From the ashes of the tragic Glass Fire, a conflagration last year which consumed the edifice of Michelin 3-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood comes a new beginning: Chef Christopher Kostow and his team are currently engaged for a two-month winter residency at The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn!
Truth be told, the arrangement for this Ojai pop-up was already in place before the fire destroyed much of The Restaurant at Meadowood back in September 2020. The sudden and complete loss of the dining room in Napa Valley made this Ojai opportunity all the more precious to Chef Kostow’s team, as this pop-up now became a way for them to continue working together; it is also serving as a pedestal upon which their collective future would be planned. The Ojai winter residency was all set to debut on January 6, 2021.
But then, fate intervened yet again, as COVID-19 had other ideas. The surge in cases nationwide in January put everything on hold. Undaunted, the Meadowood team patiently waited to get the green light for a safe re-open. Finally, in early March, we were able to attend the opening. And truly, it was worth every minute of the wait. The meal we enjoyed brought together beautifully the bounties of Napa and the Central Coast. Many of the vegetables used today were taken directly from Ojai Valley Inn’s own gardens.
The venue of The Farmhouse itself is a modernist barn-like structure with soaring ceilings, and open on three sides to optimize ventilation. The open kitchen takes center stage, with Chef Kostow and Chef de Cuisine Jacqueline Dasha at their respective helms.
Onto the food! Beverage pairing comes included here. First, a glass of Krug Grand Cuvee 168ème Edition MV to welcome the guests as we stroll the grounds.
Sourdough hazelnut krumkacke (marigold tea)… A delightful start. The duet between the biscotti and warm cup of tea was most welcome this chilly March evening.
“Bubbled" oyster, seaweeds… Kusshi oysters with effervescent Champagne and konbu brine. Perfectly shucked.
Rye bread, fermented leek, uni (Reeve Prism Riesling, Mendocino County, 2019)… Wow such a neat combination! The Hokkaido bafun uni served a pivotal role as counterpoint to the almost sauerkraut-like leek. The dry Riesling matched well. “Huge Bite” alert!
Main courses incoming:
Spiny lobster “à la presse”, with pumpkin tomato, squash and sea bean (Clifton-Brewer 3D Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, 2012)… The pressing of the ise ebi in order to extract the juice was grand theater. Tasty dish, too! The sweet, deep characteristics of this mature chardonnay accompanied this dish superbly.
“Excuse me, but may I have a clean plate? The one you gave me has a pile of caviar on it.”
Broccoli varietals steamed in eucalyptus tea, on caviar bed, brown butter sauce (Joseph Jewell Martini Old Girls Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2017)… Fantastic!!! Served tableside steaming hot, this is THE way to get anyone to eat their vegetables. Another “Huge Bite”!
Black cod, celeriac, black truffle, brown butter sauce… The versatility of the brown butter sauce between this dish and its predecessor demonstrates the prowess of Chef Kostow. He used the same sauce, but it resulted in totally different flavor profiles, while both turned out excellent. This was precisely cooked fish, by the way.
Quail à l’orange, with oxheart carrot (Sandhi Anika Syrah, Santa Maria County, 2017)… Incredible. Another “Huge Bite” here. This may be the best quail I’ve ever had. The cara cara orange glaze goes perfectly with this bird. The olive notes from the unorthodox syrah really takes everything up a notch.
Lamb chop, its own “fudge”, pomace olive rhubarb (Cain Five Cabernet Blend, Spring Mountain District, 2017)… A bit of the lamb’s own fat is rendered with honey, and then magically transformed into a mole-like substance which proves itself to be pretty much the soulmate of the lamb chop. The olive pomace then elevates this dish to divine status. Revelatory.
California puffed rice, koji, cream (Kracher Zweigelt Beerenauslee, Burgenland, 2017)… Chef Kostow makes his own desserts. His preference is more on the “savory” end of the sweetness spectrum, which happens to coincides with my liking. This thin slice of koji tart, with its koji grenache, is not only clever in its inventiveness and masterful in its textural complexity, but is also the finest dessert I’ve enjoyed in quite some time. “Huge Bite” alert yet again!!! This is Michelin three-star territory.
Black apple doughnut with yeast sugar (Napa wild spiced cider)… Marvelous. Hot wild berry and apple cider, served from an authentic Russian samovar! The story here is that not all was lost in the Glass Fire: The cellar larder of The Restaurant at Meadowood, where the team had stored all its fermentation projects and notes over the past dozen or so years - essentially a large portion of its institutional history - was miraculously spared the flame’s ravaging. The apples used in the cider and doughnuts are from that batch. And so our dinner ends here, with a very upbeat coda.
The Winter Residency of The Restaurant at Meadowood at Ojai Valley Inn brings the high-level execution of Chef Christopher Kostow and Chef Jacqueline Dasha within easy geographical reach of Southern Californians. Per our server, the menu will likely change in April (more reasons to go back!). The $495 per person dinner price includes the wine pairing and gratuity. And speaking of service, what a pleasure to be served by such a well-oiled team of gracious professionals. Blankets are provided to ward off the cold from the outside (we did not regret donning heavier coats on this brisk evening). Maybe I’m just missing dining out after more than a year of take-out food, but this meal was simply exemplary in every facet. The salvaged signage from the rubble at the original location of The Restaurant at Meadowood serves as a symbol of resiliency and hope. Kudos to the entire team!
The Restaurant at Meadowood Winter Residency
The Farmhouse at Ojai
905 Country Club Rd.
Ojai, CA 93023