Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine Vault & Bistro

I'd argue that Wine Vault & Bistro is one of San Diego's better-kept secrets. For me and D., it's our favorite fine-dining restaurant. San Diego doesn't lack for fine-dining, but I have to say that some of the restaurants I've tried in that genre tend to try too hard or not hard enough, with execution falling flat either way. Top that with high prices and shoddy service and I begin to feel like I could put my money to better use elsewhere. I like Wine Vault because they have a wide range of prices, the execution is usually excellent, and the service is simple.

To be fair, my assessment of fine-dining may be a little biased, as it's only been within the last three years that I was willing to spend more on dining in general. I have more disposable income, but still have the mentality of a former student: maximal bang-for-buck is key.

Wine Vault has $20
prix fixe menus on Thursdays and Fridays. Three courses with a handful of options per course. On Thursdays, one dish for each course will be specifically paired with a showcased wine flight.

Our first visit, descriptions from the menu (you can take the menus home... yes!):

peach + bourbon glazed pork belly|pickled peaches|fried green tomato|rocket

Beautiful, isn't it? It was extremely flavorful, but this is a dish of textures, too. Crisp rocket, crunchy tomato, rich/creamy pork belly, smooth peaches, sticky glaze. Perfectly cooked, the pork belly exploded with fatty goodness and the sweet glaze. From the top and bottom came tart/bitter, with the tomato, peaches, and rocket, which lightened the richness of the belly fat.

lamb osso buco|eggplant fondue|tomato confit|summer beans

Delicious dish with perfectly braised lamb that fell off the bone. The little chunk of marrow at the top was a nice little treat.

peach crisp|vanilla bean ice cream

The dish was tasty and the peaches wonderful, but the crust was burnt and could have been a little sweeter. Ice cream was good, but a little more vanilla bean would have been nice.

ahi tuna|red curry|preserved black beans|macadamia nuts

Great take on tuna tartare, with fresh fish and a nice crunch from the macadamia nuts. The black beans were a pungent contrast to the tuna.

braised beef brisket|caramelized onions|sour cream spaetzle|habanero relish

Spaetzle was wonderful, but the brisket was a tad dry and could have been a little more flavorful. The relish helped bring a little more out of the meat, but it was the spaetzle that was the memorable part of this dish.

pommes frites|roasted garlic + chipotle aioli dipping sauces

Great appetizer and we picked it when the featured wine flight contained a champagne. Bubbly goes well with the salty crispness of frites. The frites were delicious and the dipping sauces strong, which I liked.

sweet corn soup|tomato confit|micro cilantro

The soup was light and sweet, the tomato confit was a contrast in texture but a match in sweetness, and the micro cilantro gave little sharp bursts of flavor to contrast with the sweetness of the soup and confit.

steak au poivre|cipollini onion rings|smoked potato puree|asparagus|rosemary jus

I love that Wine Vault executes well and gives elegant interpretations of otherwise ordinary dishes. This is essentially steak and potatoes, but the potato was musky and the steak had the strong bite of pepper. Well-made, nothing unusual... it's just good cooking and good food.

cheesecake panna cotta|fresh berries

This was absolutely gorgeous. The panna cotta was light and really smooth, but with the tangy sweetness of cream cheese. They kept the cream cheese as a mild presence, which allowed the berries to shine. If anything, the texture was the winner in this dish, with the mouthfeel evoking feelings of decadence.

With the wedding and all, we haven't had any time for further revisits of Wine Vault, but it's our favorite fine-dining location. Their email list always includes menus and wine flights, so dinners and their prices are never a surprise. These dinners range from our favorite $20 3-course menus to 5-6 course menus with featured winemakers. Sign up for their mailing list on the website.

Wine Vault & Bistro
3731-A India Street
San Diego, CA 92103

0 bites:

0 bites