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Restaurants & Bars

The Vault

MC Slim JB | Aug 3, 2003 09:15 AM

I'd about given up on this place, with its revolving door of chefs, including a couple of really mediocre ones. But I'd hear enough positive rumblings about the new guy (ex-Tra Vigne in Napa Valley) to give it one more whirl, and I'm pleased to report that this is easily the best incarnation of the place since it opened.

No significant face-lift to the room, which is too bad: the owner's taste in art is iffy. Wine list seems to have more range at the low end than before, very good: we find an unusual and wonderful Monetpulciano for $50, though I noted two other reds I was ready to order as a backup at $35. Bread plate features good, very plain foccacia and Tuscan bread, served with whipped ricotta and a drizzle of EVOO: nice.

Two very impressive salads to start: a panzanella with excellent yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, and a bitter greens plate with sweet corn, a simple lemony dressing, and an excellent grated cheese (might have been Peccorino Romano). Perfect examples of the Tuscan style: unfussy, with few but excellent ingredients.

Mid-course of pasta: another triumph of simplicity. Obviously fresh, homemade pasta of a sort I haven't seen (fetticune-ish noodles of varying widths) with a creamy sauce based on fresh favas. Wonderful.

Entrees: another pasta dish, thin eggy noodles with a ragu of osso bucco, and a thinly-sliced roast lamb over soft polenta with sides of eggplant jam and wax beans. These are both heavenly, the latter being the tastiest lamb dish I've had in ages.

Desserts don't quite hit the same highs: a fair cheese plate and a vaunted rhubarb "souffle" that doesn't overwhelm (it takes 30 minutes, but isn't much more than a well-executed cobbler: I think a plain vanilla ice cream would have been better than the rich strawberry ice cream served with it.)

Excellent service, well-coordinated among a very fine waiter, two service waiters, and the host/sommelier. Not cheap, but not luxury-class, either: a tab of about $110++, not counting wine. I'm going to be sending a lot of friends to this place, and returning myself soon. I could do with a few more pleasant surprises like this place.

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