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Category Archives: Chef’s Blog

Categories Chef's Blog

Sushi & Wine: A Perfect Pairing

Without a doubt, sushi has captured the hearts and palates of people worldwide and our guests at NAPA Kitchen and Wine are no exception. While sushi is traditionally enjoyed with green tea, there are two other beverages that we know to elevate the sushi experience to new heights: wine and sake.

Our culinary director, Tyler Barbaro, describes some of the special techniques that are used to create fresh, handmade sushi, along with his suggested pairings including offerings that you can find on our menu any night of the week!

The first step in preparing incredible sushi is the rice. We select a special short-grain rice that is rinsed, steamed, then gently tossed with a special, seasoned rice wine vinegar. This is what gives our sushi rice a unique flavor and a sticky consistency.

The most important ingredient is the fish. We only use sushi grades of the highest quality. We source our fish from a specialty supplier to ensure the absolute best quality. The seafood must be chilled to exacting temperatures so it is firm and easiest to cut. We cut our seafood into 1/4″ to 2″ thick long batons so it fits perfectly in each roll.

We cut our toppings such as carrot, avocado, and cucumber to nearly the same length as our fish, only slightly thinner, especially when placing them inside a roll. Toppings for the outside of the roll, such as avocado or salmon, will always be cut into thin rectangular pieces which can be strategically draped on top of the roll.

If you enjoy sushi, you know just how important nori is to most rolls. Nori, otherwise known as dried seaweed, is a necessary ingredient in making sushi, with the exception of nigiri and sashimi. When creating a sushi roll, we use nori as the base to place our rice, on one side, while the ingredients are placed on the other side.

Finally, there are many different sauces that we use in our sushi and everyone has at least one favorite. We use traditional soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, acevichado (a Peruvian-style aioli), eel sauce, and spicy aioli, all of which have been specially selected by our team.

Now onto my favorite part, pairing our sushi with a fantastic wine or our traditional sake!

Our Buddha and Paradise rolls are lighter fare but contain bold, rich ingredients that present a slight sweetness when enjoyed. I would pair these rolls with either an unoaked Chardonnay, one of our sparkling wines, or Sho Chiku Bai Mio Sparkling sake.

Our Sensei roll is a favorite, producing a hint of heat balanced by the cream cheese. I highly recommend pairing this roll with our Anna Cordorniu Brut Rosé or Mizubasho Ginjo sake.

The Cobra roll is very unique between the meatiness of the crab, the contrasting sweet characteristics, and the spicy sauces. You can easily pair this roll with a semi-dry white or rosé wine or Mizubasho Ginjo sake. Our Terra D’oro Chenin Blanc Viognier would pair nicely with this roll as well.

These next two are our most complex in terms of ingredients and flavor profiles, and arguably two of our most popular rolls. Each with contrasting sauces, meaty seafood, and a fried component, our Fire and Miyagi rolls tend to pair best with a light-bodied red such as our Elk Cove Pinot Noir. Hakutsuru Saruyi Junmai Nigori is also a great choice for a sake option.

So, the next time you crave fresh, hand-rolled sushi for dinner, consider taking Tyler’s advice! Elevate your experience by choosing the perfect bottle of wine or sake to pair with your sushi from NAPA Kitchen and Wine. Cheers to the perfect union of sushi, sake, and wine!

Akaushi Red Cattle Bull
Categories Chef's Blog

Local Wagyu Beef from Clint’s Cattle

New to our Specials Menu, you’ll find two new Prime Wagyu items featuring local beef from Clint’s Cattle company. Here’s a little about Clint’s Cattle and what makes our local Wagyu simply premier.

Owned by Mike Moorman, the Akaushi cows of Clint’s Cattle are located in Bedford and Franklin Counties, in Virginia. Mike farms with his dad, Roger, and friends Bill and Stephen Maxwell. The cows are pasture raised, hormone free and supplemented with spent grain from local brewers. They start with Black Angus or Gelbvieh cows that are then crossed with Akaushi bulls via artificial insemination. They have most recently been using a bull named, “El Padrino”.


Clint’s Cattle are Akaushi (Ah-ka-OO-shi), or Japanese Red. The origin of the breed traces to Kumamoto, Japan where they were developed to withstand the challenging climate and terrain of Kumamoto, but also the refined taste of Japanese consumers. The Japanese Association of Akaushi was founded in 1944 to carefully control the breeding, progeny testing and research that culminated to produce the best-tasting beef in the world.  These cattle were first introduced to the US in the mid 90s and are still primarily located in Texas at Heartbrand Ranch.

The high-fat content in Akaushi cattle leaves less room for muscle fiber and collagen making the beef notably more tender than other breeds.  It also contains a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat, which can lead to lower cholesterol, the prevention of coronary heart disease and weight loss.  The American Akaushi Association has more information available about the breed at their website.

Wagyu simply means Japanese Cattle. The four breeds of Wagyu Cattle are: Japanese Black, Japanese Red, Japanese Poll and Japanese Shorthorn.  In the US, both Japaneses Black and Japanese Red are available. All Akaushi are Wagyu, but not all Wagyu are Akaushi.

Categories Chef's Blog

Meet our Chefs: Todd Johnson and Greg Smiley

NAPA’s culinary excellence begins with not only the freshest local ingredients but with the help of great hands and minds. Executive Chef Todd Johnson is the former owner of the former Mezzanine Restaurant, which specialized in globally-inspired dishes that utilized local Farm to Table ingredients. Before moving to Richmond, Todd worked alongside Wolfgang Puck at the esteemed Spago restaurant, and has also worked in kitchens in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India!

The relationships he has built with local farmers and suppliers over the years he has brought to NAPA Kitchen and Wine so that he can remain true to what all his mentors taught him about good, fresh local ingredients. As Chef Johnson says, “Great food begins with great ingredients.”

“Great food begins with great ingredients.”

Working alongside Executive Chef Todd is Sous Chef Greg Smiley. Greg’s love of culinary art began over 25 years ago in his family’s Italian restaurant where he learned the art of Sicilian scratch cooking. Greg went on to open Italian Restaurant Al Dentes and then Pescados, a flagship award-winning Richmond favorite with a focus on Latin-Carribean influenced seafood.

The two chefs are long-time friends whose vast experience is reflected in the creation of our menu, which brings a contemporary twist on a wide selection of accessible dishes that feature bold, innovative and exciting flavor profiles. With excellent relationships with local farmers and suppliers, only the freshest ingredients set the standard at NAPA, where our passion is to bring the taste of the West-Coast to Westchester Commons in an elevated and sophisticated yet casual environment.

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