Monday, September 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: Spoke Wine Bar

Last spring, two of the principals from Dave’s Fresh Pasta opened Spoke Wine Bar in the space next door. L and I had a great time surveying the former No. 9 Park chef John daSilva’s food and wine. Details after the break.

The Spoke concept is small to medium plates that are intended to be shared at the table along with wine or beer from an extensive list of bottle and by-the-glass selection. When we visited, there was distinct lack half bottles but I have passed that feedback on. D has said that they are considering a program where they would open any full bottle, sell half of it to you (decanted) and then use the rest as a by-the-glass “special” on their chalk board. Of course if you really liked that particular wine you could buy the other half and take it home with you.

Except for one table in the front of the space (4-6 people?), seating is either at the bar or at 2-top steel tables. The service was excellent: helpful, responsive and knowledgeable. The noise level was appropriate.

In general, this is a neighborhood kind of place where you would go for a drink and a small plate or two. L and I both agreed that if we lived in the area, we’d be frequent fliers. The wine was quite reasonably priced. It is easy to rack up a pretty serious bill if you survey a lot of the dishes. Nevertheless, the level of preparation, quality, and presentation justifies it and makes for an enjoyable experience.

The Dishes

[ed: Apologies for the lousy pictures. I only had my cell phone.]

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Pea Agnolotti, chanterelle, bacon, wood sorrel. This was the highlight of the meal. The agnolotti were cooked perfectly (al dente of course) and the filling was spot on with a very fine texture and great seasoning. Taken all together with the chanterrelle, bacon and sorrel, it was a very tasty bite. If you’re right next door to Dave’s Fresh Pasta, you can bet that the pasta will be top drawer.

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Handmade Garganelli, lamb ragu, fava bean, ricotta salata. Oh, another pasta dish, and of course it was excellent. L and I both ranked it as the second best dish of the meal. The garganelli was perfectly al dente. All of the three major food groups, sugar, salt, and fat, were there. The ragu was excellent. At first I thought it was a bit oversalted, but L pointed out that it was the ricotta salata (and therefore salty by nature), so the seasoning really was just right. The fava beans were cooked perfectly and clearly enhanced the dish.

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Chocolate Budino, bing cherry, hazelnut (cream), chocolate cookie crumbs. This was an excellent dessert. The fleur de sel on top, while not novel, definitely enhanced everything. The texture of the budino was dead on (fine, creamy, rich). All the elements together produced a great mouthful. Overall, this was a very fine finish.

Jonah Crag Crostini, Jalapeno, chive (not pictured). Excellent. We suspect the bread was from Iggy’s (and there ain’t nothing wrong with that!). Perhaps this was a little oversalted, but still a solid dish.

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Smoked Bluefish, baby beets, purslane, caraway creme fraiche. This was a very good dish. The bluefish was a bit dry, but it’s hard to have moist smoked bluefish. L and I had the same reaction: each individual component was good on its own, but we didn’t see it all coming together. For example, the picked beets were really nice and the creme fraiche was really nice too, but it didn’t all hang together as one.

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Grilled Asparagus, piquillo pepper, almond, cured egg yolk. The cured egg yolk shavings were good and even added a little bit of fat to the flavor.

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Rabbit porchetta, roman gnocchi, olives, fennel, mizuna. A nice dish. Occasional pieces of the porchetta were slightly dry. The romano ailoi with lemon was creative, but was perhaps visualluy  a bit “big” on the plate (I know, I know, it’s a nit). The roman gnocchi were really, really good, but hey (once again with feeling), if you’re going to be next door to Dave’s Fresh Pasta, you have to bring your A-game to the pasta. I mistook the gnocchi as polenta at first.

The Wines

11 Selbach “Incline” riesling. Good fruit, good acidity. I’ve had bigger rieslings but this was solid. L enjoyed it also.

08 Devillaine Bourgogne Blanc (chardonnay). A very nice white rhone with good fruit (probably more than most white rhones) and acidity. Enjoyable.

12 L. Aguzelle. Great nose, great body with that creamy vanilla taste.  Billed as a relatively light red, but I thought it was pretty big.

10 Monpertuis ‘Ramiere’. Quite good. I didn’t get much nose from it at first, but later it opened up. It grew on me and had quite a lot of body. L liked this.

12 Ostatu Rose. Good, but I don’t know — I just can’t get into most Roses. This one included. The review said it was good and quirky, but it just didn’t do it for me.

10 Mas du Colombel Faugeres. Good, but not as good as the L. Aguzeele or Monpertuis.

Tempus Fugif Kina L’Avion D’Or, Kallnach, Switzerland. I don’t think I’d had a Knallnach before. This was served in a highball glass with a slice of lemon on rocks. Really, really nice. Bitter, quinine based. Very enjoyable and a really nice finish with dessert even though I suspect it was meant as an aperitif.

Cocchi Barlo Chinato, Piedmont, Italy. Also served in a highball glass. Good, but side by side with the Kina L’Avion Kallnach this wasn’t as good. Of course, having them side by side necessarily forced a comparison. This would have been really nice on its own. Served with a grapefruit slice.

Notes

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