Doumani's family owned Stags' Leap Winery in Napa Valley (sold to Beringer Blass in 1997), so, when they decided to open their own place, the wine country where Doumani grew up was a natural draw for the culinary duo. They called it Terra, which appropriately has two meanings: "earth" in Italian and "temple" in Japanese. The restaurant is housed in a historic 1884 fieldstone building in St. Helena - and it's a structure that has led a varied life. Originally a foundry, it's also served as a glove factory, a chicken hatchery, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Its last incarnation before Terra was as the quite good restaurant La Belle Hélène. Since Doumani and Sone want to make diners feel as if they're invited guests in a private home, there's no sign on the building now. While Sone puts out the food, Doumani plays a triple role as pastry chef, front-of-the-house chatelaine, and general culinary muse.

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Sone's cooking retains definite influences from his Japanese ancestry, but tends to speak more of the South of France and Northern Italy than of Oriental cuisines. California itself is actually the major force at work in Sone's kitchen. "What we serve comes from what grows around us," Sone explains. "Every morning local farmers arrive at the kitchen door with just-picked produce." On the menu, starters such as lamb carpaccio and duck rillettes cozy up to mains such as broiled, sake-marinated Alaskan black cod with shrimp dumplings in shiso broth. For efforts like this, Sone won a much-deserved James Beard award last year for Best California Chef.

chef's pick
el molino pinot noir napa valley 1999 ($50)

hiro sone recommends this stunning pinot with his fried miyagi oysters on pork-belly kakuni in black-vinegar sauce.


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