Design Dish: Basalt Napa
By name, Downtown Napa’s latest restaurant Basalt harkens back to the area’s early history of rock quarrying and the Mexican, Spanish and Portuguese settlers who worked the earth in the growing community. Basalt lives up to those traditions with a warm, earthy look, communal atmosphere and rich flavors deeply connected to the land.
Rapt Studio designers Sarah Giesenhagen and Thad Geldert completely transformed the previous restaurant that was large and divided to a more balanced and cohesive space with two dining areas unified by a long showcase bar. On the river side is the traditional dining area anchored by a gorgeous communal table made of concrete and 4” slab Parota wood from Mexico. At night, the table glows under a stunning light fixture, drawing one’s eyes to the open kitchen and chef Esteban Escobar at work.
The scale of the impressive central bar befits the space. The cylindrical downlighting, designed collaboratively by Rapt Studios and Jason Gregory of Makr, creates an intimate aura at night.
Cocktails, overseen by Jason “Buffalo” LoGrasso, are reinterpreted classics like our new favorite "the Forager’s Old Fashioned", a savory rye imbued with orange, bitters and the complex, subtle sweetness of Candy Cap mushrooms. LoGrasso has also assembled a focused selection of local and international brews and wines that pair perfectly with the food.
On the other side of the bar is a more casual dining area with comfortable high-top tables and window ledge seating. The antique player piano lining the wall is framed by a variety of ca. 1920 music rolls and newspapers that Giesenhagen said plays on “realism and optimism … a space to have fun in.”
The look is completed by comfortable furnishings made from earthy materials such as leather, wood and plated metals, and industrial lighting. Rapt Studio designed most of the collection in collaboration with local fabricators.
The restaurant has several gathering areas for every mood and occasion including table, high-top, window ledge and patio seating. The 24-seat private dining room has a peaceful riverfront view. The wall installation of turn-of-the-century time punch cards was designed collaboratively with SF studio Antlre as a play on the value of time.
Chef Esteban Escobar, veteran of Bay Area icons like Town Hall, does wonders with seasonal ingredients, infusing the deep, rich flavors of Spain, Mexico and Portugal into the dishes. When we first tasted the succulent, perfectly seasoned and earthy slow roasted pork shoulder, we made an immediate connection with the earthy nuance of the name Basalt.
The menu is focused with seasonal bites and starters that are perfect mates with casual drinks, followed by mouth-watering entrees such as the achiote-cocoa marinated baby black cod or Sonoma duck breast with seasonal morel mushrooms, sweet pea mash and mint marigold; or order the double-portion shared plates such as whole fried branzino or whole roasted Mary’s organic chicken.
Basalt is open daily from 5 p.m., closing 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 790 Main Street at 3rd Street, Downtown Napa