Vin Bar/Valentino is just getting better and better. Irene Virbila, the LA Times restaurant critic, recently awarded it 3 stars and it is more than deserved. I would venture to say that Vin Bar/Valentino is one of the best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles.
To repeat my opinion, Piero Selvaggio ranks as one of the best restaurateurs in the country. His passion for great service plus his dedication to the finest ingredients is exemplary. I urge those who are seeking the best in Italian cuisine to run not walk to Vin Bar/Valentino.
The new chef, Nico Chessa from Sardinia, is not only inventive, but executes each dish with perfection. You will never get mushy pasta, overcooked fish or muddled ingredients. His saucing is refined.
Piero did all the wine pairings and Chef Nico devised the menu with the only requirement being to keep the portions small.
Sardinian bread, Carastu (like a cracker bread) with fava beans, fresh tomatoes, dried bottarga and dried ricotta. A perfect beginning
White Wine- G & K Giovanni – grillo sicilia – Piero explained that Mrs Giovanni was German and married a Giovanni. She named her sons (now the winemakers) Gunther and Klaus – hence the G and K. I must say what amusing names Gunther Giovanni and Klaus Giovanni.
Oregon shrimp tartar stuffed in an avocado half with sliced cucumber and orange segments lightly dressed with citrus olive oil – a light refreshing second course and a welcome relief from the ubiquitous tuna tartars.
Risotto with spinach and clam puree topped with soft shells with a saucing of light cream and brandy. Unlike the soft shells at Chinois, these were absolutely perfect with firm meat. I asked Piero what would make the meat mushy and he confirmed one of my ideas that the soft shell at Chinois had probably been frozen. It was a given that these soft shells were fresh and just another perfect dish.
Ciciones – little Sardianian gnocchi with striped shrimp, lobster, calamari and black cod. The sauce was made from the shrimp heads that was closer to a shrimp bisque. The entire dish was a glorious ode to fresh seafood.
Fresh Halibut (and I do mean fresh- it was just brought in by a Japanese lady. Piero mentioned that she was now happily munching on Chef Nico’s pasta in the kitchen). The halibut was on a bed of Sardinian Fregula (like couscous) flavored with squid ink accompanied by zucchini, carrot and cauliflower with just a touch of olive oil – I could have been at Le Bernardin in New York or Manresa in Los Gatos or French Laundry in Yountville or Providence in Los Angeles where sourcing of fish is a badge of pride. I can now add Valentino to the list.
Veal Loin with Goat Cheese, candied walnuts, mashed potato, aged balsamic sauce - a flawless piece of veal executed excellently. The mashed potato was luxuriously rich and again the saucing showed extreme competence.
Cheese – Pecorino. Toscano, Tallegio, Fig salami, Honey, Blackberries,, Candied Walnuts – a lovely cheese course
Dessert – Cassata with ricotta cheese with candied fruits, pistachio, mascarpone, pistachio sauce, caramel sauce, prickly pear sauce, sorbet – I just picked at dessert and didn’t do it justice.
What a wonderful evening! I just wish that the group of diners running to the newest restaurant on the horizon would flock to Valentino instead and discover a contemporary cuisine with extraordinary flavors plus a passionate insistence on the finest ingredients. Couple this with Piero’s graciousness plus an incredible wine list, you have a first rate restaurant.