Napa East Wine Lounge Shop
12 Murphy Drive, Unit B1, Nashua
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - midnight.
Major credit cards accepted
Foodies and wine aficionados, be prepared to do a happy dance. Napa East is here and there’s nothing lelse quite like it in New Hampshire.
It is in about as an unlikely location as you can think, tucked away in back of an industrial area near the Federal Aviation Administration complex on the city’s outskirts.
Past brick and satellite equipment you’ll find the establishment, which looks like just another office park suite. But once in the door you’ll be transported to California wine country and the chill, hip ambience of Napa East. Ceiling to floor illuminated wine cases line the walls, while lush, modern banquette seating and artsy wine-themed art hanging on the walls makes it look like stars twinkling above.
So first the wine. Napa East offers 100 varieties. Each is available by the sip, half-glass, glass, or bottle. This offers oenophiles the rare chance to sample selections that might be out of reach for those of us on a modest budget. We noted that the most expensive selection was Cade Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, available for $14 a sip, $28 for a half glass, $56 a glass, or $220 a bottle. We sampled a half glass ($5) of the Layer Cake Virgin Chardonnay. It had been aged in a steel barrel, resulting in a crisp, citrusy sip that was amazingly refreshing.
Throw out the idea of a traditional menu. This is California(ish) after all. You can choose your food like the wines, by small degrees and large. The summer menu has a lot to offer everyone.
Feel like having soup? For a taste of the garden there’s heirloom tomato bisque ($4/$8) topped with basil crème fraiche. And our choices, garden gazpacho ($12) and New England clam chowder ($4).
The gazpacho was ice-cold and made with heirloom tomatoes and other fresh veggies and topped with a hefty portion of fresh Maine lobster. With our half glass of Loredona Pinot Grigio Monterey ($6), nothing could be more summery or light.
The chowder was super-hearty thanks to some sherry and savory smoked bacon.
The rest of the menu is broken down into salad choices, small plates, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and main plates.
We chose several small plates first, larger than tapas but smaller than a regular entrée. Perfect for sampling.
We were tempted by the rock shrimp corn fritters ($14), with cilantro pesto, avocado crema, and roasted red pepper coulis, and the pan-seared spice-rubbed duck breast ( $18) over a coconut-and-lime scented jasmine rice cake with raspberry pomegranate glaze and vegetable spring roll.
But we settled on vegetable and wild mushroom pot pie ($12) with fresh herbs, sherry, and Madeira cream. This was really our only disappointment of the evening. The puff pastry tasted a little greasy; a traditional pie crust would have been better, and the filling was very, very soupy and frankly, unappealing. But our server, who was excellent, quickly took the dish away and deleted its cost from our bill. No harm, not foul. This was the first night of the new summer menu and the kinks were being worked out.
We were in no way let down by the yellow fin ahi tuna martini ($14) – as fresh as summer itself, served sesame-crusted and seared rare with a ginger Granita, cold sesame seaweed salad, avocado, crisp wontons, salmon roe, and wasabi dressing. It was excellent in every way.
We also enjoyed our three Kobe beef sliders ($14) with balsamic-glazed wild mushrooms, shallots, and melted truffled cheese.
We also ordered the paso robles pizza ($16) made in the restaurant’s brick oven. We chose the whole-wheat dough, which complemented the smoked chicken sausage, roasted eggplant, olives, leeks, roasted garlic, tomato, and feta cheese. It was very good, although we would have like the olive quotient pumped up a bit.
On this visit we skipped the main plates, but we soon plan to try the Portuguese paella ($28), cocoa and chipotle-rubbed rib eye steak ($28), and the Thai vegetable noodle bowl ($12).
If this sounds like you’d have no room for dessert, you’d be wrong. As with the rest of the menu, you can go as small or large as you like. There’s a nice selection of $2 mini desserts served in shot glasses. We had the carrot spice cake and the strawberry shortcake minis and they were perfect.
Napa East also has frequent wine tastings and other food and wine special events. If you can’t afford a trip to the real Napa Valley or even if you can, it’s well worth visiting.