Tapping into Tapas
Vinoteca 902 forgoes heavy bistro-inspired dishes for more tapas, mezze courses and flatbreads. It’s working.
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The fact remains that less-than-thrilling food defined my first few visits to Vinoteca, though there were some definite highlights. Risotto croquettes and grit cakes, though essentially clones, were nicely crisp spheres with gooey centers. The croquettes, in particular, burst forth with flavor, combining creamy rice with smoked ham and mozzarella.
A shade of sweetness emerged from a creamy bowl of mushroom-and-asparagus soup, one of the better starters I ordered, and adobo-rubbed chicken scored with crisp skin, and outstanding sweet potato risotto.
The chef’s new portmanteau—Medilatino—aptly describes his fusion cuisine, but Lazzarini, during his first menu run, was not firing very much beyond ordinary. Which, considering Lazzarini’s clout as the young, envelope-pushing visionary, was disappointing.
Though the ’Teca’s menu sounded very exotic and alluring (to the tune of West African fufu, and Peruvian aji amarillo), it lacked balance and felt stymied by too many crusted, coated, breaded and fried dishes.
His amended menu, I’m happy to say, was a welcome return to form. I also appreciated how he chose not to fiddle with lunch selections, which, despite scant crowds during my lunch visits, were quite good. The tabbouleh salad hit all of its marks with sweet, homemade Greek yogurt mingling with baby spinach and roasted red peppers and feta cheese.
And the Vinoteca sliders—a dynamic duo of chorizo and lamb morsels on brioche buns—erupted with flavor. Even a dab of guava-sweetened barbecue sauce for dipping matchstick fries impressed.
Vinoteca represents an outstanding opportunity. Lazzarini proved with Orillas that LoMa can support upscale ethnic dining. Another victory, despite a few stumbles out of the gate, is attainable.