting the couple's desire to focus on wine and spirits without skimping on great food.
In the kitchen, chef Dustin Falcon (The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Morimoto) churns out modern American classics such as braised lamb grilled cheese, beef tartare toast, and deviled quail eggs. On paper, some of his ingredient combintions may seem questionable—pork shoulder with sweet plantain; bolognese with soft shell crab—but on the palate, they work. For Falcon, who hails from South Florida, California is his oyster, providing a bounty of fresh, local ingredients to use as playthings in his craft.
The chef's interpretation of the Jewish deli staple pastrami on rye ($16) is a must-order, if only for his dedication to brining and cooking the pastrami over nine-and-a-half days. Instead of using the traditional cuts of beef, Falcon makes his pastrami from short rib, adding a pool of mustard beads, and setting it atop a crunchy rye chip instead of bread. For those seeking something on the lighter side, the seared tuna in bone marrow vinaigrette ($29) is an elevated version of surf and turf.
But if you eat nothing else, make sure to try the foie gras, which arrived at our table drizzled in a watermelon marmalade ($26). It's the kind of dish you eat with your eyes closed.
For dessert, the rich Chocolate Silk cake ($9) looks positively glamorous, but we urge even chocoholics to go for The Dark Horse, a white chocolate bread pudding with mixed berries, that brings back fuzzy feelings of home. // The Corner Napa, 660 Main St. (Napa), cornerbarnapa.com