Vine Restaurant and Bar
Authentic Wine Country Cuisine in San Clemente
I have eaten many meals at restaurants around the Napa wine country. I remember each of these meals like high school girlfriends, some good, some bad and some just crazy. Vine Restaurant and Bar, located in the heart of downtown San Clemente, taps into the heart of my favorite wine country meals. What was so special about Vine? Lets discover together.
What I like most about Vine is that it features a seasonal chef centric menu that places an emphasis on their fresh ingredients. The result of this practice is innovative dishes with flavors that pop.
At the helm of the kitchen is Executive Chef and Partner, Jared Cook. He has worked in some of Orange County’s top restaurants, includingChat Noir, French 75 and most recently as the Executive Chef at Crowbar. Aside from Jared’s duties in the kitchen, he also maintains the restaurants tiered garden. The restaurant regularly turns up a bounty of herbs, vegetables and fruit that make their way onto the daily menu.
I was invited to the restaurant for a preview of the menu, below are the items that I tried. If you visit Vine, let me know if your experience was the same as mine. Part of the service I provide my readers is to amplify your voice if your service was great or terrible.
You can tell a lot about a Chef by how he constructs a charcuterie platter. Executive Chef Partner Jared Cook included a nice selection of fresh artisan cured meats, domestic cheeses, house made pate, fruit and delicious breads. Perhaps my favorite part of the charcuterie platter was the house made grain mustard that tasted good on everything.
Love Potion #9 Cocktail
I enjoyed the charcuterie platter with a very refreshing cocktail called the Love Potion #9 made with vodka, orange liqueur, lemon, cucumber, and raspberry. It had a slightly sweet flavor from the raspberry with a cool finish from the cucumber.
You could easily drink several of these cocktails and think you are in love with your tablemate, be sure to drink with someone attractive.
Flaming Buffalo Cocktail
This is a nice bourbon drink that has a slight sizzle from the Serrano chili and bright flavors form the fresh lemon juice. The egg white created a nice foamy head to the cocktail.
I love pumpkin ravioli, in fact it is one of my favorite items to order when I see it on a menu. As a result, I am very picky. Vine’s version lives up to my pumpkin ravioli snobbery. Chef Jared Cook hand makes his ravioli. The cooked ravioli is hot tossed with white truffle, browned butter, crispy sage, pecorino cheese, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Crispy Duck Wings
My favorite dish are the crispy duck wings. The duck wing were given a quick deep fry to crisp the skin and then slightly leathered in a a Meyer lemon, honey and chili sauce. They were garnished with a sprinkling of chives. This was a remarkable dish with the rich and savory duck wing creating a full mouth umami that is broken up with sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. If you are like me you will find yourself liking your fingers.
I saw this dish on the menu, but decided to get something else and I immediately had a,”I should have gotten the schnitzel moment.” If you are not familiar with schnitzel, it is made with tenderized pork and coated with beaten eggs, flour and bread crumbs and then fried to a golden brown. Vine’s schnitzel is served with wild mushrooms, butternut spatzle, winter vegetables and grainy mustard-cider gravy.
Pan Roasted Loup De Mer
Loup De Mar is a Mediterranean Sea Bass with soft delicate flesh. The fish is filleted open and pan seared, skin-on, with pistachio butter . The pan sear gives the fish a rich buttery flavor that accentuates the natural flavor of the fish. It is served with fingerling potatoes, Riesling soaked raisins, cauliflower, baby endive. I like the flavor of the fish alone, but they taste wonderful with the accompaniments.
Americano Kobe wine country burger
The Americano Kobe beef burger is tender and delicious, made with American Kobe beef. It is topped with caramelized shallots, melted mahon cheese, marinated tomato and pickled onions. The burger has a nice blend of flavor layers from savory, to sweet, and acidic from the toppings. The buns are light and fluffy, although my only minor complaint is that the bread was a little too thick for my tastes.
On the side are hand-cut fries tossed in sage and rosemary. When this dish came out hot, the herbal aromatics that waft up my nostrils and left me feeling like a Pavlov’s dog.
The souffle is made with artisan chocolate Scharffen berger and served with vanilla bean ice cream. I ate every last bite of this souffle and even managed to steal a couple bite’s of my Wife’s souffle.
My Final Thoughts
Based on what I tasted and experienced at Vine, I was very impressed with their food and customer service. The owners and the restaurant partners, are all seasoned restaurant industry professionals. The owner, Russ Bendel, previous role was the operating partner at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Newport Beach. I expect to see great things from Vine Restaurant, especially if they continue to allow Chef Jared Cook have free reign in the kitchen.
South Orange County is often viewed as having very limited food options. In my opinion, Vine is helping to put South Orange County on the map. Could we see Downtown San Clemente become a foodie destination in the next couple years? With restaurants like Vine and the continued success of places like South of Nicks, this is very possible.
Sunday – open at 5:00 pm
211 N. El Camino Real,
San Clemente, CA 92672
Vine Restaurant and Bar Prices:
- Dinner Entrees: Average in the mid $20’s range
- Burgers and Sandwiches: $ mid-teens
- Appetizers and Bar Snacks: $ mid-teens
- Desserts: $8-10
- Cocktails: $10 Each