Ubuntu in Napa revisited AGAIN  »

Quick recap: Ubuntu is this fancy-fancy vegetarian vegetables restaurant in Napa that I have a tumultuous relationship with. However, I recently returned and had probably the best meal of my life—they tried to knock me out with flavor flav and almost succeeded! The meal was UNSANE and you can read all about it at SF Weekly! Oh, and you can look at my fairly crappy pictures here and ALSO, I posted some below. Bam!

This is my current amateur opinion on the state of Ubuntu: You just gotta go balls-out, throw caution (read: your wallet) to the wind and order at least the prix fixe menu, preferably the chef’s tasting menu, which can be done vegan in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the dishes at all. You can’t go to Ubuntu hoping to piece a meal together from the a la carte menu, you gotta GO BIG OR GO HOME (hungry). Being in the SF Bay Area, we’re super lucky to live so close to a restaurant where vegans can really do it up, and eat a meal that rivals those available in the best restaurants in the world.* Anyway, if you don’t have a sugar daddy or a trust fund, you best get one and fast. Also, if you are either a sugar daddy or a trust fund, let’s get it on! I am willing to completely bankrupt myself in every way for another taste of that sweet sweet Ubuntu lovin’. 



*I mean, I guess, I don’t even know if the food in those restaurants is that great. I’ve eaten in some of them as an omnivore and enjoyed the meals less than I did an order of veggie chow fun from Golden Era or the tamales at Gracias Madre but I’m no foodie asshole expert.


Ubuntu revisited  »

I loved Ubuntu. Despite its ridiculous name and the fact that it’s also a YOGA STUDIO, it was one of my favorite restaurants. If I’m not making fun of a restaurant for also being a YOGA STUDIO then I’m either A) dead or B) eating at Ubuntu. I loved, loved, loved it. I was so psyched about this Yogaraunt that I’d take diehard omnis to show them how great “vegetable cuisine” is. And uh, I did just that on Saturday night. What a fucking disappointment. You better hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause Ubuntu is raping everybody out here!

First off, the entire menu has changed. Gone are the chickpea fries, the pizzas, the amazing signature salads. They’ve been replaced with a dry salad (seriously, no dressing), $17 plates of four small potatoes covered in cucumber ash (see pic above: those aren’t giant turds, they’re a signature dish at New Ubuntu), and a soup that was basically vinegar poured over three melon balls (just like when Yoko Ono orders a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat on The Simpsons! But less funny because THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING). It’s like the whole restaurant has gone anorexic on us. I am not even playing, it was straight fucked. I was so embarrassed. The omnis were like WTF IS THIS VEGAN GARBAGE and I was like WTF IS THIS VEGAN GARBAGE and the whole scene was just humiliating. I get it, Jeremy Fox has left for meatier pastures and the new chef wants to make the menu his own and I’m ALL for that, but why take away heartier fare and replace it with less food for more money? I’m sorry, when I’m paying $50 a person (without wine!) to eat at your restaurant, I don’t want the most filling item to be the free bread. We ate so much bread that they had to dedicate an oven to baking exclusively for my table. AND WE WERE STILL HUNGRY. Honestly, I wanted to head down the street to Billco’s Billiards & Darts for some french fries and a veggie dog.

I am all for new chefs and new visions, and I’d be fine with an entirely new menu that doesn’t have my favorite strawberry pizza or my beloved cucumber watermelon basil soup but dammit, make the replacements stellar and hearty, or lower your prices. You can’t have it both ways because you’re gonna lose customers. After (constructively?) talking trash on Ubuntu to several groups of friends, I found out that they too had had shitty dining experiences there recently and felt equally bummed and pissed. I dunno, I am loathe to run my mouth on a vegetarian restaurant, but I had to say something because it’s festering inside of me, eating my food-loving soul, and no amount of namastes can help. Run an’ tell that, homeboy.




Road Trip: Ubuntu in Napa!  »

Sometimes you just want to get the fuck out of dodge. On occasion, we’ll feature different veg-friendly places to visit and dine that are within an hour or two from SF. Let’s start with Napa because I’m a classy drunk. LET’S GET WASTED! SHOW ME YOUR BRA! WOO!

