Friday, January 8, 2010

Pasadena Wine Bar Renaissance? Part 1: Vertical Wine Bistro

I admit, I never paid much attention to wine bars in Pasadena before because, well, what's in Pasadena? At least that was my thought.

With the exception of Noir that I checked out a couple of months ago, I haven't gone to the others, but a recent visit with Mattatouille to Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Town changed my perception of the Pasadena scene. We were there for their $5 champagne special that they for the 12 days of Christmas (and also to celebrate our birthdays a few days apart).

Vertical Wine Bistro recently recruited "wine dude" David Haskell (BIN 8945, 2006 Sommelier of the Year award from Angeleno Magazine) to revamp their wine program, and his touch is showing. Lucky me, Mattatouille knows the dude and knows just to take his recommendations on wine instead of ordering on our own.

Vertical's impressive wine list of more than 400 wines spans 10-some pages and ranges from bottles in the $20's to the $100's, including some unique and rare varietals. How are you supposed to pick? Well, we just ask. Otherwise, you can always choose one of the 7 flights they have available on the menu.

It's a bistro after all, so a review of the food is warranted. We decided to get some small plates to share at the bar, and I just went along with Matt's recommendations here.

First up: Corn Fritter (cured salmon, creme fraiche) - $12
Unlike what I expected, the crispy corn fritters were topped with a thick slice of smoked salmon. Lovely texture contrast, lots of flavors. These are some great bites.

Shoestring fries (truffle oil/ketchup) - $8
These thin fries were not overdone and had great texture. Not to mention the generous dousing of truffle oil made me unable to stop popping them into my mouth.

Chorizo Pizza (tomato, mozzarella, basil) - $10
Quite a well prepared rendition of flatbread and always a crowd pleaser, this pizza gets a flavor kick from the spicy chorizo.

So here's where David Haskell comes out and greets Mattatouille. He decided that we didn't have enough to eat though, so soon after he brought out the tour de force:
Roasted Jidori Chicken for 2, roasted tableside - $48
David himself prepared our chicken tableside for us.
I don't normally order chicken at restaurants since it tends to be dry and overcookedy. Of course, I went straight for the chicken leg myself, but I did try the white meat pieces to see how they were and found them to be moist and juicy as well.

David paired our chicken with a 1990 Chapoutier Hermitage.
Smooth tannins and full bodied, pretty rich and complex. This was a beautiful wine and it paired wonderfully with the roasted chicken. We wouldn't have made this pairing on our own, but that's why David Haskell is there.

We also tried a couple of cocktails made by Nikki the bartender.
Her new concoction made with blueberries is light, sweet, and refreshing. We liked it better with bitters and I promised her I'd bring some rhubarb bitters next time I come ( I still haven't yet, but I will, I promise!).

She also claims to make one of the best Margaritas in town, so of course we had to try that.
It was indeed one of the best margaritas I've ever had, a simple but balanced drink.

I've heard of Vertical Wine Bistro before, of course, but now it baffled me why I haven't thought about checking it out. With more than solid food, great wine list, and good (albeit still small) cocktail list, this place should be a go-to place for Old Town Pasadena.


Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N Raymond Ave (upstairs)
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-3999
http://www.verticalwinebistro.com/

Vertical Wine Bistro on Urbanspoon
Vertical Wine Bistro in Los Angeles

4 comments:

Exile Kiss

Hi burumun,

Thanks for your thoughts on Vertical Wine Bistro. :) Haven't made it out there yet, but have been meaning to for a few years now. The Chicken looks absolutely delicious. :)

mattatouille

great review. i'm still working on mine, and it's already almost a thousand words. hm...i would learn to edit myself except that i could just refer people your concise review :)

burumun

Exile Kiss: Thanks, let me know when you come and check it out! :) I haven't had a proper dinner at the dining room here yet, but really enjoyed the bar experience.

Matt: It's amazing how much you can write though, I was already at a loss for words when describing the dishes. I guess I'll refer people to yours if they wanted more description and details :)

Swirl

Great review and pics. Somehow this place was not on our radar...now we'll check it out, thanks.

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