1310 Main St
St. Helena, CA
Directions to Cook
10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. Tue- Thursday
When we went to Cook, we had seen some early reviews that
mentioned it was solid Napa Italian fare. So, we were just expecting some solid food. But we went in the
winter well after the tourist season during the middle of the week and
it was cold, and they were *packed* which is unusual for many
restaurants under those conditions. It seemed likely that the food was
much better than those early reviews had mentioned because these are
locals in the dead of winter packing the place. So, now we were very
curious to see what the food was going to be like.
We weren't disappointed and were very pleasantly surprised. The calamari was fine with a seasoned, light fry. We've had their mushroom soup as a soup of the day, but it was a on the underwhelming side. Mushrooms in a light broth with asparagus and caramelized onions. Wasn't sure where it was trying to take me.
But their entrees were very good. I had an "airline chicken chop" which seemed like pan roasted chicken with a crispy outer skin and juicy meat underneath with fava beans and maybe chard in a tasty veal jus with pancetta. That dish needs a better name, and it was absolutely delicious.
My wife had the braised short ribs mentioned in the SF Chronicle review below. It was very tender and in some rich veal jus with some mashed potatoes. My wife loved it, and I'll admit it was very good, but I didn't find it the sublime experience that she and the Chronicle did. Maybe I'm not a braised short ribs kind of guy. The dish was good, but I can't say it really stood head and shoulders above the other braised short ribs that I've had from the better places in Napa Valley. But that airline chicken chop was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I took one bite of that one and said "ok, this one is a keeper."
For dessert, it was some sort of lemony ricotta polenta tart for me. We also tried out a flourless chocolate torte with I think pecan ice cream on the side. Both were served on some plates apparently heated in a volcano, since despite being warned by the waitress, I still managed singe myself on mine. The flourless chocolate torte was nice and rich, but it was similar to other chocolate tortes that we've had. I thought the lemony ricotta polenta dessert was a good try, but I thought it needed a stronger lemony flavor to stand up to the polenta that was its base. My wife wasn't too crazy about it, but she has issues with desserts that contain corn.
Cook setting and service
First, Cook is pretty small and it's pretty busy which means it's pretty loud.
This is the type of place you go to eat when you want an active
vibe, not a place where you can just sit and lovingly gaze into
someone's eyes. The front is this tiny seating area for the couples or small parties,
with the bar dominating the space. The first 2-person table is like a few
feet from the front door which means that when people are waiting for a
table, they are either going to be waiting at the bar 4 feet away from
you, or they'll be standing around the front right behind you. This
really sucks during the colder months as when someone enters the
restaurant, a big blast of cold air hits those in the door's path.
There is a larger dining area in the back, but overall Cook is still
pretty tight on space. Despite their best efforts, the waiters and waitresses can be seen somewhat bumping into each other,
occasionally bumping into clueless customers who are hogging the
walkways, etc. Our waitress was fine and friendly, and although it kind of looked like they were understaffed, they were still really hustling to make it work.