Several weeks ago, we decided to have an early Thursday night dinner at Pilar, which is located in downtown Napa. The restaurant is owned and operated by renown chef Pilar Sanchez, who (among many other things) co-hosted a show on the Food Network.
Initially we worried that walking into a restaurant that only seats 49 without a reservation would result in a 25-30 minute wait. We were surprised to find that not only was there no wait, but we were the only patrons in the restaurant, save for one gentleman dining alone.
Conventional wisdom states that if there is a long line in a restaurant, the food must be worth waiting for, so naturally red flags were raised. After our experience at Pilar (serving dinner Tuesday – Saturday from 5:30pm – 9pm), we are happy to report that conventional wisdom should not always be used to benchmark the quality of a dining experience.
The dining room: Pilar’s ambiance is casual and unassuming and the dÃƒÂ©cor is modern and minimal. Various pieces of colorful art adorn the lightly colored walls and the brushed silver flatware and place settings give a casual feel to each table. Guests are also welcome to sit at the bar (there are six stools in total), which has various bottles of wine and champagne prominently displayed in small containers on the wall behind it.
Again, with no guests sharing the dining room with us, it’s hard to predict whether this cozy environment can become loud and impersonal or if it retains the relaxed charm we encountered. Perhaps those who have dined at Pilar during a busy night can confirm one way or another.
The service: We recognize our dining experience in Pilar was an anomaly. It’s pretty rare that diners have 100% of their server’s attention and meals are prepared and served at lightning speed. That said, we have to give our server kudos for not losing her focus while waiting on just one table. We’ve dined at too many restaurants where, when things quiet down a bit, the servers seem to relax and often disappear for long periods of time. Our server did a wonderful job of providing just the right amount of service–she wasn’t constantly in our face, nor was she nowhere to be found should we have needed her.
At one point we asked if the extremely small crowd was typical for a Thursday night and were informed that the level of activity is quite unpredictable–the restaurant sometimes being completely full and other times near empty.
The food: We ordered the Pork Chop and Flank Steak with a glass of 2003 Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon ($10). The server acknowledged the pork chop could take up to 40-45 minutes in cooking time, but was well worth the wait. She was definitely right!
The chop, tender and seasoned perfectly, was served along a side of savory bread pudding. The steak was equally tender and was carefully seasoned to give it just enough “heat” to make our palate dance. The steak, served with a side of “frites”, went quite well when paired with the Gott Cabernet.
We finished our meal off with a Meyer Lemon SoufflÃƒÂ© with a Raspberry Sorbet. The soufflÃƒÂ© was a little too tart for our liking, but was devoured nonetheless.
The Cork Board rating: 3.5 corks (out of 5 possible). Overall, Pilar is a restaurant that is small on space, but big on flavor. Because the size of the crowd is hard to predict, it would probably be best if reservations are made prior to arrival to ensure a reasonable wait. The food is wonderful and the ambiance casualÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.truthfully, this is a restaurant where the food speaks for itself.
If you’ve dined at Pilar and strongly agree or disagree with our take, leave us a comment, we are happy to hear from you!
[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, Pilar, Pilar restaurant, pilar review, downtown napa dining, Joel Gott wines]