Archive for the 'Vin Bar – Santa Monica' Category

Vin Bar

What can I say except that this is a wonderful dining experience! Again, I urge everyone to go and just sit back and relax and let the Chef and Piero do their magic! I will let the pictures tell the story with the bottom line being that everything was terrific!

Eggplant and tomato terrine with basil and microgreens, dots of aged balsamic, basil oil and mixed berries sauce

First wine

Soft Shell Crab on a bed of mashed potatoes, avocado, fava beans, tomato confit with a sauce based on agrumato orange olive oil  – “Agrumato Oils come from an ancient tradition of the region of Abruzzo on the Adriatic Sea, East of Rome. First cold pressed under low pressure. Golden green with the aroma and flavor of oranges”

Second wine

Shrimp parmigiana, mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil

The two wines were tasted side by side as a comparison

Third wine

Fourth Wine

On the left – Burrata Cheese Tortellini on a bed of burrata cheese sauce, butter and sage —- On the right – mixed vegetable cannelloni (peas, corn, zucchini) with a lobster, tomato cream sauce

The tortellini up close

The cannelloni up close

Fifth Wine

Roasted quail wrapped in proscuitto, raschera (cow’s milk) cheese, marsala cheese with sage, sautéed spinach, olive oil

The olive oil used for the quail

Roasted pork on a bed of polenta topped with fennel, olive oil

Cheese Plate – Brillo, Toma Piemontese, Latur

What a meal, what a gracious host, what a chef – what more can one ask for!

Vin Bar

Chef Nico and Piero outdid themselves on this meal. It was perfect. After a lot of food and wine from being up north, we requested a lighter meal and wow did Chef Nico deliver.

First wine

Ravioli made out of tuna stuffed with burrata cheese, sweet pepper and olive tapenade, golden beets, julienne of carrots, spinach leaf, extra virgin oil – absolutely perfect

Dover Sole Stracciatella – Essentially a soup made from Dover Sole, Stock and Dover Sole Roe – Chef Nico stated that he had created this just 30 minutes before serving it by looking at the ingredients in his kitchen and drawing his inspiration from the freshest of ingredients.

2nd wine

Calamari stuffed with shrimp, breadcrumbs and herbs, micro greens, tomato, parsley and saucing from the natural jus from the fish and white wine – light, but packed with flavor

3rd wine

Squid Ink Tagliolini , Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Maui Sweet Onions, Bottarga, Olive Oil –  when you first taste this you have a flavor that smacks of the sea and then there is a second layer of taste from the sauteed vegetables – an absolute winner.

Risotto with arugula, mascarpone and lobster broth with Lobster balls made from ricotta, parsley, bread crumbs and olive oil – delicious

Pan seared Herb Crusted Monkfish sitting on a bed of cannellini beans with pancetta and bacon

4th wine

Quail on a bed of white asparagus, eggplant, grilled artichoke

Quail dish deconstructed – perfect vegetables and perfectly cooked quail

Cheese Plate

What a lovely perfect meal!

Vin Bar

Executive Chef Nico created what Piero described as a “rustic menu.”  What is fascinating about Nico’s cuisine is that he is equally competent with contemporary cuisine and the heartier flavors of his roots.

Mumm to start plus a vase of lovely tulips

On the left tomato gratin filled with pecorino cheese, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and a touch of olive oil. On the right crostini with lardo, fava beans, pecorino shaved on top – a wonderful hearty beginning.

2nd wine –

Site: Volcanic soils from estate vineyards in the foothills of the Caiatini Mountains; the Pontelatone vineyard is clay and calcareous soil. Vine training is low espallier with Guyot pruning; plant density is 5200 plants/Ha. Grapes: 100% Falanghina. Vinification: After a cold maceration the wine is fermented in stainless steel. Elevage:The wine rests in bottle for 3 months before release. Notes: Perfect with all varieties of seafood and fish because of its clean minerality and fresh ripe fruit.”

Calamari e Piselli – – Vino Blanca — This was an old world-style rustic dish — sauteed calamari with peas, tomato, green pea sauce with white wine – another hearty dish of perfectly executed calamari plus fresh peas in a lovely broth

Zuppa di Pollo (Vellutota) Zucca, Mascarpone – This was a veloute of chicken soup with mascarpone cheese, ortica (bitter greens) and diced pumpkin on top – this is not your mother’s chicken soup! This was not a broth, but a velvety veloute that when mixed with the mascarpone and pumpkin was unbelievably rich.

Homemade Pappardelle with Veal and Porcini Ragu, Parmesan cheese and parsley on top – we are talking very hearty cuisine – full-flavored and again not for the feint of heart

2nd Wine –

From their website:

“The Cirò wine comes from Calabria, a fruitful land full of vineyards. Cirò is famous for its sparkling colour and of course for its peculiar flavour. Vines tilling, natural calabrien inclination, dates back to the VIII century b.C., when the ancient Greeks landed on the calabrien coast and were astonished by the fruitfulness of this land.”

