When The New York Times' then-critic, Frank Bruni gushed over Ubuntu in 2008, you knew you had to go: "You don’t just walk out on Angelina. You stay until she makes you go." The Napa restaurant, for the uninitiated, is a next-level vegetarian affair with a yoga studio on the second floor. Diners, expect sweaty yogis in the dining room mid-tasting. With chef Jeremy Fox moving on, you wondered about Ubuntu, but last September, that was me, believe it or not, walking out of the yoga studio and through the dining room. "How can you visit Ubuntu," we thought, "and not do yoga?"
I'm no yogi. I've done 15 classes. And the padded floor studio upstairs was hot. But it looked out on beautiful landscape, and while you didn't smell food, you could hear plates and cutlery — incentive to nail the crow pose. After walking out through the dining room and changing in the car, we dug into a meal, that due to physical exertion, we felt we deserved more than most others I remember.
As good as everything was, the opener was most memorable: Orange Rind, Green Tomato, and Melon Float with local "Marcona" almonds, homemade vadouvan, and sweet herbs. Imagine the best cold soup you ever had — cool, sweet, salty, and refreshing. It certainly didn't seem as though the restaurant had fallen out of position. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.