Recently, BF took me on a date to Vintage Wine Bar. After having been together for 4 years, an actual date- much less one that he’d planned- is quite an unusual occurrence. (Spoiler note: This was not a special occasion, and no, we didn’t get engaged, for those who are wondering…) He’d found the place while Googling something else and decided it might be nice to try it; I was definitely game, considering these sorts of suggestions are usually spouting from my mouth, not his.
I wasn’t quite thrilled with the location at Wooster and Broome Streets, if only because HopStop led me to believe it was on the edge of Chinatown. But as we walked there, I discovered it really was SoHo, and closer to the West Side than HopStop thought it was (so I was more annoyed with HopStop obviously). Vintage Wine Bar is adjacent to its own wine store, where you can purchase many lovely local vintages of wine. I browsed very briefly before heading next door, though someone later informed me that the store itself boasts a lovely tasting arena to get your chops wet.
We were seated immediately by the friendly host, who sent over an even friendlier waitress. She gave us ample time to peruse the menu; since I knew we wanted to sit, enjoy and linger, I chose the cheese plate to start.
The waitress informed us that, from left to right, we had Camembert, a harder cheese whose name escapes me, but was similar to parmagiano-reggiano while being softer and a little less salty, a sheep’s milk cheese akin to Monterey Jack but milder, and a local blue cheese. In the corner were port soaked raisins, which, though dry on the outside, were plump and juicy and quite delicious. I particularly enjoyed the Camembert, which spread easily like cream cheese and tasted wonderful with the raisins on the chewy, crusty baguette slices provided. I did not enjoy the blue cheese too much, which is not surprising as I don’t like very pungent cheeses that leave my mouth tasting… like… gross… afterwards. The Monterey Jack clone was a bit too mild to hold up to anything, I thought. BF especially liked the center cheese- his palate leans towards very sharp cheddars and slices of romano or parmagiano though, so it makes sense. I only thought it was alright. I liked that it was plenty to go with our wines.
Ah, the wines. Every wine on their menu was a local one, a nice touch. I got confused when I saw “FL” noted next to some of them, but at the bottom a key assured me that FL meant Finger Lakes, not Florida. I chose the Riesling flight – three Rieslings, all from the Finger Lakes region, 2 oz. pours, for $10. BF was about to choose the same but I suggested that he order something different so we could try more wines, so he asked the waitress to recommend something. He mentioned Cabernet Sauvignons and she immediately said, “If you like that, you should try the Cabernet Franc, that’s what I prefer..” so he ordered the flight of Cabernet Francs, three 2 oz. pours, $12. (A sense of duty compels me to inform you that the flight of Cabernet Sauvignons was $10, so I’m not 100% sure if she was telling him because she genuinely preferred the Franc, or … but then, I felt she was genuine. Also, I don’t think she got the tip. More on that later.)
Our waitress reappeared with our flights and explained which was which, from left to right, and left us to our devices. I vastly preferred the Riesling on the far left- the first on the menu, a Standing Stone Riesling, and even wound up buying a bottle to take home. It was lightly sweet without being syrupy, and had citrusy floral notes. The other two were a bit too dry for me, made more noticeable by my taking a sip of each one in order. I almost wish they’d arranged them the other way- dryest to sweetest- but that may have changed my taste of the first one.
BF actually liked the last of his flights best- the one also on my far left- though when I tried it, it was a bit too earthy/mushroomy for my tastes. I admit here that I don’t like red wines and find most of them bitter, tasting like dirt (which is, someone once informed me, the mark of a good red wine- it tastes like the earth from which the grapes grew, to which I responded: No thanks!) He enjoyed the other two but said the third one was definitely the best.
After enjoying more cheese and wine, I grew progressively tipsy (which shows in the later pictures, sorry!) and BF decided it was time to fill our bellies. He’d been eyeing the lump crab & cucumber roll on the menu, and was even more curious when he saw it go by to someone else’s table.
