Monday, January 12, 2009

Wine Vault and Bistro (San Diego, CA)

In these dark economic times it's hard for one to really revel in fine dining without being fearful of its impact on your already thin wallet. You can't always have the grandest of meals, some meals I can have 25 bowls of Pho instead! Lucky for you dear readers I stumbled across quite the gold mine in San Diego.

Wine Vault and Bistro offers a 5 course menu for $25 every Saturday night with an $18 wine pairing menu.The restaurant itself is not particularly large, it can fit roughly 80 people in an outdoor patio and indoor dining area.

This particular time I invited a few school mates to join me to celebrate my birthday. Chris (the owner of WV&B) did a great job of setting up a large table for us that adequately held our people, wines, and wine glasses. They also accommodated my incessant requests to turn on and turn off the over head heater. Chris promised to take care of me for my birthday and he did not disappoint. Our server did a splendid job caring for our every request.
My most cherished dining partner does not eat cheese... and since one of the dishes was Mac & Cheese, they made her a whole new dish (which I will say... was better than the Mac & Cheese!)

We had a few bottles of wine at our table and I was provided a few glasses by generous strangers when Chris informed them of my birthday. A very very generous and delicious alcohol based night =P. Here's a quick breakdown of what we drank.

  • N.V. Ruinart Champagne Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne (11/25/2008)
    Very sharp and crisp wine. A nose of lemon grass, years and apple. A bit dry for my liking with crisp notes of honey and "dry" farm hay. (88 pts.)

  • 1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame - France, Champagne (11/25/2008)
    Copious amounts of butterscotch with metal and apple on the nose. The butterscotch is almost overwhelming, as if you were drinking something other than a vintage champagne. A lean wine on the palate with a good deal of yeast with a bit of orange rind and oddly still alcoholic. What I found most interesting on this wine was it tickles your taste buds with just currents of the great minerality and acidity on the wine, . A very enjoyable bottle of champagne. (92 pts.)

  • 1983 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/25/2008)
    Quick double decant for sediment. Definite browning on the rim of the wine. A nose of cedar, rubber, and cherry lightly floating up. A complex and balanced wine ... the word Balanced constantly ran through my mind while drinking. Stewed fruits, hint of meat and tea leaves with spiced raspberries and soy sauce on the palate. I felt the fruit really struggled to show behind the spice and savory aspects. Fine long integrated tannins ran through the back with a slightly metallic finish. The wine died out in about 2 hours in the glass and tasted like vinegar. (91 pts.)

  • 2005 Sine Qua Non Grenache Atlantis Fe2O3~2a, b & c - USA, California (11/25/2008)
    Ridiculously good wine. The first time I had it in June i felt the pepper aspect of the wine really overwhelmed all the fruit and complexity but this time.. wow. This was popped and double decanted quickly at the restaurant. The wine is perfect in "size" it's bordering on being HUGE and overwhelming but it skirts the edge perfectly. Loads of vanilla, raspberry... like smelling the red berry section at a farmer's market. Peppery and floral on the palate with with layers all kinds of fresh fruit just coating your mouth over and over again with silky love. incredibly long finish with a little bit of tannins. There are few wines that I can't stop drinking and this is definitely one of them. The nose was still immense and delicious 3 hours in.

    Does anyone want to share their SQN allocation with me? *pretty please* (97 pts.)

  • 2004 D.R. Stephens Cabernet Sauvignon Moose Valley Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/25/2008)
    An even larger and more vibrant nose than last time on essentially a pop and pour. Waves of chocolate, vanilla, sweet fruit , and oak hit your nose when you pour it into the glass. The mouthfeel wasn't quite as good as when I had it last time (after 4 hours in a decanter). Still dark and intense with blackberry, blue berry, and coffee rinds. Good finish. I enjoy this wine every single time I drink it! It definitely needs plenty of time in the decanter/bottle! (94 pts.)

  • 1983 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/25/2008)
    A Huge nose of fresh french bread with light vanilla and dry vibrant fruit. Large amounts of fruit on the palate with leathery herbs. A touch of mint on the mid palate with a prune finish. There still had a good amount of alcohol throughout the drink and it tasted a bit disjointed, but I'm surprised anything from California during my birth year survived. (90 pts.)
As well as these two from the generous strangers.
  • 1985 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/25/2008)
    A big ol nose of spice , oak and dark dark fruit. A nice palate of stewed strawberries but with a limited finish that kind of dies in your mouth. Not bad. (89 pts.)

