Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dinner at Vino Rosina: Snails and Marrow and Sweetbreads, Oh My!

by EP

Right before Christmas, to really kick off the gluttony of the holidays and my trip to Las Vegas (post on B&B Ristorante, a Mario Batali establishment, coming soon), I went to dinner with my good friend Lydia.  We wanted to try somewhere neither of us had been, and Vino Rosina, located in Harbor East across from the Whole Foods, was on my list. [Disclaimer: it was really dim in the restaurant, so I didn't take any pictures.  Okay okay, I forgot my camera.  But the pictures would have been crappy -- crappier than normal, anyway.]

We were both impressed by the cozy yet open design of the restaurant.  Guests are greeted with a large square bar, with the dining room towards the back.  The dining area had a view of the kitchen (or at least the final prep station), which we appreciated.  The place was packed for a Tuesday night, and we were excited.

We started our meal with one of their flights of wine.  We picked a trio of sparkles (that sounds like a good name for a band): prosecco, sparkling rose, and sparkling shiraz.  We got so many different dishes throughout the meal, it was nice to have these options to pair with whatever we were eating.  They were all delicious and we had no trouble finishing them.

In deciding what to get, we were pleasantly surprised by (a) how many delicious sounding appetizers there were (in fact, the table next to us ordered only apps and had a tapas-style meal), and (b) how much offal or offal-related items were on the menu.  To me, that's a good thing.  Lydia has recently converted from being a vegetarian, so she was very eager to try the meat offerings she had been "missing out on" all these years.

For our first course, we went a little overboard.  We ordered: (1) Bison Tartare, with piave vecchio cheese, shallots, parsley, and a poached quail egg; (2) Escargots with a puff pastry top; and (3) "Bread and Butter" - marrow in veal bone, capers, pickled red onion, and parsley.

The star of this course was the marrow.  I mean, come on.  How could this be bad?  The table next to us, mentioned above, had skipped over this particular app and wondered what it was.  I described it as "butter from heaven."  The bones were cut laterally so it was easy to get the marrow out (although admittedly, there wasn't much there to start).  The chef served crunchy crostini for spreading, and the pickled onions and capers were a lovely balance.

The bison tartare was good, not tough or stringy, and had nice flavor from the cheese.  It was also served with crunchy crostini, a nice balance to the tartare.  I thought it could have used a little salt, and the quail egg was overcooked, so the yolk didn't do its runny dance across the plate.  Sad.

The escargot were very garlicky and buttery (as they should be!), and the puff pastry top was flaky and...also buttery.  Again though, I felt it needed salt.  (There was salt on the table, which I wasn't expecting at such a fancy place.)

For our second course, we ordered the two specials of the day: (1) Lamb Chops with chimichurri and roasted potatoes, and (2) Veal Sweetbreads with beech mushrooms and pickled mustard seeds. 

The sweetbreads were the clear winner for me here.  They were cut into pretty small pieces (smaller than the typical "chicken mcnugget" size), and lightly breaded.  The mushrooms were delicate and very earthy, and went well with the veal.  Most interesting were the pickled mustard seeds - normally these would have been way too pungent to go in such a delicate dish, but when pickled, they really mellowed out and complimented everything nicely.  Mmmm sweetbreads...

The lamb chops were also good but I felt they were undercooked -- more rare than the medium rare we ordered (though Lydia was happy with their doneness).  The chimichurri was garlicky and herby, perhaps overpowering the lamb a bit.  Isn't chimichurri usually paired with beef?  Perhaps that's because it can stand up a little better...

For our final course, we -- again -- went a little overboard.  We ordered the Pumpkin Pecan Spice Cake which came with cinnamon ice cream.  We also ordered a wee dish of the mascarpone ice cream since we couldn't resist trying it.  And then we got coffee/espresso.  And shared a glass of eiswine.  A little over the top, no?

The spice cake was subtley flavored and pretty small - the size of a mini-donut, perhaps.  A sucker for any and all ice cream, I loved both the cinnamon and the mascarpone.  What's not to like?? 

The service was generally very attentive but not overbearing, and the atmosphere was relaxed but young and hip.  There was a large group of friends there having their holiday party/gift exchange, and it made me think it might be a good place for a birthday party.  Also, the square bar and extensive wine list spell "good date location" to me.

In sum, I was very pleased with the menu and appreciated the use of offal/unusual ingredients (not to mention a killer cheese selection), even if some of the execution was a bit off.  The wine selection and atmosphere were great and I hope to return soon.  Maybe on a date -- but only if he likes sweetbreads.



  1. Mmmmm...bone marrow! Love it too! We just enjoyed a lovely appetizer of bone marrow paired with lobster tail at Veritas in NYC. I highly recommend the restaurant next time you're in the big apple. I need to post about our overall experience too. Cheers!

  2. my experience there was vastly different. it wasn't bad but it certainly was not like yours and i am jealous. bone marrow? YUM! and escargot? SIGH.

    the things that i took away from there: good service and the music. they had bumpin 80s all night. unfortunately, i don't recall the food so much...


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