I had never heard about Vine Restaurant & Bar until I was invited to check them out last week. Under new ownership by a trio who’s culinary resume includes Fleming’s and Charlie Palmer’s, Vine is an impeccable cozy spot worthy of the drive down to San Clemente for.
Executive chef and partner Jared Cook’s menu comes from a place dear to his heart — the garden he has planted behind the restaurant where he reaps and sows the incredibly fresh produce he utilizes in his dishes. He is also the one thing that has withstood the changes (he was sous chef under the previous owner) which helps cement that loyal fan base the restaurant has enjoyed through the years.
We started with a charcuterie board comprised of Domestic Cured Meats ($10/$18) and Domestic Cheeses ($10/18) to whet our palates and senses. The array of colors can only be described as an artful palette in which we prepare our tastebuds for the tasty journey ahead. Various salumi are flanked by cornichons and goodies such as olives and ripe, tantalizing cheeses making a perfect accompaniment for your drink of choice.
I should have been mindful while enjoying the cheese and meats, but of course, between sipping on the cocktails and chatting to my friends, I lost track of what I ate, so when we moved onto the actual dinner portion of our meal, I was already feeling the consequences of the gorgeous nibbles I had ravished upon.
House Made Pumpkin Ravioli ($13) are so light and pillowy and even after a few minutes of photography, they were still really tender. I’m usually not a ravioli fan because I’m very critical of the pasta, but these were of a perfect thickness to hold the pumpkin within, yet thin enough not to be doughy and obstructive on the palate. The white truffle brown butter was subtle, allowing the ravioli to shine. Crispy sage and pecorino cheese added piquancy and a touch more salt to the end product, while toasted pumpkin seeds, a textural crunch.
I’m a huge fan of duck wings and when Crispy Meyer Lemon & Honey Duck Wings ($14) hit the table, there was no happier person than I ready to dig into them. Meaty “duck drumettes” — if you can call them that — are coated with a sweet, tart, spicy marinade which left me puckering my lips for more. I could have polished off that entire bowl, but it was just as well there were others I had to share them with.
Entrees arrived next and American Kobe Wine Country Burger ($13) was huge, requiring a steak knife to hold it together. The pattie is juicy possessing a nice smokiness, and together with caramelized shallots, Mahon cheese, marinated tomato and pickled onions, make for an absolutely stellar burger between a soft brioche bun.
The burger was served with House Made Herb Fries ($4) and some bowls of these crispy delights were set down for the rest of the table to share.
Pan Roasted Loup De Mer ($27) consists of a well-seasoned butterflied fillet of Mediterranean seabass served with fingerling potatoes, Riesling raisin, cauliflower, baby endive and pistachio brown butter. The fish is moist and the accoutrements married well together.
However, the piece de resistence of the evening was Pork Schnitzel With Wild Mushrooms ($23) a generous pork cutlet, breaded and fried to absolute perfection. Honestly, I didn’t need any of the delightful butternut spaetzle or the hearty winter vegetables, but they were delicious and a thoughtful pairing for the schnitzel. Grainy mustard and cider gravy were ideal accompaniments should you choose to utilize them, but the schnitzel was definitely the shining star on that plate.
I liked how each dish was put together in a very thoughtful manner, where the star of the dish is never overshadowed by its supporting acts. Each element comes together in a cohesive manner whereby the flavors are an enhancement of the other. Very nicely played! This is definitely a restaurant to watch out for in 2014!
This week I have a $50 gift certificate to give away courtesy of Vine Restaurant & Bar. Please leave a comment with your FULL name telling me why you would like to visit the restaurant and whether you’ve had previous experience with Vine in the past. You have until Sunday, 26th to enter. Good Luck!
Vine Restaurant & Bar
211 N El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672