I’ve been to Ubuntu three times and look forward to a fourth visit like it’s my job.  

First visit
A really wonderful, super-romantic dinner. The food was delicious and perfect, especially the coconut watermelon basil soup. That soup is ridiculous. It will change your life. It’s better than the sex (that you have, most likely. Not me, I am amazing at sex). It is like drinking the blood of virgins. Eating it is what winning gold at the Olympics must feel like. The wine list is filled with sustainable, organic and biodynamic (wtf does that mean?) wines. The prices were totally reasonable based on quality of service and food. I didn’t see one heifer doing yoga. Just the thought of a Skinny White Bitch running around with a yoga mat under one arm and a little crop-top (YARG) that says “namaste” on it is enough to make me lose my shit/lunch so plus-multiple-stars for that. I cannot hang.

Second visit
Holy shit, why am I impossible to take out in public?  I did quite a bit of wine-tasting with my friends Maria, Ed and Suzanne in downtown Napa before (including one place that I thought was a free tasting room but was actually a bar! Oops, we have to pay for that?! Thank God I have fabulous slut friends who are willing to exchange numbers for many bottles of free wine!) and so wasn’t entirely prepared to enter a classy establishment for dinner.

DO NOT INFORM THE HOSTESS THAT YOU ARE DRUNK WHEN YOU ARRIVE. You will be rightly cut the fuck off.  it went a little like this:
Hostess: Hello!
Laura: I’m DRUNK!
Hostess: OK, what’s the reservation under?
Laura: I’m DRUNK!
Maria: It’s under “Ed.”
…and so on and so forth. Don’t worry, I hate me too.

Once seated, we were politely and tactfully informed that we were being cut off because of my outburst and the, you know, being openly intoxicated in a nice restaurant thing. the wait staff and management at Ubuntu handled it VERY well. They never made us feel unwelcome or called out or anything like that.  and the food helped. I swear, everything tastes even more amazing when you’re drunk. That is, it tastes amazing until you want to die. I wanted to die right before dessert so I headed out to the car to take a power nap. It felt so good, I can’t even tell you. We then headed back to the city and don’t worry for my safety and for the safety of others, kind Vegansaurus readers, I didn’t drive! Ed was sober sister and is an excellent driver and made an amazing mix CD.  if you’ve never seen Maria and Ed perform Usher’s “Love in This Club,” you are missing the fuck out. You have not lived until Ed has looked you in the eye and told you he wants to set you free, sexually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Or however it goes [Ed.: “physically, mentally, sexually, emotionally”]. It’s hot, trust me. I think they’ll be doing it tomorrow at Temple bar, in fact. You should totally be there.

Third visit
To celebrate my friend Joel’s recent entrance into adulthood a good 10 years before his time (i.e., buying a house at 25. OVERACHIEVERS! UGH!). The food was equally as delicious this time and I remember it all very well. The soup remained the star of the menu—who knew that coconut and watermelon and basil and edible flower = magical magicallity. Well, I guess I do now and so do you. We had more of the delicious chickpea fries, the creamy polenta was delicious as was the farro (far less saltier this time, I wonder if they’d gotten complaints?) and finished it off with the super-tasty almond milkshake and yummy mini-vegan carrot cake cupcakes.

The cupcakes are not on the regular menu so make sure to ask for them—beg if you have to! Actually, they only have ONE vegan dessert on the regular menu and it’s some whack shaved ice shit. I mean, it’s good but COME ON. One vegan dessert at a vegetarian restaurant* isn’t enough. I guess that’s my only complaint. That and the soup isn’t endless, like at the Olive Garden (those people are geniuses!).

In conclusion: Ubuntu. Delicious when sober. Delicious when drunk. Delicious for dinner. Delicious for lunch.  Please someone send that into the New Yorker poetry editor, kthx!

*sorry, “vegetables” restaurant! they don’t like the term “vegetarian,” I guess it turns off the snob foodies and the snob foodies LOVE this place. It annoys me that they don’t embrace “vegetarian” but hey, the New York Times named it one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country. I’m sorry but that’s fucking awesome for a vegetables restaurant.

UPDATE 10/5/10: Not so much enamored with Ubuntu anymore. We sad.

[interior photo via yelp; food photos by Joel, of Joel and Nibbler]

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