This is the way dining should be. My dining companion and I arrived 90 minutes early for our reservation made through Open Table and were immediately seated. We requested something more out of the way and were accomodated by a gracious host. Then the fun started! We poured through a diverse menu of Wine Dive standards (fried oysters/fried chicken/Kobe sliders and hot dog) on one side and Seasonal Specials on the other.
Three hours, five courses, seven wines later we reluctantly surrendered our table to other diners who I am sure would go on to have a dining experience almost as good as ours. Every good meal starts with service, and our server, Matt, shepherded us through a multitude of wines and menu offerings and was always helpful with suggestions about how to best marry the flavors of the elaborate menu and the diverse wine list. It was a bravura performance and we appreciated his expert leadership.
But as important as the service is, the center of attention is the fare! The wines are "retail priced" meaning you aren't getting gouged--these offerings are fair. Such a surprise these days when markups could be as high as 3X actual cost. Here are our food and wine pairings:
1. Deep Fried Oysters with habanero salsa and cilantro on a perfectly crispy fried wonton wedge. We paired this with the McDaniel Chardonnay and thought the crisp oyster/wonton melded well with the lighly oaked, crystal clear wine. A great start!
2. Kobe/Wagyu Hot Dog, Texas Style (chili and jalapeno's). I saw this dish online before coming to the Wine Dive and knew I had to try it. Imagine the best hot dog you have ever eaten and realize that Wagyu beef would make it better. We sipped Grenache Rose (spicy fruit coupled with steely crisp bite with a touch of spritz) and were amazed that a Hot Dog (everyone's favorite golf course/football game fare) could be such a highlight.
3. Chanterelle Ravioli with Brown Butter, Orange Zest and Sun Dried Cherries were an earthy, seasonably appropriate small plate that we coupled with a Malbec that Matt suggested. The unctuous fruit of the wine melded with the orange and cherry for a combination I will be remembering for a long time.
4. Braised Pork Cheek with Tomato Chutney and Crispy Grits--This was the work of a skilled, steady hand. Not everone will order this dish, but everyone should. The Pork was perfectly cooked and fall-apart tender and the counterpoint of the Chutney made it my favorite item of the meal. I wish I could share this with everyone because this is a dish that the less adventurous will avoid, but to their detriment.
5. Venison Tenderloin with Blue Corn Johnnycakes, Lobster mushrooms and corn relish paired with McDaniel Russian River Pinot Noir. The venison was medium rare and fork tender and perfectly off-set by the crispy johnnycakes. There are the flavors of the harvest in the treatment--earth, spice, fruit and aroma jump off the plate and then paired with the pinot noir and we were in heaven.
After our courses, we closed with a glass of Spatlese that Matt suggested. Who needs desert when liquid bliss chases down the last of the food?
In order to taste as many items as we could we split each item and the kitchen accomodated us by arranging the half-portions on the plate for us. Each was artistic and showed a skilled hand.
Kudos to Chef Erica and her staff of culinarians--the display kitchen never seemed out of sorts, rushed or less than in control, yet the place was booming by the time we left.
Every once in a great while one discovers a place this good and a meal this great. Thanks to everyone who helped us have the most memorable meal of the year.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.