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Walnut Creek Magazine

Michelin Star Magic at Kenzo Napa

Jun 05, 2019 04:32PM ● By Fran Miller

Photo by Adrian Gregorutti

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER     

Part peaceful sanctuary, part gastronomic temple, Kenzo Napa's dining room is pristine and sleek - the better for guests to focus on the Michelin-star quality food and service. Seating a mere 25 at its fullest, the restaurant’s tables and counter seats are spaced widely apart for privacy, allowing the oohs and ahhs emanating from each guest to evaporate into a subtle murmur. 

Photo by Bob McClenahan


Kenzo Napa achieved its one Michelin star rating soon after its opening a mere two years ago - yet another distinction for owner Kenzo Tsujimoto, founder of Kenzo Estate Winery, where celebrated viticulturist David Abreu and rock star wine maker Heidi Barrett serve as the dynamic winemaking duo. Tsujimoto first gained notoriety in his home nation of Japan as founder of the wildly popular video game company Capcom. Now he is equally as well known in his native country as the vintner who introduced wine to the sake-loving populace. 

Kenzo Executive Chef Kenji Miyaishi. Photo by Bob McClenahan


The Kenzo Estate Winery’s Napa Valley wines – all varietals and vintages of which are available on the Kenzo Napa wine list – pair beautifully with the artful cuisine created and executed by Executive Chef Kenji Miyaishi, whose inventive interpretation on traditional Kaiseki cuisine highlights seasonal delicacies from both Japan and the Napa Valley. Kenzo is one of only a handful of authentic Kaiseki restaurants in the nation and it attracts worldwide attention from those seeking the authentic Kaiseki multi-course Japanese meal that balances taste, texture, appearance, and presentation aesthetics.

 

Twelve courses - nine savory and three sweet – are stunningly presented in an array of artisan Japanese bowls, dishware, and serving pieces – each meticulously curated to best showcase each course. The Kenzo Napa menu changes every other month and ingredients are seasonal and always authentically Japanese. On this visit, in order: Sweet Corn Dumpling, Seasonal Hassun, Izu Ruby Snapper Owan, Oita Flounder Sashimi, Abalone with Chilled Somen Noodle, Chiba Cutlassfish, Slow Roasted Satsuma Wagyu Tenderloin, Chef’s Selection of Sushi, and Chef’s Featured Desserts - each dish more delicious and visually arresting than the one preceding. 

Photo by Bob McClenahan

A large selection of sakes and beers are featured at Kenzo Napa, but diners would be remiss to forego the Omakase (translation: ‘I’ll leave it up to you’) wine pairings - selections from the Kenzo Estate wine collection, perfectly paired with each dish. Example: Kenzo Estate Winery's rindo red blend paired with tender and succulent wagyu. It’s simply sublime. 

“Our Omakase beverage experience takes guests out of their comfort zone,” says assistant general manager Nicholas Keegan. “Then we bring them back in, and then out again with a selection of bubbles, sake, beers, and wines. That’s the joy of Omakase.” 

Tsujimoto’s wife Natsuko designed the Kenzo Napa dining room. Soft beige walls, imported wood ceilings and walls, light fixture orbs that echo the color and shape of grapes, and river rock accents combine to create a serene and relaxing atmosphere. The elegantly minimal aesthetic serves as the ideal backdrop for Chef Miyaishi’s artistic and delicious culinary creations, as well as for Kenzo Estate Winery’s outstanding varietals.

Kenzo Napa, 1339 Pearl St., Napa