California Comes to China

Napa Artisan Cooking popped up with a small store-front on Chunxiu Lu (just west of Sanlitun) last year and sparked excitement with their healthy, Californian cuisine and then, equally rapidly, disappeared. But now California comes back to China in a new space.

It seems as if the Napa team created their gourmet salads, soups and hot dishes with take-away and delivery in mind as a good base while they took their time to find a large location to open a full-service restaurant, but it looks like that day came sooner than expected because the little deli on Chunxiu Lu was closed after just a few months and they’ve already moved on to bigger and better things!

I always knew they were planning to open in a bigger space where they could potentially also grow their own vegetables, but with the mess that always surrounds Spring Festival, I was slow to make it over to have a look at their new location. Located on the south side of the Park Avenue apartment complex (just before you hit the east 4th ring road), this is most likely going to be a destination restaurant unless you live in and around Park Avenue, but it’s worth heading east because the food is excellent.

With it’s name now up in bright lights, the new location is pretty easy to spot. Inside, there is a large open kitchen where you can watch the chefs giving life to your plate of food. It still feels like there are some smaller details that haven’t yet been finished, but on the whole it is as bright and clean – just as you imagine a place like this in California to be. And though they’ve moved into a larger space, the guest experience is still similar to their original deli shop where guests place their order at the counter and pay upfront before finding a seat. The major improvement here is the

Even better is the news that they plan on opening up a large balcony seating area at the end of April, hopefully with a wood-fired pizza oven! This promises to be a fantastic al fresco spot to sit and enjoy the Beijing sun when it comes out!

Napa: Exterior

Napa Stands Out on a Street Full of Chinese Fast Food

Napa: Ordering Counter

Napa’s Food Philosophy Loud and Proud above their Ordering Counter

Napa: Open Kitchen

Open Kitchen

Napa: Wines on Offer

Wines on Offer

Food wise, the menu draws inspiration from a diverse range of sources as you would expect from contemporary Californian cuisine.

“Napa is a Californian cuisine restaurant, focused on using organic, local, and seasonal ingredients to make farm-to-table food that is convenient and affordable. Our gourmet salads, soups, and warm foods are inspired by dishes from around the world.” – Andrew Hsu, Co-Founder & Co-Owner of Napa Artisan Cooking

We tried to sample a little of everything and honestly, I would recommend all of them. The price point is excellent and the quality doesn’t suffer one bit.

Napa: Tuscan Kale Soup with 6-hour house-smoked ham hock, cannellini, housemade chicken sausage, slow-cooked chicken stock (RMB 45)

Tuscan Kale Soup with 6-hour house-smoked ham hock, cannellini, housemade chicken sausage, slow-cooked chicken stock (RMB 45)

The kale and ham hock soup tastes like your favorite roasted chicken that has been blended into liquid form with the added bonus of smokey bacon, hearty beans, and a touch of healthy kale.

Napa: Mediterranean Chicken Salad - Kale, Danish Blue Cheese, Shredded Chicken, Hazelnuts, Confit Garlic Red Wine Vinaigrette with Organic Honey (RMB 65)

Mediterranean Chicken Salad – Kale, Danish Blue Cheese, Shredded Chicken, Hazelnuts, Confit Garlic Red Wine Vinaigrette with Organic Honey (RMB 65)

The Mediterranean salad isn’t really Mediterranean, but it is a superb salad nonetheless. The blue cheese flavor that can potentially stomp all over everything else in a dish was present but contained. The apples provided some tart sweetness and the nuts give a nice crunch. The house made bread was also garlic-y and while it did pair well with the salad, solid homemade garlic bread goes well with pretty much everything.

Napa: Braised Oxtail Hotplate with Shaoxing wine soy braise, steamed seasonal vegetables, multigrain rice, side salad and house-made garlic focaccia (RMB 55)

Braised Oxtail Hotplate with Shaoxing wine soy braise, steamed seasonal vegetables, multigrain rice, side salad and house-made garlic focaccia (RMB 55)

The oxtail was really tender and infused with that slightly sweet flavor that permeates Hong Shao Rou 红烧肉. We would have liked a little more juice from the braise to soak up all the rice, but all in all, a hit.

Napa: Eurasian Wrap with Sicilian Lamb Meatballs, Mixed Greens, Bell Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Xinjiang Pickled Cucumbers, Onions, Herbed Tibetan Yak Yogurt Dressing with Organic Honey, Mission Tortilla (RMB 55)

Eurasian Wrap with Sicilian Lamb Meatballs, Mixed Greens, Bell Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Xinjiang Pickled Cucumbers, Onions, Herbed Tibetan Yak Yogurt Dressing with Organic Honey, Mission Tortilla (RMB 55)

The loaded Eurasian wrap went down a treat, with some nice zing added by the pickles.

Napa: Side Order of Soy Glazed Chicken (from Hot Comfort Mains) RMB 20

Side Order of Soy Glazed Chicken from “Hot Comfort Mains” (RMB 20)

Though the presentation isn’t great, it’s because we got just a side order of the chicken. I’m sure it would have looked a lot prettier over multigrain rice and along some seasonal greens and salad. But even though this was the last thing we got, this sous vide chicken really was the star of the night. Moist in a way that you thought chicken couldn’t be, it nevertheless has a sticky soy glaze and is beautifully charred from the grill.

There are no sweets on the menu as yet, but plans are afoot. It seems like the boys have been and still are busy making improvements. Craft beer by Jing-A is on the way and the rooftop patio, as mentioned earlier looks to be a killer selling point. We look forward to spending many summer nights on this rooftop!

About the Napa Artisan Cooking Team:

Andrew Hsu: After living and traveling to Beijing for over ten years, Andrew started Napa with best friends Colin and Janice because he wanted an easier way to consistently enjoy gourmet, ingredients-driven dishes that are also organic and safe. Prior to joining Napa, Andrew managed the Rooms Division at The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, where he received ‘The Ritz-Carlton Award for Service Excellence’ in 2011.

Colin Smith: A graduate of California Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program, Colin has worked at some of Northern California’s top restaurants, including Picco, A-16, Vin Antico, and Five. Prior to joining Napa, he was in-house chef at Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View, where he incorporated healthier dishes into his menu for those demanding a healthy diet without sacrificing flavor.

Janice Tong: Janice’s extensive experience in hotel operations and sales propelled her to becoming the youngest Sales Director of Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong by 2006. She was previously Director of Sales for The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott in Beijing, where she mentored those who share her same passion in hospitality. She studied hotel management at University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Napa’s Contact Details:

  • Address: 20 Liulitun Zhong Lu, Yaojiayuan Lu (Opposite the south gate of Park Avenue Apartments) 
  • 姚家园路六里屯中路20号
  • Wechat: eatdrinknapa
  • Contact: 186-1115-1686
  • Email:  eatdrinknapa@gmail.com
  • Opening Hours: Open Daily from 11AM-10PM (kitchen closes at 9PM)
  • FB Page: here

About Kristen

Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle  blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.

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