Vinoteca is a paradise for wine lovers and foodies alike. Located just off of the vibrant U Street Corridor, Vinoteca is surrounded by several of the city’s best restaurants, but still stands out as a favorite due to its vast wine collection, carefully curated menu, and incredible outdoor patio area with happy hour specials that can’t be beat…
One of my favorite things about Vinoteca is the fact that you can get literally any wine by the glass, no matter the price point. You know how most restaurants only let you buy the super expensive wines by the bottle? That’s not the case here, and it’s lovely. I started my meal with a Rosé flight because even though it was the dead of winter, I needed a little nod to summertime in my life.
Next came a few little snacks – some dried fruits and nuts and assorted olives. Both of these little dishes were extremely colorful and beautiful to photograph. The olive platter contained an impressive variety, and it was fascinating to discern the slight differences between olives I know I had never eaten before in my life. The highlight of the fruit and nut bowl was definitely the luscious dried figs, which were a favorite of mine.
For the first real course, I ordered the Charred Kale Salad, the BBQ Carrots, and the Grilled Squid. The salad, which contained an interesting mix of apple, fennel, red onion, and gluten-free flax crackers, was dressed with a flavorful pumpkin seed vinaigrette. I was most impressed with how the flavor profile of the kale transformed so intensely just by being charred quickly before plating. This type of flavor metamorphosis of vegetables is no strange technique for this restaurant group, as it is also found at The Royal, Vinoteca’s sister restaurant.
The BBQ Carrots, served with beet, pickled cabbage, and pepitas was yet another prime example of a dish utilizing untraditional cooking methods for vegetables, and was just as impressive. The Grilled Squid consisted of green lentils, flageolet beans, and cilantro, and was made gluten free by omitting the wheat berries. I oftentimes call myself a squid connoisseur just because I love it so much and order it everywhere I go, and I can attest to the fact that this squid was tender and cooked to perfection, which can be hard to achieve.
The protein round, which is always my favorite part of the meal, did not disappoint. I ordered the Swordfish, which was a special that day, and the Bison Short Rib. I have a lot of feelings about this Bison Short Rib. Served atop a bed of Jasmine rice with roasted carrot and pickled red cabbage, this bison was some of the most tender, flavorful meat I had ever eaten. I quickly learned the chef always has some sort of bison dish on the menu, to which I gained even more respect for this establishment. Bison is severely overrated, and it made me very happy to know there are chefs out there that appreciate its flavor and versatility. The swordfish was also beautiful, served with some roasted potatoes and sunchokes and garnished with fennel.
For dessert, I enjoyed the Passionfruit Sorbet, which is gluten free without the traditional chestnut crumble garnish. To no one’s surprise, Vinoteca makes all of their ice creams and sorbets in-house – a practice that is unfortunately becoming less and less common in the restaurant industry.
Vinoteca is definitely an establishment I am determined to frequent as much as possible. Their dedication to acquiring the finest proteins and produce, their knowledgeable and hospitable staff, and their overall vibe make it a local favorite.