“Enotria , the “wine land” (the ancient name given to Calabria by Greek people), became one of the most important centres were Magna Graecia culture developed.”

Variety;: 100% Gaglioppo grapes
Vineyards: breeding cord
Ripening: fermentation at controlled temperatures in wine bottles to refine the taste for 7 months
Alcohol 13,5%
Tasting marks: typical red fruits bouquet (cherry, black currant, bilberry) with a good tanning structure.

Taglioni with quail ragu, speck wrapped quail, eggplant and melted ricotta cheese – another full-flavored dish

Nero D’Avola wine –

“This grape, native to Sicily, is one of the most widely planted red varieties on this arid, volcanic island.  With a nice touch of floral on the nose, this 100% Nero d’Avola offers fresh plum and black currant flavors. It is a soft fruity wine with a somewhat jammy finish. Another wine made by the great Ricardo Cotarella.”

“Intense, Cherry, Berry, Smoke, Full-bodied”

Left rear – Beef Spezzato con Pavote – Beef stew with potatoes –

Left front – Grilled Polenta with gorgonzola and sausage inside

Right rear – Potato and shallot braised in red wine

Right front – Rosemary skewer of Kurobuta pork, tomatoes and onions on a slice of grapefruit

What a wondrous combination of flavor and texture – I was getting very full and couldn’t finish the dish, but did take a “doggie” bag that was consumed not by the dogs but my adult son! He loved it!

Dessert of sorbets and fresh fruit – lovely ending

What a restaurant!!!!! Sometimes contemporary which I love, sometimes rustic – just let Chef Nico and Piero do the deciding for you!

Vin Bar

What an incredible restaurant – the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. There is a reason that Valentino will be celebrating 40 years in the restaurant business this year – nobody does it better. As I have stated numerous times we never look at a menu or a wine list – we just let Piero and Chef Nico orchestrate everything from beginning to the end.

“The vineyards of Batasiolo lie nestled in rural northern Italy in the heart of Piedmont, famed home of Barolo wines. The original nine vineyards encircle the winery like an amphitheater: the complete estate comprises nearly 250 acres, making it one of the leading farms in Piedmont. Batasiolo, with its estate and rigorous focus on single-vineyard Barolos, strives to reflect the age old truth: wine is made with skillful, loving care in the winery, but it is created in the vineyard.”

Tuna quenelle, langoustine bisque, paddlefish caviar, Jamon iberico de bellota (the finest ham from Spain) – what a perfect combination. What impresses me most about Chef Nico’s cuisine is that there are no shortcuts – this is labor intensive cuisine done with great skill.

Chestnut flan with 4 cheese sauce- Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Mozzarella and Pecorino with shaved black truffle on top – this was superb!

Piero stated this is one of his favorite wines – no oak with good acidity. “This blend of 70% Grillo and 30% Inzolia is grown at a 19th century estate in Sicilia. The winemaker, Gaetana Jacono, is a 6th generation winemaker. The estate also grows a huge amount of blood oranges in addtion to grape vines. Jacono is famous for revitalizing viticultural efforts by substantive replanting of native Sicilian varietals. Most of them are organically grown in the Milaro soil.”

Roasted quail, polenta, porcini mushrooms on top, porcini mushroom sauce and port sauce – another absolute winner

Tortino of zucchini, squash, farro sitting on tomato sauce with fava beans, braised red onions and fried pancetta strips – how many ways can I say delcious?

Second White Wine

Chef Fabio made and presented this dish. Traditional Paella – sausage, veal, mussels, clams, calamari, scallops, peas and saffron rice baked in the oven – Who needs to go to Spain when you have Chef Fabio?

Piero described this wine as Cherry nectar.

“Today, the wine estate is run by Gaetana Jacono, representing the sixth generation. With the same love that tied her ancestors to the vines, along with marked entrepreneurial insight, Gaetana has devoted herself to the production of Sicilian DOC and IGT wines – a production that has earned great recognition, even on the international scene.”

“The estate covers over 100 hectares and a large part of it, from 2001 to today, has been replanted with the area’s top varieties and with international varieties. Here, the soil – locally known as “Milaro” – is characterized by a particular substrate of calcareous sandstone, inter¬leaved with packets of clay that allow the vines to produce high quality grapes.”

“Thanks to the nature of the place, the use of technologically advanced systems and the support of a century of experience, Valle dell’Acate is able to produce a range of prized, modern and radiant wines: the celebrated Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOC.”

Mezzuluna (half-moon shape) filled with osso bucco, butter and sage saucing, cherry tomato, parsley – what a lovely pasta course made with a deft hand.

