Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wine Vault San Diego Restaurant Week 2014

Ah, Restaurant WeekA grand idea birthed with the purpose of drawing out customers to local eateries at a reduced rate, with the hopes that these samplings would bring crowds back at full-price in the future. But it seemed to have become wrought with flaws – from menus that hardly resembled an establishment’s usual fare to over-priced prix-fixes, it didn't always turn out to be such a great deal. Balancing costs and quality product, while remaining true to the tone of the restaurant was a circus act that only a few could pull off.

And that's exactly the reason I'd crowned Wine Vault and Bistro as Restaurant Week's official ringmaster because weekly, affordable tasting menus was their year round specialty: 3-course Fridays ($25/ $15 wine pairing) and 5-course Saturdays ($35/ $25 wine pairing).

Here's a look at their Restaurant Week menu: $25 dinner/ $15 wine pairing (my choices highlighted below). Restaurant Week also meant you received a free glass of bubbly when mentioning their mailing list!

FIRST COURSE (choose one)
Wild King Salmon Tartare | Essence of Chipotle | Red Caviar | Taro Chips
2012 Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc (5 oz. pour)

Roasted Yellow Squash Stuffed With Mediterranean Quinoa | French Feta Cheese | Moroccan Oil-Cured Black Olives | Oven-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
2012 Matchbook Chardonnay (5 oz. pour)

Peking Duck Breast | Buckwheat Soba Noodles | Shiitake Mushroom Dashi
2012 R2 "Black Pine" Pinot Noir (5 oz. pour)

The first thing that came to mind when thinking of Peking duck was that crispy skin…this didn’t have much of that and my duck could have been cooked a little bit more, but these were some beautiful breasts. The wine pairing was a delicate pinot noir that wrapped my tongue in tannins and folded in nicely with the fowl.

 SECOND COURSE (choose one)
Braised Local Sea Bass | Smoked Tomato + Saffron Broth | Red Pepper Orzo
2012 Stolpman Roussanne (5 oz. pour)

Seared Gnocchi | Heirloom Tomato + Basil Pesto | Sweet Peppers | Swiss Chard
2010 Burgess Merlot (5 oz. pour)

Sous Vide Argentinean Skirt Steak | Patatas Bravas | Whole Roasted Tomato | Chimichurri>
2012 Tres Picos Garnacha (5 oz. pour)

*cue Dire Straits music* They are the sultans of steak! And have sous vide-d meat down to a science. I loved their version of chimichurri and its viscous, garlicy, green consistency, differing from the many times I'd had it in a chunky, raw format of herbs, garlic, and olive oil loosely whisked together. My steak was buttery and seasoned to perfection. And the tomato! Simply cooked with breadcrumbs, it was bright and sweet and added lightness to the heavier “meat and potatoes” components on the plate.

THIRD COURSE (choose one)
Housemade Rum Raisin Ice Cream | "Blondie" Biscotti | P.X. Drizzle
NV Dios Baco 34-Year-Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry (1 oz. pour)

Crema Catalana (Barcelona-Style Crème Brûlée) | Candied Burnet Orange Zest
2013 Margerum "Late Harvest" Viognier (3 oz. pour)

They know how to brûlée some crema, I'll tell ya! Orange zest, candied crust and a light white wine to finish it off  - superb. 

Trio of French Cheeses | Chef's Whim Accompaniments | Maldon Salt Flat Bread
Torres Spanish Orange Brandy (1 oz. pour)

Cheese please! This was a luxurious end to the meal with special accouterments for each bite - a little apple for my gouda, apricot preserves for my blue, and caramelized shallots for my brie. The orange brandy wasn't my favorite, but for a total of $40, I could have cared less - it was a small hiccup in an exquisite three-course adventure, full of surprises and delights. Even the so-so points were chalked up to a learning experience at an affordable price.

$40 deal: It was the best bang for your buck during Restaurant Week, but even if you couldn't make it this week, there was always next week, where the price and the food would be just as impressive.

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