According to BF, these were “like a burst of freshness in my mouth”, but I am inclined to disagree. Though the lump crab meat was delightfully actually lump crab meat- large lumps- I wasn’t that impressed with the overall flavor. Yes, there was the salty/briny taste of the crab, but that was it. And in my inebriated state, the artsy squiggles of sauce annoyed me and as one looked like Sriracha, a spicy Thai chili sauce, and the other looked suspiciously like mustard, I avoided both and didn’t try either, foolishly. Ah well. I’m hoping they might have saved the dish and made it just that bit more peppy, but I simply do not know.
I was still keen on lingering and just enjoying our conversation (with topics ranging from enlightenment to acquiring art…), so I ordered the charcuterie and pate platter. A different waitress dropped off our plates this time, and she did not bother to even look at me nor offer to explain what I’d ordered. Of course I recognized the whole grain mustard schmear in the corner (top left in the picture), the soppresatta (a hard, salami like sausage) directly underneath, the liver pate in the bottom right corner… but the other meats and the little veggie thing eluded me. When I tried the other pate-ish thing in the top right of the picture, and decided it tasted a little like liver, but better, BF looked at me and said “I think that’s liverwurst” and I was kind of like, oh… that makes sense. Hey, sometimes I’m not the quickest on the uptake, I admit it. The other meat was similar to salami, so no big surprise there. The funny part was me saying “I don’t like olives so you can have all of them” to BF, who took one and bit into it and said “Um, that’s not an olive.” I suppose had I looked more closely, I’d have noticed that no, it wasn’t an olive, but he said “I think it’s a pepper…” (he doesn’t eat anything spicy) and I apologized. I guess they weren’t spicy though because he didn’t start grabbing for water or anything, thankfully.
As the night wore on, and we enjoyed our wine, we decided we were still just a tad bit hungry and wanted a nibble. BF hopefully suggested getting another cucumber/crab roll, but I said “Why not try the duck meatballs? That sounds interesting.”
Long Island duck, made into meatballs with- I think apple?- served with a “Wild Thymes” Thai chili sauce… the meatballs themselves were fairly blah and overly dry, not juicy nor moist inside at all. But dipped liberally in the sauce, they tasted pretty good… except the sauce was a touch spicy. BF didn’t like the meatball he initially ate, and refused to try the sauce as it was spicy. I dipped every bite into the sauce- spicy, but not so much so that I couldn’t eat it (I am not a spicy fan) and enjoyed it. I didn’t taste the thyme but the sauce was definitely something I have in my cupboard; like duck sauce except red and with a bunch of red pepper flakes sprinkled throughout. Yummy (the one I have is much sweeter than the one they served).
After another round of wine (a single glass for each of us), we were ready for dessert.
BF loves chocolate souffles so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered this. The menu description says “with mocha ice cream” which I was keen on trying. Hmm… see any ice cream? The top was crunchy in all the right ways and soft in all the other right ways. I munched a little and then dipped a spoon into the center, which didn’t appear to be quite that molten. I was extremely surprised when the spoon reached my mouth… and was cold. I squealed, “there’s ice cream in there!” and BF negated the idea. I said again, “there’s ice cream in there!” and BF again denied it. Finally, I called over the waiter who explained that after they bake the souffle, they lop off the top and put the ice cream within. Yummy, but a little odd as it distracts a bit from the chocolate cake itself. BF liked it overall, I was iffy but then I’m not a big dessert person.
One of the nice things about this place is that they have specials listed on their website. Monday night is girls’ night, bring enough girls and you get a round of wine on the house or a dessert to share. Thursday night- the night we were there- is Date Night. Bring a date and you get a glass of wine or a dessert free. Awesome. I mentioned it to our waiter who removed the “offending” charge from our bill promptly. I note here though that I just said “Is tonight Date Night?” and he automatically removed our glasses of wine from the tab (at $8 each, that’s $16), not the cheaper dessert we shared.
Yvo says: Overall, this is a great date place, laidback atmosphere conducive to lingering over a bunch of small plates (without the place trying to tell you that it’s “tapas”, either) and a glass of wine. The music wasn’t loud at all, so we could hear each other speak without shouting, and the lights aren’t too dim (they did get dimmer towards the end of the evening, but I think that may be more that the sun went down- the ceilings are really high and filled with windows). The price wasn’t bad, either- after the discount, tax and a generous tip, our bill came to $104 for everything we ordered. We had a great time and will be going to other wine bars in the near future…