Restaurant News & Reviews

Napa Prime is more than just a pretty face

Coming soon to Lexington: The bourbon bacon jam burger with fries and a blackberry bourbon lemonade, popular options at Napa Prime in Versailles.
Coming soon to Lexington: The bourbon bacon jam burger with fries and a blackberry bourbon lemonade, popular options at Napa Prime in Versailles. Herald-Leader

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Napa Prime. The menu was interesting although burger-centric, and the slogan “burgers + seafood” plus the very glitzy website made me a little nervous this place could be more focused on image than food.

When we arrived at what was clearly a rehabbed fast-food outlet on Versailles’ evolving U.S. 60 commercial strip, I was relieved, although my companions did not interpret the down-market exterior as positively as I did.

The restaurant was almost full fairly late on a Saturday night, an indication that Napa Prime has developed a devoted following. It’s easy to understand why. It is a casual restaurant but has good food, some of it very good, at reasonable (but not cheap) prices, and a knowledgeable, friendly and efficient staff.

Napa Prime is not trying to be everything to everyone, but it has devised a menu that can appeal to those who just want a nice place to have some good comfort food and people with more adventurous palates. It’s a menu that has tater tots and a sushi-grade ahi tuna appetizer, heavily laden burgers and beautifully cooked fresh fish.

We happily tried the ahi tuna ($14.99) to start, thin slices of really tasty, firm-fleshed fish on mixed greens with knock-out wasabi and an Asian sesame vinaigrette. A really nice appetizer for two people to share and enough for four to each get a reasonable taste.

We continued with some fish on the main courses. The outstanding dish was a special, potato-crusted mahi-mahi served with mashed potatoes ($21.99). The fish was outstanding in flavor — reinforcing my sense that, as the waiter told us, Napa Prime’s fish is really, really fresh, and cooked so it is flaky and tender and not at all dry. The mashed potatoes were great, too. I’m not sure what was in them, but if that is the standard whipped potato side on the menu, I recommend it.

Less successful were the Baja tacos with fried cod ($12.99). The cod did not have a lot of flavor, and while the mango salsa and shredded cabbage topping were tasty, the whole seemed like it was missing something. The lobster mac and cheese ($3.99) we ordered as a side with the taco was rich, creamy and comforting, but I would have been hard-pressed to find the lobster.

The fish and chips ($15.99) also were made with cod and suffered from the same low flavor profile of the fish, although it was nicely fried. The French fries, though, were quite good, long, thin, crisp and abundant.

But you can’t talk about a place that promotes its burgers without trying one. At our waiter’s recommendation, we ordered the Bourbon bacon burger ($14.99), which was a rich and wonderful treat. This concoction includes, in addition to a perfectly cooked patty of really good ground beef, smoked Gouda, applewood bacon, onions fried to a nice crisp, bacon jam and a bourbon-flavored barbecue sauce. Messy, of course, and very good, too. Any of the burgers would be worth a try, based on this one. They will all start with good beef — sourced from a provider in Western Kentucky that the restaurant staff has visited — and go from there with quality enhancers. If you are into burgers, Napa Prime is definitely worth a stop.

To finish, our group of four shared crème brûlée($6.99) that, while OK, did not match what we’d come to expect. The true item is a delicate, eggy custard under a sugar that has been heated at the last moment into a brittle, caramelized topping. What we got at Napa Prime seemed to have just come out of a refrigerator, a stiff, although tasty, custard under a thin, slightly crispy but not fully caramelized topping.

I’d try another dessert on a return trip. And I’d be happy to return.

Restaurant Review

Napa Prime

Where: 508 Lexington Road, Versailles

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sun. (brunch served until 2 p.m.)

Call: 859-873-0600

Online: Napaburgerbar.com

Notes: Major credit cards accepted; handicap accessible; vegetarians can survive, but choices are limited.

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