When we were wine tasting at A. Rafanelli this last Sunday, Dave Rafanelli recommended that Jack and I check out Valette for dinner. Valette is a new restaurant (opened in 2015) that moved into the spot once occupied by the restaurant Zin, right near the square in downtown Healdsburg.
The name “Zin” rang a bell, and we quickly recognized the name from our recent trip to Todos Santos, Mexico. We stayed at Rancho Pescadero and took a cooking class from the married executive chef duo Jeff and Susan Mall. During our cooking class (which was amazing – one word: mole), Jeff and Susan told us that they had once owned Zin in Healdsburg. They closed the restaurant last year and started a new, more relaxed life on the Baja Peninsula.
So, in the spot that once housed Zin, we found Valette. It is a beautiful space – very warm and inviting, with high end details, and rustic touches. House-cured meats can be seen through a window into the kitchen. I never ate at Zin, so I don’t know what it used to look like, but I was very impressed by the space and overall decor of Valette.
One thing you will quickly learn about me is that I love bread and butter. The butter must be room temperature (I cannot be bothered to crumble cold butter on my bread), and ideally the bread will be right out of the oven. This is a detail that few restaurants appreciate, but it always helps to elevate a restaurant just a little bit in my mind. When Jack and I got married, the one “bridezilla” request (demand?) I had was for room temperature butter. So you can imagine my excitement when Valette served us fresh-baked rolls with house-whipped butter topped with black sea salt.
We started with the Day Boat Scallops en Croûte (a popular item on Yelp), which was colored with squid ink and included shaved fennel, American caviar, and a Champagne beurre blanc. I was amazed by the fact that the pastry and scallop were both cooked perfectly (flaky pastry, seared scallop), despite them being cooked together. A lot of trial and error must have gone into determining the exact recipe, including thickness of pastry dough and size of scallop, to ensure a perfect product. Once the dish was served, our server broke the pastry and poured the beurre blanc inside. It was delicious!
Our other appetizer was the risotto special, which was a mushroom risotto topped with a sous vide egg and 18-month house-cured prosciutto (though I was confused how it could have been cured in house for 18 months when the restaurant just opened this year!) It was very delicious; the prosciutto was a nice salty compliment to the creamy risotto and egg.
We shared an order of the Maine Lobster Stuffed Petrale Sole, which was served with heirloom tomatoes, puffed scallops (scallop “chips”), and fennel confit. This was very tasty, though less unique and memorable than our appetizers. I did like how they cut the sole to make smaller rolls with a crispy exterior. We also ordered a side of Baby Vegetable Jardinière (fennel, baby broccoli, carrots), which were cooked perfectly, though I was a little “fenneled out” from the entree.
We were quite full from our dinner (we had had a late lunch), so we passed on dessert. But we were very impressed by our first meal at Valette. Every dish was solid, and a couple were exceptional. The service was very good as well. We look forward to returning to Valette in Healdsburg soon.
Valette: www.valettehealdsburg.com 344 Center St. (707) 473-0946. Dinner daily at 5:30pm; lunch Fri and Sat 11:30am – 2:30pm.