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Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Restaurant Reviews, Reviews | 0 comments

Review: Shiro Japanese & Korean Cuisine, Napa, Calif.

Review: Shiro Japanese & Korean Cuisine, Napa, Calif.

My husband and I had originally planned to check out Shiro Restaurant in Napa, Calif., on May 25, 2014, but it took eight months and a nearly 40-mile detour through a nearby city to make it happen.

We had read about its opening a few months before and since it was Memorial Day weekend, we decided we would make the hourlong drive. However, we were stunned to discover that just three months after opening, the restaurant was already closed. Only the bar remained open for service. The closure hadn’t showed up on either Yelp or Foursquare yet. The note on the door said they were “reevaluating their menu.”

Well, after checking the social media menu of alternative restaurants, we headed 18 miles northeast to Fairfield to check out Sam’s Teriyaki to see if its good reviews were for real or show. Besides, we were closer to Fairfield at that point than home.

A press release Shiro’s management issued just a few days later — May 28, 2014 — announced a “surprise new Chef” and an expected re-launch in late June or early July with a new sushi bar. Burned once, we decided to wait a while after that to try again.

Sushi chef Tomo Hiteo worked at Shiro from July 4 until he left Dec. 31 to work at a Lodi restaurant, according to his Facebook page.

My second chance to go back to Shiro opened with a special occasion in January of this year, eight months after our original attempt. The sushi bar promised in the press release in May hadn’t materialized, unless you call a California roll and a few tempura rolls a full-fledged sushi bar.

Because most of the menu was Korean food, we decided to stick to that side of the menu, with hanshik standards 불고기 bulgogi (marinaded grilled beef), 갈비 kalbi (savory beef ribs) and 비빔밥 bibimbap (an assortment of vegetables, egg and meat or tofu mixed with rice). Hubby ordered 닭갈비 dakgalbi (spicy grilled chicken), and I 불고기 돌솥 비빔밥 bulgogi dolsot bibimbap (bibimbap with bulgogi on top and served in a very hot stone bowl lined with a tad of sesame oil to brown the rice at the bottom into a tasty crust). 

First comes the bantam (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
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First comes the banchan. (Tammy Quackenbush)

As in many Korean restaurants outside Korea, the 반찬 banchan (side dishes) is presented first, instead of with the meal as in home country. We were presented with 오댕 odeng (savory fish cake), shredded potato (slightly spicy), spicy pickled cucumbers (very spicy with garlic), traditional 배추김치 baechu kimchi and lightly steamed broccoli coated with a sweet mayonnaise sauce. 

Shiro Korean, Napa CA - 06
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Broccoli banchan at Shiro (Tammy Quackenbush)

 About 10-15 later our dishes arrived. My bulgogi dolsot bibimbap ($19) included spinach, mung bean sprouts, carrot, radish, seaweed, mushroom, sweet potato shoots and a sunny-side-up egg. One of the best parts of this bibimbap service was two spoons to stir it, the way it’s done in the southwest Korean city of Jeonju. The 고추장 gochujang (spicy, savory red pepper sauce) for my bibimbap came in a small bowl, rather than the large American diner–style ketchup or mustard bottle seen on many family-style Korean restaurant tables. 

Elegant pre-mix bibimbap presentation (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
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Elegant pre-mix bibimbap presentation (Tammy Quackenbush)

Mixing up the bibimbap double time. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
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Mixing up the bibimbap double time before I bathed it in gochujang. The crispy rice from the bottom of the bowl is on my spoon. (Tammy Quackenbush)

Hubby’s dakgalbi ($18) was served a hot cast-iron platter with strips of chicken breast strips with sliced green and white onion bathed in a gochujang-based sauce and a side of rice. 

Hubby's grilled spicy chicken aka dakgalbi. This is not how they do it in Chunchon.
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Hubby’s 닭갈비 dakgalbi (grilled spicy chicken). This is not how they do it in Chuncheon. (Jeff Quackenbush)

Shiro has a range of Japanese sakes and beers with a small selection of 소주 soju (rice, wheat, barley, sweet potato or tapioca distilled spirit) and wine. 

Shiro Japanese & Korean Cuisine

1106 First St.
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 251-1554

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