Vinotini’s [4/5]
4 (80%) 1 vote

Vinotini’s is adjacent to Pauli’s and is actually a partitioning of it. The two restaurants share a kitchen, a bar, and much of their menu. The difference is almost entirely in ambiance. In Vinotini’s you have the option of sitting on an open patio, at the bar, or at a few sticky, beat up tables located around the bar. We had already been to Pauli’s but since a reader had dropped Vinotini’s into the suggestion box, the hubby and I decided to head out there for a Friday night dinner.

We seated ourselves at a high top and gave our drink orders to the server. I was happy that they served iced tea since not all bars do. We perused the menu and I was surprised to see that in addition to the “small plates” (the oft mentioned tapas) and the “comfort food” (sandwiches and things) they also offered the steaks and seafood off Pauli’s menu. I can’t imagine paying that kind of money for a meal at a bar but maybe I’m missing something. We had gone in expecting tapas, so we ordered several small plates to share–the bruschetta, the Korean style BBQ beef wraps, and the crispy sweet potato fries.

Our food came out all at once and I was pleased to see that even our little high top was large enough to manage all of the plates. I was less thrilled that our individual plates were streaky and one had a good sized bit of something which had to be brushed off.

The sweet potato fries were the first dish I sampled and my favorite by far. The fries were crispy, salted with coarse sea salt and absolutely fabulous. The mellow flavor of the sweet potato was balanced with a strong blue cheese dipping sauce. The sauce was thin with chunks of fresh blue cheese and was outstanding.

The lettuce wraps featured green bell pepper, carrots, red onion, and BBQ Korean beef. The bibb lettuce was soft and pliable, making it easy to wrap around the filling. The beef was tender with just a hint of the bbq flavor. The wraps were served with a spicy miso sauce. The initial notes were of garlic and sweetness but it gave way to a dry burn at the back of my throat. The sauce provided some much needed oomph to the dish.

I liked the idea of the bruschetta better than the actuality. Smoked Italian ham, fresh mozarella, pesto, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and greens on fresh bread. Sounded great. Unfortunately, the pesto and ham both ran a bit salty and the edges of the bread, where there were no toppings, were baked black. More than bruschetta, it seemed like a slice of pizza. To the good, the bread held its crunch under the toppings and the greens were coated with a lovely, tangy vinagrette. It wasn’t terrible, the hubby enjoyed it as it was, but it didn’t live up to the potential.

Having earlier decided that dinner should involve chocolate, we put in an order for a piece of Chocolate Decadance, a flourless chocolate torte.

The dish arrived beautifully plated with freshly made whipped cream, fresh berries, and a drizzle of raspberry glaze. The torte was dense with a tight crumb and a rich flavor. The chocolate ganache coating was smooth with a deeply chocolatey flavor which provided a nice background for the sharply tart raspberry glaze. We were impressed that the dish walked the fine line between overly sweet and unnecessarily bitter.

I had heard Vinotini’s described as a “wine and tapas bar”. It wasn’t until we arrived that I realized the emphasis was on the bar with tapas being code for “better than standard bar food”. A great deal of how appealing Vinotini’s is will depend on what you are expecting. The menu pulls strongly from fine dining–the ingredients, presentation, and prices. The small plates and comfort food are far more affordable than the steak and seafood dinners, but even still, a meal is not inexpensive, especially considering the bar atmosphere–no linens, a couple of small tvs, and somewhat sporadic service. However, if you are a foodie in search of a bar with good food, Vinotini’s delivers. The food is far above typical bar food and is great for groups since the small plates can be easily shared.

Total for the meal: $39.96 (includes three small plates, one dessert, and two iced teas)

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