Honig Grill opened next to a country club. It could be inside one, too.
Although billed as “a taste of Napa Valley,” Honig Grill’s risk-averse cuisine, while pleasant enough, reminds you of what you might be served at a polite reception: a satisfactory salad, a good steak, simply prepared seafood, some sushi for an international accent.
Honig Grill takes its name from a respected Napa Valley winery, and there are some wines from Honig on the house list. Maybe that and other wines are the advertised “taste.” Not much of the food qualifies as a wine-country reverie. This Honig is a collaboration of partners associated with Il Mulino, a brand that has come to be known primarily for high prices.
The newcomer is a nice-looking place, relaxed and suitable for all ages and most appetites, at the address most recently vacated by a very suburban version of P.J. Clarke’s. Before that, it was the midpriced, much-missed Majors Steakhouse.
Honig Grill does have an easygoing style in the main dining room and bar area, which sport some rustic touches, a hint of grapevines and the countrified good life. It’s a comfortable stop, where the service is unfailingly polite and welcoming, all suitable for business gatherings, relaxed dates, maybe a beverage and an inning or two for the homeward bound.
So, sip a fine sauvignon blanc, and start with the excellent crabmeat cocktail, jumbo shrimp cocktail or a selection of oysters. Sample the tasty tuna tartare, finished with avocado, even if it is sent out with wonton chips. And skip that Napa spring roll, which contains Death Valley-dry pulled pork and cabbage.
The “little Caesar” is short on flavor. Likewise, the underdressed kale-and-avocado production with feta cheese and candied walnuts. You’re better off with either the Rutherford 850 salad of greens, tomatoes, goat cheese, bacon, chopped egg and honey mustard; or the salad of field greens that arrives with a very good jumbo lump crabcake.
There have been some trims to the menu here since opening day. The house’s lone burger is easy to recommend, on a brioche bun, with American cheese, bacon and more. The New York strip steak also stands out, juicy, cooked to order, and ready for a glass of cabernet sauvignon or merlot. Braised short ribs get a boost from fresh horseradish, but the sweet “smokey BBQ” ribs won’t turn you away from your favorite ’cue joint.
Sweetness also applies to the Mongolian pork chop, a dish that Napa diners may remember from Mustards Grill, chef Cindy Pawlcyn’s landmark. While this version isn’t exactly comparable, it’s still pretty good.
Seared ahi tuna, with a sweetish “Thai glaze,” trails the grilled swordfish with grilled asparagus and a “sweet chili glaze” that doesn’t overdo it. Sushi rolls include a fair one designated Rutherford that takes in shrimp tempura and spicy tuna; and a Napa roll with shrimp tempura, avocado and lobster.
No need to confront the singed and soggy apple crumble, dull red velvet cake, or routine cheesecake. But the mild banana cream pie does suit Honig Grill.