It is really Spring? Few weeks back, LA was bitten by frost. Last week the car thermometer showed 82, this week, 89. It could be Winter, it could be Summer, but let’s call it Spring because the peas are here. Befittingly, Vertical Wine Bistro hosted a Spring tasting recently, and it looked something like this:
(CW: Watercress/endive/hazelnut/Valdeon cheese salad, Diver scallops/English peas/lardon, sea bass/citrus oil/rapini/yellow beets, lamb “2 ways” — braised shank & chop)
Setting all doubts of “credibility” aside, this is some of Chef Laurent Quenioux’s tastiest cooking. Bistro LQ was fun, whimsical, misunderstood, perplexing, blah blah, blah blah blah; LQ at SK was all kinds of CRAY — the sweetbread corn dog is still lost on me. But Chef LQ’s menu at Vertical Wine Bistro? Total comprehension. Even one obtuse enough to not understand the Sologne/Louis Vuitton connection can mentally grasp the dishes currently on the Spring menu.
Endives have been “in” since late Fall. The first dish, a twist on the classically French endive/Roquefort/walnuts, actually speaks winter to me. But it’s still aromatic and yet simultaneous bitter. The more Spring”y” salad on the current menu would definitely be the butter lettuce/avocada/pink grapefruit salad with citrus oil vinaigrette. The previous diver scallops found at Vertical has been spruced up with spring English peas, and the winter’s dark baramundi has been replaced by a much lighter sea bass drizzled with citrus oil, paired with citrusy yellow beets. The grapefruit garnish along the beets bass made this dish absolutely appropriate for April, but the the lamb 2 way? Definitely the top crowd pleaser of the night. The Frenchman and his lamb seemed infallible that evening — there was rich shank that stuck to one’s ribs, there was a lean, but extremely tender chop, and there were Spring beans. Beans break the ennui of Winter and the citrus season. Californians adore citrus, but by end of March, everyone’s secretly begging for any kind of fresh green beans.
While the exact “tasting” — by tasting, think PR, comped, gratis — menu above isn’t readily at Vertical Wine (yes, we asked), it’s very duplicable. The kitchen, upon sincere request, can split plate; the result would be 2 $47 per person meals, which, oddly, cost almost the same as LQ/SK pop-up dinners. Now that everyone’s no longer stoned from the 420 pop-ups, perhaps it’s time to visit Chef Quenioux at Vertical?
Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
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