In the heart of Yountville, a restaurant mecca with almost as many Michelin stars as permanent residents, Chef Sean O’Toole is about to throw his toque into the ring. Or hard hat. It just depends on the day.
The 36-year-old was recently tapped to head the Restaurant at Bardessono, part of an ambitious project that includes a 62-room inn and spa designed to exacting green-building standards. Under construction since 2005 the 214,000 square-foot complex envisioned by a local winemaking family is expected to become the “greenest” hotel in America.
That extends to the O’Toole’s not-so-little corner of the property — a 92-seat dining room, state-of-the-art ktichen and kitchen gardens overseen by French Laundry produce protege Noel Lopreore— making good on the oft-made promise of restaurant sustainability. For the last several week’s the chef and his staff have donned hard hats and chef’s whites around the property as construction — and menus — are finalized.
Set to open February 2, 2009, the restaurant will serve three meals a day, focusing on locally-sourced American comfort food. The kitchen’s time is split between it’s obligation to high-end customers spending upwards of $600 per night at the inn (24-hour in-room service, private dining events) and a strong desire to reach out to the community (approachable breakfast/lunch price points, a 14-person communal dining table that won’t require reservations). O’Toole will also oversee a staff of more than 20, including former COPIA pastry chef Debbie Yee-Henen.
Opening menus read like a who’s who of local producers (a quality I’ve lambasted before for its over-earnestness). In Yountville, where sustainably-focused food tourists are likely to ask (or demand) a pedigree, it’s not off the mark. Sean gets extra cred for his close relationship with Lopreore, who’ll work to grow just what his kitchen needs — from 18 different types of basil to purple artichokes and a rare ghost chili.
Lunch includes a Hog Island Oyster Po Boy ($14), a locally sourced Pulled Pork Sandwich on Texas Toast ($13). Dinner ranges from Bodega Bay Halibut with Rose Finn Potatoes, Sausalito Springs Watercress, Iberico Ham and natural sauce ($27) and Petaluma Heritage Chicken (with stuffed cannelloni and braised winter greens) to Watson’s Napa Valley Lamb with coconut basmati rice, dried fruit and pineapple quince ($33) and Liberty Farm Duck with daikon radish, blood orange and bitter chocolate sauce ($31).
The 36-year-old chef says it was sheer willpower that lead him to the Yountville kitchen, which seems kind of intense for a guy who commutes every day from Penngrove to keep himself grounded. But the sweet-faced O’Toole is serious goods: Michael Mina’s former right-hand man. Stints at Alain Ducasse’s MIX in Las Vegas, Quince, the SF Ritz Carlton and Masa’s. Weaver of flavor tableaus.
“I really wanted this–straight-forward food that’s part of the community. I want this place to be a muse for the muses,” he says without a hint of hubris, envisioning a neighborhood hangout where the likes of Chefs Richard Reddington, Thomas Keller, and neighborhood new(ish)comer, Michael Chiarello hang out after closing. Despite other big names having been tossed around, O’Toole knew Bardessono was where he wanted to be.
He’ll need that ambition. Amidst all the opening hype and excitement of a project eleven years in the making, it would be ridiculous to ignore the elephant in the dining room –in tough economic times and a crowded market O’Toole is facing some big challenges.
But as the dust settles and O’Toole gets that toque firmly (if figuratively) on his head, there’s no doubt he’ll have his eyes on grabbing a Michelin star (or two) of his own. And really, who says there isn’t plenty of room at the top?
The Restaurant at Bardessono, 6526 Yount Street, Yountville, 707.204.6000 www.bardessono.com
11 thoughts on “Restaurant at Bardessono”
stayed there a month ago…. worst experience I’ve ever had. very disorganized, things didn’t work, the busser was trying to make a drink for us since they didn’t have a bartender on shift… no food. advertises brunch on their websit and we drove up to eat before our check in and nothing. staff was very inexperienced… i hope they figure it out because it’s truly a beautiful place.
Living down the street, I watched with great horror as the announced they were open. It still looks like a work in progress, very sparse urban design. I hope the food is more appealing.
Good luck in your new venture. We love good restaurants in napa.
From the Napa Valley Register
The Bardessono family continue to own the land and lease it to Yountville Investors LLC, who are developing the Bardessono Inn & Spa. MTM Luxury Lodging will manage the property.
Yountville Investors is a small group of individual investors who have a particular interest in the destination and in fine, full-service boutique hotels. The LLC is based in Seattle and includes investors from the Pacific Northwest as well as the Bay Area.
Yountville Investors CEO Philip Sherburne is an experienced property developer who in recent years has specialized in hotel (Willows Lodge in Washington and Inn of the Spanish Garden in Santa Barbara, residential (Decatur Northwest in the San Juan Islands, Wash.) and winery (Alexandria Nicole Cellars, in Washington) projects sensitive to environmental and sustainable resources.
A burger joint this aint’. I’ll give them one shot to make it or break-it. Good Luck. Roger W. Hamilton
Things will turn around. Why don’t you go do something productive instead of complaining about how bad the economy is? I am excited about it- hey there will be a few more jobs in the North Bay.
No sane company would open a restaurant or hotel in a recession, especially in the slowest month of the year. Looks like the ego’s got in the way.
well i think the idea is to invite people/tourist who HAVE money to the region so these people spend money and keep nbay business alive. what a great idea and great report. wish them very well. seems like they are making a huge effort to support local growers too
$600.00 a night for the hotel room? We will be hearing in April about how they are struggling during these hard economic times. Who is this mystery “wine making family”. Let’s he is 36 years old and has 5 jobs listed and I am sure there were others does not seem to stay at a job for very long.
how dare you write about expensive blah blah zzz
great article Heather. Hadn’t heard about this place.
way too lavish for these lean times…