Valette is a medium-sized restaurant in Healdsburg, CA in Sonoma County. It was the dream of two local brothers to create a dining experience featuring local farmers, winemakers and artisans. They craft the menu around these local items along with sustainably raised meats. Chef Dustin Valette is the kitchen partner and Aaron Garzini is the wine partner. They have also opened a huge, more casual venue in town but their father often makes the ’rounds’ of dinner guests at Valette. It offers Chef Valette’s ‘Trust me’ tasting menu, with a minimum of 5 courses at $18 each (a 5 course is required if you have a party greater than 7) and optional wine pairings offered. There is a corkage fee ($25-45) if you want to bring your own wine.
There is a good sized patio that provides outdoor seating. Inside a bar takes up about a 1/4 of the space and is first come, first served seating. Bench seating is along the opposite wall to service a series of small 2-top tables. The open ceiling is filled with wood beams and fun light fixtures. The noise level rose considerably as the place filled along with the music in the background. Art is on the walls and one large piece was a copy of something about the history of the town. We had the tasting and added a course to make it 6 and ordered our own wines. The server said they would serve us different things for 5 of the courses, so we could try more, and the scallops would be a portion for 2. Portioning was good but pacing was awful. For the first several courses they really rushed it and then it slowed to glacial speed. Although the food was overall quite good the service diminished the experience.
We started with warm rolls and softened butter topped with Hawaiian Black Sea Salt. The rolls glistened like they had been brushed with butter but the dough didn’t have that flavor. They were light and okay, but as the evening went on they turned quite hard.
American Kobe Beef Tartare was topped with Périgord Black Truffles, green peppercorns and egg yolk emulsion alongside an array of seasoning dots, some crispy thin bread slices and mixed greeens. The tender meat was in nice hand cut chunks and tasty. This was a very good plate.
Sashimi Grade Hawaiian Ahi Poke Style was served with 24 month barrel aged soy, kombu emulsion, crispy nori and Furikake (Japanese condiment). A couple of fried avocado pieces were on top of the mild fish, which along with the crispy nori leaves and furikake added a crunch to the dish. It was very good.
The next set of courses almost were consumed before I snapped photos, so quantity is not accurate but that was in the ‘rush’ period and I got frazzled. A special that night was semolina pasta with bacon, peas, cheese and mushrooms. It was a pseudo-Carbonara and topped with a dollop of mascarpone cheese. The pasta was cooked perfectly, the bacon was full of flavor and it was a creamy lovely mix.
Fresh Italian buratta was surrounded with winter citrus lettuce leaves and spiced pistachios alongside Costeaux Bakery’s sourdough bread slices. The greens were tossed with an endive gastrique which nicely seasoned all in the mix. The creamy burrata was cool in the center and not as thick as some I’ve had and that made it easier to mix with the salad. It was also good with the grilled toast. This was a wonderful plate.
Day Boat Scallops en Croute were mixed with Jack Herron’s wild fennel pollen and White Sturgeon caviar. Its presentation looks like a souffle, with the crust rounded up on the dish. The server cut it at the table and put the half crust upside down then scooped in the scallop and the beurre blanc with leeks, fennel, pernod and butter. The top of the pastry is colored with squid ink and the caviar is cooked inside. The scallop was perfect and delicious with the sauce. You could easily see why this is a signature dish of the chef.
Steelhead Trout was another nightly special that was pan seared with the skin on and served with fava bean puree and English pea salad. There were a ton of peas hidden underneath the nicely cooked fish. It is a little late in their season and that made them a bit hard but the flavor was terrific. It was a good combination of flavors.
Pan Seared Petrale Sole was plated with Bernier Farms purple cauliflower, cauliflower puree, preserved lemon gremolata and espelette pepper. Here the tender, mild sole totally blended into the buttery sauce. Somehow when it was cooked it rolled up on itself to give a thicker piece effect. Some of the purple cauliflower pieces were pickled which gave you a jolt when you mixed one in to a bite. The purple smear was sweetened purple cauliflower while the white cauliflower was all just cauliflower. It was a fun, tasty plate.
American Wagyu New York Steak was decorated with Mr. Duncan’s mushrooms on some parsnip puree alongside leek salsa verde. The salsa had a raw taste I didn’t care for but the beef and mushroom mix was good. The puree worked as a good binder for the two.
Coriander crusted duck breast was from Liberty Farms and served with Forbidden rice and duck confit on a hazelnut/quince puree and topped with kumquat agrodolce (relish). The duck was some of the best we’ve had – not a hint of liver to the breast meat. The kumquat worked well with the duck and the rice mix was outstanding. This was a delicious plate – the better of the 2 meat dishes.
Peanut butter mocha bar was made with a Volo chocolate crust and peanut butter custard, decorated with espresso caramel and peanut brittle. The peanut butter flavor was not as strong as I expected but the brittle was excellent. The crust was good but the peanut butter custard too bland. It was saved by the brittle but the other was the better dessert.
Cookies N’ Cream were made with cocoa ‘truffle’, whipped créme fraiche and volo chocolate shortbread. This was like an ‘Oreo’ on steroids. The parts were good and blended well but it was one of the worst shaped plates as your utensil kept sliding into the food.