Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chef Laurent Quenioux's Spring Menu at Vertical Wine Bistro (Pasadena)

Vertical Wine Bistro in Old Town Pasadena has seen many personnel changes in the past two years and now Chef Laurent Quenioux (formerly of Bistro LQ) seems to be settling in as the kitchen's helm.

He may be pushing the envelope at his LQ @ SK dinners (including a weed "herb" dinner) but he returns to simplicity here in old town Pasadena. A recent tasting of their new spring menu showcases Chef Quenioux's love of great produce.

We started with a salad of watercress, endive, valdeon cheese, hazelnuts, and pear.

Endive Salad
Normally endives are a little too bitter for my taste, but surprisingly these were sweeter. The crispness is balanced out by the valdeon cheese (which I also loved by itself).

This is Vertical Wine Bistro after all, so all our courses were paired with wines. The endive salad was paired with Domaine Fouassier Sancerre Les Chailloux, Loire, France - chosen for its acidity.

Our next course:
Diver scallops, english pea, lardon
Paired with Chateau de Campuget 2010 Rhone, France
The plump scallops were perfectly seared - so chewy and tender. You really don't need to add much to scallops like these. The Syrah-Grenache wine was chosen because of the typical fruitiness that comes from Rhone Valley.

Sea Bass, citrus oil, rapini, yellow beets, lemongrass, grapefruit
2009 Lincourt Chardonnay, Central Coast
Sea Bass
This stood out to me as one of the best pairing of the night. The wine was fruit forward with little oak and a creamy finish. It balances out the flavors from the grapefruit and fish. The sea bass itself was very sweet and moist.

Lamb Two Ways: braised shanks and lamb chop, flageolet beans, spring vegetables, soy glaze
Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripassa 2008 Corvina Blend
(Don't worry this bowl is not a portion for one, but was shared among a few people!). The braised shanks were quite fatty and flavorful and the leaner lamb chops were just as great. The wine from Venezia was smooth and rich, easy on the tongue with soft tannins.

Before moving on to the dessert, they served a Warm Leek Salad
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbes 2007 Riesling, Alsace, France
Leek Salad
The leek was earthy and very tender. The best part? The leek salad was topped with chopped egg. Egg makes everything better.

Lychee panna cotta, salted plum gel and warm apple tart with pistachio gelato
Paul Jaboulet Aine Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2009
Panna cotta
The lychee flavor was subtle but noticeable. We loved the salted plum gel that came with the lychee panna cotta! I'm a fan of dessert wines and really enjoyed this one. It was sweet (with hints of apricot) without being cloying and had light finish that doesn't linger.

At Vertical, Chef Quenioux wanted to focus on simple food that people "can make at home" (well, if you cook as well as he does, maybe) as opposed to his more creative dishes at Bistro LQ or LQ @SK. This simplicity is perfect in showcasing all the great fresh produce that the spring season brings as evidenced in the wonderful dishes we tried. If you have yet to visit Vertical during his tenure, Spring is the season to do so!


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