Classic Tables: Terra

After more than 20 years, still on firm ground

A restaurant is undeniably ahead of its era when its food is still fresh two decades after its opening.

Even after more than 20 years, a meal at St. Helena's Terra couples the assuredness of experience with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a newborn.

During a recent meal, a soba (buckwheat) crêpe ($19.50) enveloped duck and wild mushrooms, the lot dressed with a rich verjus reduction and golden raisins and topped with a slab of seared foie gras.

On paper, the dish screamed of egregious excess. Instead, the acidic spunk of the verjus hovered around the luxurious edges of the duck and foie gras, taming as it intensified.

This style of startling precision appeared again in a chilled appetizer of cappellini ($19.50) with caviar and lemon-caper vinaigrette–all delicacy and salinity.

Terra also does primal better than many of its peers. Tagliata ($34), aka dry-aged N.Y. strip, was tempered by roasted fingerlings and an arugula salad dressed with garum (Italian fish sauce).

Further proof of Terra's commitment to serious dining: Soon after we finished our fine dessert of broken pavlova ($10) with berries and citrus crème fraîche, we noticed Terra's owners and chefs, Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, tidying the dining room.

Terra, 1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707-963-8931 or terrarestaurant.com