On another part of this board, I began a rant about restaurants with an otherwise splendid wine list NOT offering decent wines by the glass and I specifically referred to the Bottle Inn in Hermosa Beach because they were named in last year's Wine Spectator list of restaurants with exceptional wine lists.
Considering their dozen-plus page wine list, it is a pity the menu does not do it justice. My first visit was reasonable but only reasonable, my companion trying their Pollo Verona (chicken breast stuffed with scampi, mozzarella, and safe in a vegetable red wine reduction with shallots, mushrooms, and brandy served on risotto) and I testing the Ossobucco di Vitello (veal shank in herbs and spices in a barolo wine and tomato-mushroom sauce). Now I love veal shank and order it almost every occasion I can. On this occasion, we opted to not eat an appetizer, wanting to save room for dessert (an unexciting lemon mascarpone cake). It is not that the food is bad, it is simply unexciting. The two dinners, dessert, and bottle of Sienna put me back $150.00.
Then, last week, wanting an escape, another friend and I met for appetizers. Not finding any wines-by-the-glass to our taste, we purchased a 1998 Rodney Strong Merlot and three appetizers: Scampi Valtellina (shrimp in olive oil, garlic, white wine, goat cheese, mashed potatoes, and tomato basil cream), Risotto Crab Cakes (arborio rice, crab, vegetables, garlic, parsley, and parmesan cheese in a sweet corn coulis with arrugola and diced roma tomatoes), and something called the "World Famous Bottle Special" (toasted Italian bread topped with mushrooms, prosciutto, and zucchini, sauteed in sherry with bechemal, fontina, and melted mozzarella cheese).
For the scampi, I am pretty convinced they were frozen, Trader Joe's shrimp -- incredibly small and rubbery. I am used to something that is called scampi being at least three decent bites of flesh, not one mouthful of shrimp. And the goat cheese was a mere dot of garnish, hardly an integral flavor. The crab cakes were also not too thrilling, being a bit too small (again) and not overly flavorful, considering all the ingredients. The clincher was this World Famous Special thing... My friend wanted it but a plate full of thick toast with pasty sauce was just plain bad. I never did taste any prosciutto and I can't quite figure out what makes it famous.
So, I continue to lament the fact that Southern California has no wine bars, where a light meal and a good glass of wine can be had.