Restaurants & Bars 38

Wine Vault and Bistro - SD

rotie77 | Feb 29, 200809:53 AM

Dined at the Wine Vault and Bistro on India St. last night (above Saffron). Though we've dined at WV before, this was our first experience with their new chef, Bobby. Though the food was always good, and fairly priced, it never seemed to hit memorable. I must say Bobby has now changed that.

With wife Mary and our friend Geno, sampled several apps and a couple main courses. For starters, we had oysters on the half shell with 3 sauces. Though very good and fresh, they were huge, and I must admit I'm a fan of the smaller, sweeter oysters. Still, they were tasty and well dressed.

We followed the oysters with:
Spring garlic soup dressed with a large thin crostini with warm taleggio cheese. Simply the best garlic soup I've ever tasted. Savory and sweet, with a real depth of flavor that was nicely complemented by the cheese.

Black truffle studded mac 'n cheese made with Quebec vintage cheddar and Delice d'Bourgogne cheeses. Sometimes when people get too fancy with the cheeses they use in their mac 'n cheese, the dish sputters and fails. Not so with this one. Judicious use of these rich cheeses, and just enough truffle to notice but not overwhelm. Excellent.

Housemade butternut squash tortellini with fried sage and brown butter. Another dish that might overwhelm with richness, again tamed by the chef's restraint and sense of balance. This was truly delicious and a dish I'll order each time it's offered.

Tender greens salad with roasted beets, manchego cheese and blood orange viniagrette. OK, I'm not at all fond of beets, probably from being forced to eat that canned jellied crap when growing up, so I'm not the best person to comment on this dish. The manchego and the viniagrette worked very well together, it's just those beets....

Roasted asparagus with poached farm egg and herb salad. I'm not a big poached egg fan either, but the execution of this dish was amazing. Roasted but still crisp asparagus, dressed with a poached egg that soaked the asparagus in warm yolk when broken. Since the egg was slow poached, the white remained intact, so my fear that the asparagus would be covered in yutz was unfounded. Really worked well, but the best part was the herb salad. Seemed like 6 or 7 herbs or more, prepared in a kind of chiffonade (sp?), that was like a taste of spring. Chervil, sorrel, god knows what else, but it was a very nice touch.

My companions did not seem to share my capacity, so we tried two main courses:
Sauteed diver scallops with bamboo rice and tatsoi in a lemongrass/sorrel emulsion. Yes, it's hard to screw up good diver scallops, unless you overcook them. These were nicely seared, done just right. The bamboo rice was interesting, and light enough that it did not compete with the scallops. The lemongrass/sorrel emulsion was done with a very light touch,and complemented the scallops beautifully.

Braised short ribs with cauliflower puree, rapini and truffle jus. I'm an admitted short rib ho. These were extremely tender, almost gelatinous. Heaven, I'm in heaven.

Even my capacity now failed, so we only ordered the truffle dessert to go with the rest of our red vino. Made locally by Dahlmann, very good. But next visit, I'm trying the 34 yr old PX sherry sundae with housemade butterscotch ice cream. May have to start with that, sounds too rich to finish a meal!

Happy to report that Wine Vault and Bistro, always good, has achieved a whole new level in their kitchen. And the best part is...nothing on the menu was over $16. The apps all run in the $4 -$8 range, main courses $13 - $16. Buy a bottle of wine from their shop (we chose a $17 Tablas Creek red) and open it for $10 corkage. They also offer constantly changing wine flights, and a multitude of selections by the glass. And for you bourbon and scotch fans, they have a limited but well chosen selection of high end whiskey, including Michter's, the holy grail of bourbons. They have a beautiful space to boot, with an excellent, unique and warm patio for nice nights.

Check 'em out, you may just add them to your Chow rotation.

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