Tapping into Tapas
Vinoteca 902 forgoes heavy bistro-inspired dishes for more tapas, mezze courses and flatbreads. It’s working.
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I think it was a wise adjustment. Even on paper, Lazzarini’s new menu seemed like a more natural extension of his considerable talents. Gone were greasy and forgettable dishes like plantain-crusted sea bass, and deep-fried and fishy scallops Milanese. And in their place sprang dishes rife with brightness and simplicity.
From the briny pop of delicate carpaccio laminado—citrus-treated cured Spanish cod—to humble, skewered chicken pintxos, the new menu exhibited greater focus and refined flavors. Elsewhere, warm Medjool dates oozed Gorgonzola cheese from the cracks of a crispy prosciutto sheath.
Lazzarini’s empanadas belong on billboards. His Orillas pork and chicken varieties were star makers, and perhaps the best-tasting dish on Vinoteca’s old menu were his indulgent and gently baked squid ink and lobster empanadas.
A Catalonian version of empanadas displaced those, but the results were just as good. Molten goat cheese and spinach, studded with golden raisins, ran from the crisp turnover shells and into creamy citrus aioli.
Adios went leaden osso bucco and its ilk, and in came more flatbreads, meats and cheeses. (The new menu scratched the entrée lineup to three.) Lazzarini tackles the Cuban sandwich with such ease. The sweet crunch of housemade pickles emerges from a palette of perfectly blended flavors that include tender roasted pork, pancetta, Swiss cheese, mustard, and mojo sauce.
While some pre-revamp dishes required a trip back to the drawing board, the restaurant initially had two very strong legs to fall back on: its wine program and its polished decor.
The sprawling dining room space at the foot of The Residences at Rodney Square is a neat space—and large—with soaring, exposed ceilings and ductwork. Vinoteca, thanks to some handy and well-focused design, makes the most of its setting. Much like Orillas’, the dining room is modern and cozy, adorned with upcycled wine bottle wall-mounts and steampunk metal decorations. Textured salmon-colored walls create the space between chandeliers and cushy banquette seating.
In Iatagan Rocha, the ’Teca has a brilliant manager and sommelier on its roster. On several nights, he guided us through a thicket of Spanish wines toward Ramón Bilbao’s woodsy Limited Edition Tempranillo Rioja, and Guelbenzu Azul, an elegant blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Spotting me with the lemony white fish, he rushed over a glass of Moscato d’Asti.
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