I have a thing for small plates.
I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, food on a tiny plate just looks all the more appetizing. Maybe it’s because there’s so little of it. Maybe it’s the fork fight that ensues to get the Last Bite before it’s all gone. Or maybe it’s just because they’re so damn cute. Regardless of why, I love me some tapas.
Know what else I love? Birthdays! Especially when it isn’t my birthday but I can still go out and party like it is! And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m super-good at partying, guys!
So my lovely friend Cindy Busby was turning 23 (that’s in actress years), and we decided to go out on the town and live it up, starting at Hollywood’s latest outpost, Wood & Vine. Located on, you guessed it, Hollywood and Vine, the restaurant is situated in The Taft Building, home to Charlie Chaplin’s old office. Can’t get more Hollywood than that, right? After valeting the car (and being told that after two hours, the normal $7 charge would go up to $15 if we hadn’t left yet… Um, m’kay.) we headed passed the very glamourous bar area to our table outside, situated in the expansive courtyard next to a modern sunken fire pit, which was lovely and warm if you were lucky enough to be seated right next to it. I’m all for sitting outside on a nice night, but there’s something to be said for cosy patios that cater more to your comfort rather than just esthetics; if you’re going to seat me outside, make sure it’s a warm and inviting environment that makes me want to linger with a glass of wine and some dessert after dinner. Not just high-tail it out of there and bury myself in the nearest duvet.
After a millisecond, our server came over to greet us and take our drink orders, which warmed me up considerably. You know how I feel about good service, and I could tell right away she was going to be awesome. Since it was a birthday, we started off with a bottle of bubbles, the Roederer Brut from Anderson Valley, which is crisp and clean and affordable (they were charging $40 a bottle). We asked for some charcuterie and cheese to start as well, and our server compiled a tasty little plate of morsels for us to nibble on while the rest of the group arrived. Little being the operative word here. I get the concept of shared plates, and I know I’m not going to be presented with a boatload of food. But this was like miniature, and miniature plus food doesn’t equal happy Jewel. So we ordered some truffle potato chips as well, which were delicious and crispy and perfectly seasoned. Yay, chips!
Next up, we had the beet salad with blue cheese and smoked hazelnuts, the mussels with fennel and sausage, and the grilled scallops with truffled grits. The salad was nice, the mussels were fine, and the scallops were well-cooked if not a teensy bit sour. Scallops are tough to do perfectly, and all depending on the scallop, sometimes they can have a bit of an off-putting taste to them, which these sort of did. I loved the truffled grits though, because who wouldn’t? Next came the crispy sweetbreads with collard greens and a mustard puree, the first generous portion of the night. These were pretty delish, nicely cooked and well-seasoned, although I can’t help but wonder why the truffled grits weren’t served with these instead. Maybe they were trying to cut the richness of the sweetbreads with the mustard and collard greens, but again there was a sour note there that was just a tad off-putting. The next dish was the oxtail lasagna, served with ricotta and a horseradish cream. I can honestly say I’ve never had a lasagna like this one, and I’m starting to really dig oxtail. It’s like a less fatty version of beef shortrib, and it goes so well with pasta. I could have done without the watery horseradish cream, which didn’t pack as much heat as I thought it would, and where was the cheese? More cheese with my lasagna, please!
We wrapped things up with the two stars of the night: the duroc pork duo, house-made sausage and crispy pork belly over peas with bacon and parsnip puree, and the chicken and waffles. The pork was great, as was the puree and those crazy addictive peas. But the chicken and waffles knocked my socks off. Crispy juicy chicken served over a fluffy waffle with maple roasted squash, this was the smartest most delicious way to end the meal, and holy toledo was it ever yummy.
We skipped dessert, because we didn’t feel like paying the valet an extra $8 to stay for another half an hour (please fix that?), and we had bars to frequent and birthday cocktails to guzzle. But I will say the service was excellent: the friendly hostess at the door, our fabulous server, management patrolling the dining area to make sure everyone was taken care of, even the apologetic valet guy who was just doing his job, which unfortunately required raping our wallets. Wood & Vine has only been around for a couple of months, and every place has kinks to work out in the beginning. And something tells me they will. Come summertime, that patio might end up being the perfect place to sit with a cocktail and have a plate of chicken and waffles. Or four.