Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood On Keeping It Real
Christopher Kostow is in the swing of the new season at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, California, as he ties up last-minute details for the opening of his new standalone restaurant, the Charter Oak. As executive chef of the three Michelin-starred restaurants at the luxury resort, Kostow has been propagating haute cuisine based on seasonal ingredients sans technical wizardry. Doing this while within close proximity to other starred and famed establishments in the Bay Area is certainly no easy feat. A onetime philosophy student at Hamilton College, this Chicago transplant is deeply entrenched and invested in the Napa Valley that has been his playing field for the past nine years.
Although Kostow helms one of the best restaurants in the world, he has a wicked sense of humor, as illustrated by the hilarious videos posted on Instagram in response to last year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, which included The Restaurant at Meadowood at No. 67. Such self-deprecation requires bravado but also confidence stemming from having arrived at the apex of the culinary world. Before heading to California, Kostow trained and worked in French bistros as well as Michelin-starred restaurants (including Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier). Prior to arriving at Meadowood in 2008, he had put in stints at Campton Place in San Francisco and Chez TJ in Mountain View, where he reeled in two Michelin stars for the restaurant. In 2011, the three Michelin stars were awarded in recognition of his holistic approach at Meadowood followed by the Best Chef West award from the James Beard Foundation in 2013. In 2017, he is nominated as the JBF Outstanding Chef. His 2014 book A New Napa Cuisine relates his journey and offers an insight into his work at Meadowood.
Guests at the restaurant drive through the sprawling luxury resort to arrive at the freestanding restaurant. The interior is a study in understated luxury, reminiscent of an Old World country estate. Visitors step through the massive front door into a chic lounge area with leather chairs, fireplaces, and vintage books. The wine country-chic decor belies the sophisticated food and the faultless service. The vaulted ceiling is supported by red wood columns, and granite tables in the softly lit dining room create a serene space to enjoy the tasting menu. A seat at the Chef’s Counter is what food enthusiasts swear by, but the bar, with its three-course menu at a friendlier price point, is impressive as well.
Depending on the season, the Chef’s Counter menu can showcase an oyster with kohlrabi, beef smoked in dry onion tops, cherry trout with a buckwheat skin, eel smoked over cabernet staves (it is wine country after all), lamb-stuffed Egyptian-style baladi, or a decadent egg yolk cooked in chicken fat with homemade Marmite and served with sourdough fingers. Finish with a chocolate-walnut-apple pastry cup or a beeswax-candle-warmed truffled crimeaux de citeaux with honeycomb, all paired with wines from the considerable wine list.
A taste of Kostow’s cuisine in the elegant restaurant at the luxury resort comes with a hefty price tag. A seat at the Chef’s Counter will cost $600, excluding libations and service charges. The restaurant recently adopted a pre-pay policy along with a price hike while switching to the TOCK reservation system.