Old Vine Cafe is probably best known for its weekend brunch. The wait can be horrendously long, but the promise of their biscuits & gravy and bread pudding like french toast seems to motivate people to endure the hunger. I, for one, was not that impressed with their brunch, so have never returned since my first visit a few years ago. Overlord insisted their dinner is actually better than their brunch offering, so I returned with The Annoyer in tow.
Caprese of Mozzarella Burrata fresh burrata, flash fried arugula, grape tomatoes, citrus influenced extra virgin olive oil
Overlord and Carnivorous Lush have tried many of the items on the dinner menu, so were able to narrow down the highlights. Their take on a caprese salad was interesting with the use of flash fried arugula. It was crispy and addictive, but still with that signature bitter note of arugula that did not get lost in the frying process. It would be hard to call this a refreshing and light dish because the oiliness of the arugula shown through at some points. Overall, I liked the dish.
Sauteed Sea Scallops u-8 scallops, crispy fried yucca, tarragon chardonnay sauce
The scallops are a crowd favorite. I can see why. The meaty fresh scallops were nicely seared and complemented with the white wine sauce. The crispy yucca added nice texture. The scallops were perhaps a tad salty, but overall a good dish.
Tagliatelle Al Pomodoro handmade tagliatelle, pomodoro sauce, aged pecorino cheese
They are pretty proud of their handmade pastas here, but I’ve had better. Maybe the pasta is cut too thin or felt too delicate in my mouth. It just didn’t have enough chewiness going on. The sauce was a nice balance of tomato and cheese. Honestly though, the portion size is paltry for the price tag of $16.50.
Hand Made Pappardelle english peas, pork sausage ragu, parmigiano reggiano
The pappardelle was more substantial, but could have used more sauce to add more oomph. The pasta at North Italia is definitely more on point.
Char Grilled Lamb Chops australian lamb chops, dried blueberry demi glace, crispy fried yucca
The lamb chops were nicely grilled and still retained a lot of juicy fattiness. The sauce had an interesting salty sweet fruitiness that went well with the meat. For $30, I would have liked a few more chops!
Shrooms seared hen of the woods, shitake, beech mushrooms, egg yolk, shaved parmigiano reggiano, chives
Surprisingly, this was one of the favorite dishes of the night. The mushrooms were seared nicely and still retained good tenderness. The runny egg yolk added a layer of lusciousness. The shaved cheese brought some sharp saltiness. Well done.
Rabbit Mole braised rabbit, cashew-pasilla mole, queso fresco, fresh baked corn bread
This was probably everyone’s least favorite. The flavor and texture didn’t quite capture the essence of hearty Mexican cuisine. If it was meant to be an interpretation of Mexican food rather than a mimicry, it still fell short. I think Marie Callendar’s instant corn bread from mix tasted better too. Fail.
The waitress, who by the way was very knowledgeable and courteous, gave high praises to the cheesecake. Overlord loves it so much he insisted he get his own slice and we order another to share. To be fair, the cheesecake here is a bit different, being flat and less thick and heavy than most cheesecakes. Still, it’s not anything to rave about. It looks rather sad if you ask me.
These were a sad store bought concoction. The crust was a tad soggy. The pecan filling was not memorable. The only thing I remember really was, “don’t order this again.”
My dinner at Old Vine ended on a rather mediocre note, but the dinner wasn’t so bad overall. I’d say about half the dishes were good, the other half were kinda meh. I can tell the chef here is really trying. There is quite a bit of thought that goes into his food and his range is expansive, if not all over the map. There’s Italian, Asian, and Latin American influences, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the food fusion since none of the influences really overlap in any of the dishes. There’s pasta and then there’s curry and mole on the menu. I applaud Old Vine for trying to bring something a bit finer and unique to OC, but I can’t say I’ll come back. The food isn’t good enough and the price tag is too steep. At least one thing is well priced here, the wine!
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here