Bistro Napa is part fine dining restaurant, part culinary fun house.
On the fine dining side, the restaurant offers a long curving bar, a capacious lounge with easily rearranged seating (handy for large parties), a seafood and raw bar, and a columned dining room composed of thick carpet, glass and copper panels, domed ceiling frescos and a wood-fired oven just beyond. The menu, inspired by California cuisine and the California wine country, features dishes made with in-season local and regional ingredients: say, ravioli plumped with butternut squash from farms east of Reno; a salad of pears singed in the wood fire and dotted with Sonoma County, California, goat cheese; and Colorado lamb chops dusted with pistachio.
But chef de cuisine Clay Slieff also likes to experiment, often whimsically. He’ll send out lettuce wraps cradling fried oysters and rémoulade, Asian meets Creole, or a flatbread pizza topped with ground lamb and tzatziki, like a deconstructed gyro. (Ask for these dishes; they’re not on the regular menu.) Sustainable Verlasso salmon is presented under glass; when the glass is lifted, a flavoring smoke tumbles out. And there’s the trompe l’oeil hamburger and fries fashioned from beignet buns, a brownie patty, white chocolate cheese, kiwi pickles, mango sticks for fries and strawberry coulis as ketchup.
Atlantis guests and Reno locals fill Bistro Napa’s bar and lounge from 4 to 6 p.m. daily for a Social Hour (OK, two) in which small plates, sliders, flatbread pizzas, wines by the glass, and cocktails (even specialty drinks and call brands) are served. Many people arrive before 4 p.m. and rush the seats once the lounge opens. If you don’t arrive by 4:15 p.m., you often won’t find a table.