Our Gourmet: Wine and food mesh at Napa East

November 20. 2012 8:59PM

Napa East
12 Murphy Drive, Nashua; 595-9463; napaeast.com
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 3 to 10 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday until midnight; closed Sundays
Cuisine: Fine dining
Prices: Salads and soups, $4-$8; Pizzas and small plates, $8 to $16; Main plates, $16 to $28; Desserts, $2 to $8.
Handicapped accessible

Tucked away off the beaten path, Nashua's Napa East is a hidden gem. Part restaurant, part wine lounge, it has a hip atmosphere, but with a casual vibe. It's a bit of a scavenger hunt to find Napa East, which opened earlier this year in an industrial park, but it is worth the trip.

Menu: 8/10

When you walk in you are handed two menus: food and wine. I was so busy reading the wine list, which features about 100 varieties served by the glass, that I had to be reminded to order my food. But fear not if you aren't into the wine scene, it's worth making a trip just for the food, whether you are there for dinner or just want a bite. Some of the more interesting offerings include Braised Lamb Shank ($26), Portuguese Paella ($28) and Maryland Sweet Potato Crab Cakes ($14). They will cater to dietary restrictions, as well.

Appetizers: 18/20

Our Gourmet: Little did I know that when I chose the Potstickers ($14) from the small plates menu, I was going to be enjoying one of the best plates I've reviewed in the past year. The potsticker, a dumpling containing slow roasted pork accompanied by butternut squash puree, and drizzled with a port wine-soy reduction and toasted walnuts, is a perfect bite. The pork had just enough spice, which complemented the sweetness of the squash, the tang of the reduction and the crunch of the walnuts. The best of all in a soft dumpling. I would go back just to have these again. (10/10)

TDC: For starters I had the Kobe Beef Sliders ($14). The three mini-burgers are cooked medium and topped with balsamic glazed wild mushrooms, shallots and melted truffled cheese. The balsamic mushrooms were soft and subtle and added a lot of flavor. I enjoyed each bite, even without my normal dousing of ketchup, with which they were not served and for which I didn't feel the usual need to ask. Kobe beef is renowned for its tenderness and these sliders bore that reputation out. (8/10)

Entrees: 17/20

OG: On a cold night, the Slow Braised Angus Beef Short Ribs ($28) were calling my name. The short ribs were served with a cherry marsala glaze, celery root puree, carrots and green vegetables. They were fork-tender and melted in your mouth, but perhaps the star of the dish was the cherry marsala glaze. If it was at all appropriate I would have licked it off the plate. The vegetables were cooked to a perfect crisp-tender and were properly seasoned. (9/10)

TDC: I chose the Chicken Piccata ($16). This dish comes with a generous serving of angel hair pasta topped with white wine butter sauce, capers and garlic crostini. The chicken is covered in an egg batter and pan seared. The breading was a little too soft for my liking and lacked any distinguishing flavor. I used the two pieces of lemon served on the side to add more flavor to the chicken. The pasta and flavorful wine sauce is what really carried this dish. (7/10)

Desserts: 16/20

OG: After a rather sizeable meal, I wasn't sure what to do about dessert. Given how the meal had gone I was eager to try what they had to offer, but I was full. My brain and stomach met in the middle by ordering one of their mini-desserts, Poached Fruits in Port Wine with Five Spice Mascarpone ($2). Served in an oversized shot glass, it was the perfect size. The pears were delicious and ordering the fruit had the added bonus of making me feel virtuous. (8/10)

TDC: I chose another dessert mini, the Dark Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Raspberries ($2). This heavenly chocolate dish comes with a tiny spoon that reminded me of those collectible ones with state symbols you find in gift shops. The dessert is small enough that you don't have to feel guilty about ordering it, and while the chocolate was light and fluffy, the flavor was anything but. (8/10)

Final thoughts: 25/30

From the outside of the building, you'd never know that the restaurant is expansive with plenty of comfortable seating. It would be a great place for a group celebration or romantic dinner. Just stopping in for a beverage? You can sit at the very long wine bar, in front of the electronically controlled wine taps, which are also something to see. We can't say enough about our server who was helpful and pleasant. If you are a budding wine connoisseur or self-proclaimed wine expert, you are encouraged to ask for suggestions for pairings. Napa East also holds wine tasting events and has its own retail wine shop. Overall, Napa East was a great experience that we will be telling our friends about.

Total: 84/100

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