Pork belly with a parmesan crisp filled with celery, carrots and fennel – the pork belly was succulent, rich and moist with crispy skin – just delicious.

Cheese Course – Pecorino, Gorgonzola, candied walnuts, fig salami, mixed berry and tomato compote, truffle honey

What a sensational meal! The one thing about Vin Bar/Valentino is that it is consistently superlative from one visit to the next – there is never a misstep.

Vin Bar

Vin Bar just gets better and better!!! Each and every dish was spectacular, superbly executed with top quality ingredients.

Schramsberg to start

Uni served on an orange salad, with pistachio, onion, arugala with orange sauce – the combination of citrus with the uni was a wonderful combination.

First Wine – “Falanghina is a historic grape from Campania, the region that includes Naples. Sannio is a hilly region of Campania, north of Naples, with a wine-growing history so ancient that it was favorably mentioned – as Samnium in Latin – in the works of Pliny, Cato and Horace.”

Chicken Foie Gras served simply with olive oil topped with raspberries –  a luxurious rendition of chicken liver that was rich with a smooth velvety texture

Monkfish tail, celery, capers, microgreens, pepper, olive oil mixed with the “fish jus” – Chef Nico handles fish perfectly

2nd Wine – Domodimonti winery is “located only two-and-a-half hours east of Rome, in the Le Marche region between Umbria and Tuscany. The winery has a spectacular landscape of narrow coastal plains that rise sharply into the peaks of the Sibillini Mountains, with a view of Ancona and the Adriatic Sea seen in the distance on a clear day.” The wine is “a mineral-laced and golden honey-colored white wine called LiCoste, with a grape varietal only found in Italy called Pecorino.”

Sweetbreads sauteed with porcini mushrooms, baked ricotta cheese on top, sweetbread reduced sauce – another winner!!!!

Pumpkin pappardelle, braised pigeon ragu, parmesan sprinkled on top – again Chef Nico’s flavor combinations are innovative and “spot on.”

Third Wine –  “Lamùri, or “love” in Sicilian dialect, is Tasca d’Almerita’s most luscious, fruit-forward, and youthful Nero d’Avola. Made from 100% Nero d’Avola from 10-15 year old vines grown in sandy soils. The unique micro-climate provides Lamùri its pleasant freshness and elegance. Intense ruby-red in color, Lamùri offers lush aromas of blackberry, mulberry and cherry. On the palate, this wine is incredibly rich, with velvety tannins and a refreshing acidity.”

Pici pasta (a thick, hand rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti, originating in the province of Siena in Tuscany), rabbit, porcini mushrooms, pecorino, pomodoro puree

Turbot on a risotto with swiss chard and crabmeat, saffron oil – turbot is one of my most favorite fish dishes – this was just exquisite.

“Mario Soldati’s short but meaningful comment really does sum up what many connoisseurs think about that “pearl” of the world’s oenological landscape, the Gattinara DOCG appellation. The Travaglini Gattinara offers a number of incomparable sensory characteristics which help to make this great wine unique: an intense dark red colour along with rose and violet bouquets, plus a few hints of anis, vanilla, spices and undergrowth. This is a wine to satisfy even the most sophisticated of palates, and its smoothness and roundness will endear it to those in search of elegant, intense sensations.” “Gattinara is a red wine produced in the northwestern Piedmont region of Italy. It is based on the Nebbiolo grape.”

On the left veal tripe with fresh tomato and pecorino and on the right dry-brined pork rib first steamed with vegetables then roasted with honey and onions, sweet and sour sauce – I want this recipe for the pork rib!!!

On the left pork sausage with cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, herbs, light tomato sauce, roasted potatoes in the middle and on the right Colorado lamb chop, red wine sauce – I am running out of adjectives. You just don’t get better cuisine than what is being produced at Vin Bar/Valentino. I again urge everyone to just go.

Cheese plate —  pecorino, blue buffalo, aged ricotta, fig salami with walnuts, blueberries, raspberries, candied pecans and syrup from heirloom tomatoes and strawberries

The incredible chef Nico

The best restauranteur in Los Angeles – Piero

Vin Bar

I sound like a broken record, but this is just the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Chef Nico devised our menu and Piero and Paul Sherman selected the wines. A glass of champagne to start – not pictured. Piero mentioned that many of the dishes that Chef Nico created were “new” to him – Nico is an incredibly talented chef with a contemporary flair.  His flavor combinations are just extraordinary, he is a fantastic saucier and his execution is flawless.

Marinated swordfish carpaccio, blood orange dressing, pistachio, baby tomatoes, arugula – a perfect light beginning.

First Wine

Abalone, sea urchin, sea urchin dressing, pea shoots, mashed potato under the shell – Chef Nico knows my love of sea urchin and this was a fantastic combination of flavors – uni and abalone – you can’t get better than that.

