You can always count on Ken Frank to make magic happen in the kitchen at . Aut now, if you’re looking for something more casual from the same kitchen, check out in the lobby of the . BANK opens at sunrise and stays open until last call rolls around.
From 5 to 7 each evening, BANK features tastings with local vintners and a selection of tapas. On Sunday, BANK offers a 3-course Brunch menu until 3.
But what really got my attention is the series of French regional menus, featuring a different region each week starting every Monday.
“For a country smaller than California,” said Frank, “France has a surprising abundance of deeply satisfying local cuisines.”
I caught up with Chef Ken to talk about his passion for French food, why BANK is so much fun, and Napa’s current status as "the place to be".
Julie: Where did the name BANK come from?
Ken: Out of "riverbank" as it sits on the east side of the hotel, facing the river and the nature preserve.
Julie: The terrace is a really nice option.
Ken: Dinner outside on our terrace feels like a vacation even if you've only traveled a mile.
Julie: Your menu doesn’t look like your typical “bar food”.
Ken: Just like in La Toque, we make virtually everything from scratch but the bread and the butter. Our signature bar snack is a spicy Kennebec potato crisp that we cook fresh throughout the day. We grind our own hamburger in-house with Highland grass fed beef from and grow the cucumbers for our house-made pickles in the Oxbow Garden.
Julie: Where does your inspiration come from?
Ken: I learned long ago to trust Mother Nature. There is always something in season that's delicious.
Julie: Tell me about your French Regional Dinner program.
Ken: On a very personal note, I get great satisfaction from this series. One week we're in the Haute Savoie with its alpine character, then down to Provence on the Mediterranean with Tomatoes and Olives, or Cassoulet from Toulouse, maybe Choucroute from Alsace and I particularly enjoy Burgundian cooking.
Julie: Is it somewhat freeing to work with less formality than La Toque?
Ken: I just love to cook. I get just as much out of nailing a simple dish as a swanky one.
Julie: The bar looks like a great place to hang out.
Ken: I didn't want a bar facing the wall with the TV on. I like circular bars where you see and interact with others.
Julie: You used to be up valley with La Toque. How do you like being in Napa?
Ken: I watched the momentum moving south during the 10 years we were in Rutherford and knew in my bones that Napa would reach critical mass. That said, it's amazing how quickly it all came together.
Julie: It’s not the old Napa. . .
Ken: Napa has a really cool mojo going. It’s the only place in the valley that doesn't roll up the sidewalks at dark. There's foot traffic and life on the streets at night.