  • 2000 Château Lynch-Bages - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac (11/25/2008)
    This wine still needs alot of time. A really big and ripe wine with a bit of alcohol. Still very tannic and dry. Some sweet fruit on the nose with some spice box. The palate was tight and unappealing, I can feel the complexity and fruit trying to struggle and come out, but right now it's being heavily pushed back. This is not a pop and pour wine, I wonder how long people had it open for that are giving it the 92+ scores let alone 97+? Do you score this based on it being a 2000 lynch bages? If this was blind would it be scored so high? (88 pts.)
Of course you can't drink wine alone, one must have delicious food to accompany delicious wine!

We started with an amuse bouche of Ahi tuna
Citrus infused Ahi Tuna diced and combined with onions, dill, and baby cilantro. A refreshing start and great palate cleanser to start the meal. ($25 meal with Amuse?!)

Our first dish was Spiny Lobster Bisque with Micro Fennel

A piece of spiny lobster swims in the broth of rich creme, lobster, and fennel. For some they would say the soup is TOO creamy and TOO flavorful, but with powerful wines and generous amounts of bread, there was an even balance for my palate.

Substitute Mac& Cheese Dish, Roasted Chicken leg with Braised Brussel Sprouts

As explained earlier, the Mac and cheese was substituted with a great Roasted Chicken, the chicken was moist and bursting with flavors of pepper and spice. The Brussel sprouts were cooked to a point "almost" all the bitterness was gone, a heavier hand of salt or broth would have made the sprouts excellent!

"Mac 'n' Cheese:" Macaroni + Artisan Pancetta Carbonara

Macaroni pasta lightly cooked in the Carbonara style (cheese, egg, and fatty pork/bacon). Unlike the normal US style which mixes in cream to give it a "saucier" consistency, this one has stayed true. This does result in a somewhat drier pasta shell but the pasta is excellently cooked. If I had any request, it'd be for a bit more cheese, I felt the bacon really overpowered all other flavors and it was like eating bacon + noodles with a dash of cheese.

Hoisin Glazed Pork Belly with Kabocha Squash Puree

*hum*, the Pork Belly was cooked a bit too long. The skin on top ended up being really dry and the hoisin sauce just kind of caked on it. BUT underneath the skin was a very soft and malleable piece of pork... go figure.

Grilled Skirt Steak | Arroz a la Plancha | Smoked Paprika Chimichurri

Yum yum yum, spicy like a salsa dancer and meaty like.. my fat self. Cooked a nice medium rare and drizzled with a spicy and sour chimichurri sauce. A nice reprive from the saltiness of the previous dish. The very very very VERY best part on this already very great dish was the crispy rice they layered the steak on. The rice was pan fried in a patty where it was crisp on the outside and a bit soft on the inside. I love various types of consistency in my dish and this part was rather excellent.

Pedro Ximenez Baba | Crème Chantilly

No one had any idea what this dish was when we first sat down. Luckily 75% of our table had google access on their phone and we found out Baba was a yeast sponge cake while Pedro Ximenez was a type of dark sherry.

The cake is soaked in/ drizzled with/ dipped in the Pedo Ximenez to give it an alcoholic and strong oaky sweet flavor. The heavy creme on top balanced out the oakiness with rich sugar. I personally enjoyed the dish a lot, but it was a pretty mixed bag. Some people at the table had the dish completely drenched in alcohol and it really detracted from the dish, while some had NO alcohol so you have a really dry piece of cake.

It may sound like I'm being a bit picky about some of the dishes but let me tell you, you cannot beat the quality and the price. The very first time I went for the Saturday dinner I enjoyed EVERY SINGLE DISH that I had. The food is good and the five course meal would be worth of double the price.

Please do yourself a favor in these dark economic times and treat yourself to a nice meal and recession prices!

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



Zhi said...

Who brought the Atlantis Grenache? Must be an amazing guy! And I bet he didn't need google to know what PX is...Level 1 somm!

Good times!! That pear cognac was interesting too!

Charlie Fu said...

If that somm was there he should have said something =P

mothermayi said...

wow that is a really great price. i'll def have to check this place out next time I go down to sd

Charlie Fu said...

Mothermayi: They also do wine pairings for $18 if you would be inclined to try. They usually have some good wines.

Tracey said...

This is probably my favorite restaurant in SD. Very relaxed atmosphere, a mom & pop joint, knowledgable waitstaff, great wine, and terrific value. I've had some great times there.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that place looks like a total steal!!! Skirt steak sounds good, too.

Charlie Fu said...

Tracey: The joint is top notch, I know quite a few people who eat there many times a month!

Zhi said...

He did but you were too busy flirting with the other tables. "Hey, can I have more of your 00 Lynch Bages?"

I bought a solera PX to a tasting years ago..before you were born lil Fu...

Plus, the Court of Master Sommeliers make sure I know how PX is made.

That Mouton was fun to try though!