This was introduced as Chef Nico’s interpretation of Matzoh Ball soup! The “ball” was actually composed of speck, pork, crab, celery, carrot and ricotta cheese. It floated in a crab bisque with pieces of crab. There are no words to describe how good this was. The bisque was so rich and deeply flavored that you knew this was not made in minutes, but carefully constructed and lovingly tended to for hours.

Wine Number 2

Cannelloni (made with white semolina flour and squid ink infused pasta) stuffed with lobster, pappa al pomodoro sauce, ricotta cheese sprinkled on top and a roasted cherry tomato on the side – not a hint of toughness from the lobster and again the saucing was flawless.

Orecchiette pasta (literally little ear’s pasta), Swiss chard, pecorino, sweet mozzarrella cheese, olive oil – Valentino has always excelled at pasta and this was no exception.

Close-up of the pasta – another winner.

Wine 3

Wine 4

Risotto saltato covering venison ragu on a sauce of ricotta cream, olive oil and parsley. Risotto saltato refers to the fact that you fry the risotto rice in a frying pan so that it becomes a golden and crispy cake. We were on a roll – each dish shone, not one overshadowed the other.

Fonduta on top of braised beef tartare, pea sauce, shaved white truffles on top – I am running out of descriptive adjectives. Enough to say that this was perfect.

Grilled pork, fines herbes, a sauce of jus, butternut squash, carrots, green beans, zucchini, baby corn, fennel – the vegetables were market fresh and the pork succulent.

Underneath the pork was a mosto (must) of raisins, figs and apricots

Cheese for dessert – not pictured,

This was a perfectly constructed tasting menu and far superior to any Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. I can’t wait to go to Vin Bar again and see what else Chef Nico has up his sleeves. His creativity and execution are limitless.

Vin Bar

Vin Bar/Valentino again – this really is a perfect restaurant for us. I won’t go into as much detail re the wine as I normally do, but just let me state that I highly recommend this restaurant.

First wine

Fritto Misto of calamari, shrimp, scallops and artichokes and zucchini – not one hint of grease – just top-rate fritto misto

The fritto was served with 3 sauces – an aioli of mayonnaise and garlic, taleggio cheese and an arrabiata sauce

Pappa al Pomodoro soup topped with burrata cheese – traditional, executed perfectly – lousy photo. Pappa al pomodoro is “a bread and tomato “minestra“, that is, a thick soup, and one of the oldest and most typical dishes of the Siena area. It is definitely one of the most representative dishes of the Tuscan cucina povera, the poor people’s culinary tradition.”

Tuna Carpaccio, Blood orange, blood orange sauce dressing paired with

Blood Orange Salad, Shaved Fennel, Arugula, Blood Orange sauce, topped with Botarga – Piero mentioned that it is typical of Sicilian cuisine to pair tuna with citrus.

Second Wine

This is an old-fashioned Sicilian dish that Piero named Tortino Ragusano. Piero grew up in the province  of Ragusa, the smallest and the youngest of the Sicilian provinces that covers an area of roughly 1600 square kilometres in the south-western side of the Island. This dish consisted of zucchini slices, sliced mushrooms, Caciocavallo cheese, Ragusano cheese, Swiss Chard Sauce and Olive Oil – absolutely delicious.

Third Wine

Mezze Maniche pasta with parmesan, pecorino and black and red pepper. Mezzemaniche or mezze maniche is a cut similar to shortened rigatoni – a stout cylinder with raised edges to help hold sauce. The name of this cut of pasta comes from the Italian word maniche meaning sleeves. This was a dish with just 4 ingredients that added up to a spectacular dish.

Fourth Wine

John’s favorite pasta and what Piero calls peasant spaghetti. This is a family guarded recipe that has been an old Valentino favorite for years – ingredients include fresh tomato, proscuitto, pecorino cheese, garlic, olive oil, parsley.

For me – Egg in Truffle – Pasta ravioli was on the bottom – when you cut through the dish there was spinach, ricotta, parmesan, a coddled egg with a lovely runny yolk and shaved white truffles on top – John can be a peasant while I will go for the luxurious!

Chicken Valentino – This is another classic Valentino dish  – circa 1973. Piero said he has served this about 5 times in the last 10 years. My thought – serve it more often and classic doesn’t mean “out of date.” Piero described this as the quintessential American-Italian dish. It consisted of grilled chicken, Italian sausage, olives and bell peppers – mama never cooked so good!

Cheese Plate – I didn’t write down the names.

As far as I am concerned this is THE Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. As a side note, we happened to have a guest in town who wanted to go to Valentino the night before this meal. We went two nights in a row and didn’t have one duplication – two nights – two completely different experiences – two wonderful meals. By the way you don’t have to be a regular to get the best of Valentino – Piero does it every night for every guest. Of course, you could always mention that you might like a Refined Palate experience.