As requested, a review on Viognier in San Mateo.
We were not able to make the dinner reservations for Canteen last Friday due to the obscene traffic on the 101. I held out until San Mateo when I realized it would be another hour up to the city. We exited 3rd Ave with the hopes of going to Santa for ramen Oddly, it was closed. We doubled back and decided to go to Viognier which I had remembered someone recommending to me.
The décor. A little odd actually. The front kinda reminds me of a Sizzler or Dennys with a slightly tacky floral covering to the booth seats. If you sit by the windows, it starts to feel more like a real restaurant.
Make no mistake about it though, this restaurant is serious about its wine and I think the cuisine is designed specificlly to highlight the wine. A few tables were enjoying the chefs tasting and it actually looked quite interesting. They casually set the menu in front of us and then slyly laid the wine list/book beside it. I started flipping through the pages and realized that this restaurant was not fooling around. They had every big name producer out there from Napa to Washington to Bordeaux and Burgandy to Tuscany and South Africa. In addition to that, there were plenty of little names with big price tags by them. I guess that would make those the boutique wines. I had the shoo the waitress away a couple of times so I would have more time to browse that wine list. I suspect that my knowledge of wine and my pockets were not deep enough to truly appreciate that list. Eventually, I settled on a Chateau Bel Air Ouy Grand Cru Saint Emilion 2002. It was one of the better bargains at $67 (mark up at this place is a little higher. Price range for wines ranged around $40 to $4000-$5000). They decanted the wine (they decanted most of their wines) and I was finally about to look through the menu.
I wouldnt call the menu groundbreaking or enlightening but it definitely looked appetizing. They started us off with 2 amuses. A subtle cauliflower puree served in an espresso cup for my friend and a rich mushroom essence with foam for myself. Both were absolutely delicious. Better than the porcini mushroom soup I had at The Dining Room.
We settled on a 5 mushroom pizzette with pistachios for an appetizer. The thin crust pizza was swamped with nice earthy mushrooms and the pistachios added a nice sweetness and change in texture. Our wine went very well with the earthiness of the mushrooms but I suspect the pistachios would have also echoed a nice chardonnay.
My friend had the Seared fillet of beef with Braised Rib Carbonara. The fillet was perfect and the beef ribs were of course very good. I was impressed by the fresh fettuccini carbonara with kurobuta pancetta though. Clearly, this was another dish designed to be coupled with a bold red.
I had the pan seared stripped bass served with braised leeks and barley "risotto". The sauce was some sort of veal or beef reduction and the 2 perfectly cooked filets of bass were topped with a sardine fillet and a parsley/chervil salad. The fish was aggressively seasoned (in a good way) and the entire dish ate like a steak and stood up to the bordeaux like a steak.
For dessert, there was a very decadent sounding "Viognier Sundae" served tableside with 3 scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, brandied cherries, and caramelized nuts. This sounded too decadent so my friend got the trio of homemade ice creams: pistachio, cherry vanilla, and toffee crunch. I got the chocolate cake with dates and granola with hazelnut gelato. It would have been perfect with one of their ports.
The food here is bold, and very good. I wouldnt call it innovative but its definitely tasty as hell and does well in highlighting the amazing wine list. If youre not in the mood for fussy or if you want a quiet dinner with an amazing bottle of wine, this is your place. I'd say Viognier is a more mature, less fussy Myth with a more powerful wine list.
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