Sunday, August 05, 2012

Flashback - Baltimore Restaurant Week: Vīn (originally published 7/27/08)

A few years ago, Towson's Vīn Restaurant closed down for renovations.  It's a shame that it never re-opened, I think, at least from my one Baltimore Restaurant Week experience there - gasp - four years ago!  A glimpse of Restaurant Weeks that will never be again.

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Baltimore Restaurant Week: Vīn (originally published 7/27/08)

Restaurant Week is upon us, and I started it off last night with a few friends as we went to Vīn. I had never been, and neither will you if you don't go this week - once Restaurant Week is done, they're shutting the place down for renovations for the next few months, as Towson begins work on that new traffic circle. So if you want a taste of what you'll be missing, and at $30.08 a pop (before tax, tip and drinks, of course), get to Vīn sometime this week.

My buddies Alan & Eric were quite impressed with the deal on wine: many of their bottles sell for half price this week. They ordered a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Charles Krug Winery, which normally costs about $60 but they got it for $30! Plus, they liked this wine. No, I am not usually a red wine person, but I had a little of it and I did like it.

Our wine. I only had a wee bit of it.

As with most Restaurant Week menus, the one at Vīn gave us a few choices for dinner (they don't offer a Restaurant Week lunch menu so you will need to get there in the evening):
  • Appetizer: either the "Vīn Salad" of baby greens, endive, toasted walnuts, red grapes, apple vinaigrette, or the PEI Mussels in a lemongrass, ginger and coconut milk broth (my choice);
  • Entrée: either Hangar Steak with grilled asparagus, "cheesy mash" and bleu butter; or the Tea-brined half chicken with roasted red bliss potatoes, baby zucchini and "natural jus" (my choice);
  • Dessert: either a Whipped Chocolate Ganache with candied orange peel or; the Peach Cobbler with Butter Pecan Ice Cream (my choice)

After our complementary pita strips with garlic hummus, I got the Prince Edward Island mussels. It's like the mussels were sitting in a tom kha kai sauce. This was a tasty dish, with a good helping of mussels - about 20 or so. The mussels were tender and the broth, which is something I've never tasted with mussels, went beautifully with them. Those who ordered the salad liked it as well.

My chicken was big enough that I had to take half of it home. The flavor was difficult to place. I'd love to know what kind of tea this was braised in. It had an almost caramel-y, even chamomile-like flavor, though that may not at all be the tea they used for this chicken. Anyway, it was a delicious chicken. I'm so rarely sold on chicken because it's so easy to mess up. It's always cooked to be either dry or flavorless (usually both) wherever I eat it. So I just don't order it. Here it was cooked tender and juicy, with a fascinating flavor, echoed by the potatoes. The dark meat was even more tender than the white. Okay, that's like saying, "Wow, ice cream is cold!" but the difference doesn't usually jump out at me, because - again - most chicken I eat out is usually dry and/or flavorless, so the dark usually ends up stringy and greasy while the white just ends up crumbly and nasty. Not this chicken, that's for sure.

Everyone else got the hanger steak, a popular cut in other parts of the world but absolutely not so here. It's not the most tender part of the steer, and Americans usually prefer our steak to be as tender as possible. One of us couldn't finish his and since he's on a low cholesterol diet (he splurged, alright?), he just chunked half of his hanger steak onto my plate. Pretty tasty, though they all thought it needed just a little salt.

Vīn tried to make up for the larger size of our entrées by giving us microscopic desserts. Still, I'm not disappointed, because Americans eat way too large portions anyway, and who wants to follow up 20 mussels and half a chicken with a TGI Friday's-sized portion of peach cobbler? Okay, I know a few people who would, but I don't. So while the portion size was a little funny (funny ha-ha, not funny odd), it wasn't disappointing. The cobbler itself, though, could've used more of a crust. I know: not easy to fit any crus in that itty bitty teacup. There were some good slivers of peach in there, but only one little crumb of cobbler crust that I found. The miniblob of butter pecan ice cream on top was tasty.

My total cost was $36 after tip - wait, guys, I didn't give you money for tax! Oh well, I'll give it to them the next time I see them. The grand total for the four of us, before tip: $160, for four Restaurant Week prix fixe menus, one bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and six cups of coffee at $2 each (each of them had two, I had none). Again, a good deal for a usually much more expensive restaurant. But get over there this week if you want any of it any time soon: not only is Vīn closing for renovations next Sunday but Chef Chris Paternotte is leaving to pursue other ventures. So the menu is changing, too. Experience it before it's gone for the summer.

The restaurant isn't usually this pale - I just didn't use a flash.

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