Napa Valley's SolBar: Calistoga's Shining Michelin Star

Last weekend, Bryan and I took a trip with his family to the tiny Napa Valley town of Calistoga. It's a bohemian's paradise with a one walkable main street, rustic outposts mixed with trendy boutiques and high-end restaurants situated next to 1980's dive bars. A stone's throw from Calistoga, just off the beaten path on the Northern part of Silverado Trail, lies the Solage Resort; a 100% sustainable resort with Restoration Hardware architecture, a Roosevelt Hotel-style pool and a Michelin-starred restaurant, SolBar. On our first afternoon in Calistoga, Bryan and I headed to the SolBar for lunch. It was 90+ degrees so we grabbed an umbrella-shaded table on SolBar's patio, overlooking the pool and more importantly, overlooking everyone else's meals.

Clockwise from top left: Solage Resort entrance, Solbar patio, Michelin plaque, Solbar interior bar.

Solage's Pool + View from Solbar Patio
It was nearly 2pm and the patio was packed with Solage guests and transplants from other Calistoga hotels, clearly on the hunt for some fantastic grub. The reaction of each table's chosen meals – and we chatted up more than one other couple – was a constant "Oh.My.God.This.Is.Amazing! You have the order the [insert dish here]!" As we watched the constant flow of waiters going in and out of the kitchen entrance, we saw about 10 spicy shrimp lettuce cup appetizers make their way to hungry diners. So we knew that would be our appetizer of choice. We must have been in a seafood mood, as I went for the tuna burger for my main course and Bryan went for the soft shell crab po'boy. Now, what to drink with the seafood bounty? I opted for the Bubbly by Nature champagne flight, with Mumm Napa Sparkling Wine, Caronelli Prosecco and Veuve Clicquot Champagne, while Bryan ordered the Unusual Suspects red wine flight, with a pinot meunier, grenache and sangiovese. For the record, more restaurants need to have a champagne pairing. It was just a great idea and as a champagne lover, I was thrilled to see it on the menu!

Solbar menu (click to enlarge)

My drink of choice: "Bubbly By Nature" Champagne Flight

Bryan's drink of choice: "Unusual Suspects: Red Wine Flight

Right after our drinks arrived, the bread made an appearance at our table. While the Himalayan pink salt, cracked black pepper and creamy, salted butter was a nice touch, the whole wheat bread itself was incredibly tough; surprising considering the bread was piping hot. I'm talking rip it with your teeth Neanderthal-style tough. I just couldn't get on board with it, as I wanted to keep my teeth intact for the rest of the actual meal. Very disappointing.

Housemade Whole Wheat Rolls
Himalayan Pink Salt + Cracked Pepper + Creamed Butter

The spicy shrimp lettuce wraps more than made up for the bread's lackluster performance. Large prawns, chilled but seasoned with a noticeable spice, filled butter lettuce cups with soba noodles, avocado and tangy pickled carrots. Nam pla suace – aka fish sauce with chopped cilantro – accompanied the cups. They were delicious and while the order comes with three cups, we thought it was only fair to order a fourth.

Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
Glass noodles, nam pla dipping sauce, avocado and pickled carrots
Our entrees arrived next, my seared tuna burger sitting on a poofy, griddled bao-like bun. The doughiness of the bao had barely been cooked out, leaving a perfectly moist bun crisped by a quick session on the flat top griddle. The fish was gorgeous, seasoned well and topped with the bitter bite of kim chi, a Korean dish made with fermented vegetables, e.g. Napa cabbage, radishes, green onion, cucumber, etc. My only regret? That there wasn't more of the marinated tofu and edamame side salad. It was just awesome. Daikon radishes, steamed edamame, pickled onions and grilled tofu seeped in a spicy, smoky marinade was a great accompaniment, providing a textural contrast to the delicate tuna. I tried to get the details on the marinade, but our waiter played coy.

Seared Yellowfin Tuna Burger
On a griddled steam bun with kim chi, marinated tofu and edamame salad

Tuna Burger + Tofu Salad (side view)
Bryan's softshell crab po'boy was a sight to behold. We took off the bun for the below photo, and as you can see, it was huge. The crab – fresh-out-of-the-fryer – was crisp and topped a pile of crunchy pickle slices, tomato and lettuce. The problem? It was a bit too fried; the greasiness of the crab overtook any potential for rich flavor. The vegetable garnishes gave it a cold vs. hot crunch, but unfortunately only added to the bland nature of the sandwich. The rice salad with house-made andouille sausage was fine, but didn't leave a lasting impression on either of us. Perhaps it was the cold temperature or the lack of spice, but we each took one bite and called it a day. While the dish looked incredible, Bryan said next time he would order something else.

Fried Softshell Crab Po'Boy (bun removed)
Spicy mayo and Carolina gold rice salad with house-made andouille sausage

Fried Softshell Crab Po'Boy (Bryan was halfway through!)
The verdict? A-. The setting was gorgeous, the wait staff friendly and attentive, the menu diverse and innovative, the presentation was beautiful and the wine list was a sight to behold. The spicy shrimp lettuce wraps and tuna burger were the hits of the day, while the bread and the softshell crab sandwich left room for improvement. That said, we're excited to go back soon and work our way through the menu!


  1. Wow! What a wonderful lunch! .. next time I'm in Napa...

  2. I wish I was in Napa right now. I just bookmarked your smore pie ;)

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