[THIS RESTAURANT IS NOT YET STAR-RATED]
The chef who ran Pasadena’s popular Bistro K is back in the San Gabriel Valley—sort of. Laurent Quenioux has taken over as executive chef at Vertical Wine Bistro, a dimly lit wine bar and lounge perched above the restaurant-riddled Raymond Avenue. At first glance, the menu seems a far cry from the adventurous cuisine at Bistro LQ, Quenioux’s Westside hit. (For instance, no nose-to-tail.) His touch is certainly absent from the atmosphere, which is dominated by a blaring top-40 soundtrack and a waitstaff that doesn’t seem to take the operation seriously. Charcuterie and cheese are highlights. The former includes a heady duck salami and the latter is served with a creative array of accoutrements. Corn and squash blossom fritters with smoked salmon are crispy delights. The entrees—including shortrib, salmon, and rib-eye—sound standard, but their execution is top notch, as are the trendy sides like farro risotto, citrus-infused quinoa, and lardon-studded lentils. The wine list—composed by Manuel Mesta—features fun flights organized by country.
Best Wine Flights, August 2008
L.A. doesn’t lack for wine bars that pour (nearly) great wines by the glass at (fairly) inexpensive prices. But if it’s a flight you’re after—a grouping of three similar wines served together—you’re damn near out of luck. Lou and A.O.C. each offer one flight a night. But what if the mood strikes for a tasting of Spanish reds? Or a trio of sauvignon blancs? Or a few glasses of meritage—all in the same evening? Only Vertical Wine Bistro
offers that opportunity; on any night it features 15 flights whose prices range from $18 to $30. Granted, most labels won’t knock any socks off the sommelier at Bastide. But you’re here to learn, not pontificate.
Best Grilled Cheese, February 2007
Normally, we’re traditionalists. Normally, if someone suggested a grilled cheese with honey and radicchio, we’d react immaturely, pantomiming a finger down our throat. Grilled cheese, we’d sermonize, should be made with American squares—Swiss if you’ve got airs—on Wonder Bread. Sara Levine at Vertical Wine Bistro
taught us a lesson in tolerance. She slides radicchio (cooked down with butter, banyuls
vinegar, and sugar) and Gorgonzola between slices of La Brea Bakery fruit and nut bread, which she’s lightly spread with honey. She then throws the lot into the oven for 15 minutes. Finishing the sandwich on the stove top to crisp the bread, she serves it with a small salad of arugula, apples, and fennel. Order a glass of Amarone della Valpolicella (a red from Veneto) to toast your discovery.