Countess Us In

An Austin import does Mexican differently

Some restaurants are slaves to authenticity.

At others, like La Condesa, a new spot in St. Helena, the kitchen unites such seemingly disparate ingredients as yuzu, blue cheese and Urfa chile under a broad Mexican umbrella.

The extensive menu includes main courses, but we'd be content ordering only from the botanas (snack) section of the menu. Shareable dishes like the tostadas topped with chipotle mayo, raw tuna and fried shallots, in the style of Mexico City restaurant Contramar ($12), seem meant to pair with tequila, mezcal and icy bottles of Lone Star.

It's yin and yang. On the one hand, a delicate yellowtail ceviche combines slices of fish with a coarse purée of apple and Japanese turnip, orange segments and avocado slices, kicked up with Thai chile ($16).

On the other hand are tacos arábicos: rosy coins of venison, pickled cucumbers, chipotle harissa and fennel-pollen-laced yogurt, piled on a flour tortilla that's been suffused with bacon fat ($16).

Flour tortillas get no respect in the Bay Area, but La Condesa, which has a sister restaurant in flour-tortilla territory (Austin, Texas), remedies that.

The food is not meant to be exactly like what you'd find in Mexico, but we were too busy eating to complain.

La Condesa Napa Valley, 1320 Main St., St. Helena; 707-967-8111 or lacondesanapavalley.com