Ah, springtime. Time for the birds. And the bees. And seasonal menus. Yummy, delicious seasonal menus. I love a good seasonal menu, and had the pleasure of trying out some of the items from the Spring Menu at the Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena.
In the heart of Old Pasadena, nestled amongst the other tiny restaurants that pepper this part of town, you’ll see an awning and a neon sign that announce Vertical Wine Bistro…only to come face to face with an open and empty entryway. Set back from the street, several steps past the entryway, you’ll walk by some small, empty tables and up a set of artisanal-looking stairs, all of which seem to be inside some sort of aviary. You’ll hesitate briefly and wonder if you’re in the right place. It almost looks as if it could be the courtyard of someone’s home. Well, a little investigation will lead you up the stairs and around the elevator to the true entrance.
A dim but warmly lit, modern, and expansive space opens up. As you settle in to your table you begin to scan the HUGE wine menu. Winos unite. This place is legit. They have an outstanding selection of Old and New World wines. Wine not your thing? They also have a full-service bar featuring a good selection of cocktails and a solid list of tasty beers. But honestly c’mon guys, you’re coming here for the wine, and you shan’t be disappointed. By the bottle, by the glass, or by the flight (they have flights!!) there are lots of tasting options.
Don’t forget the food, though! Vertical isn’t only about the wine, as they also have really great eats here. They have just rolled out their Spring Menu, and it all looked so delicious that I couldn’t choose. So I didn’t. I let them choose for me, and I’m so glad that I did. Here come the goods, y’all.
We started off with a charcuterie plate, the highlight of which were the duck rillettes. Next up were mussels with chorizo de españa, saffron, and red peppers. Each of these ingredients perfectly complimented one another. Dee-lish!
After the mussels came the Diver Scallop Salad. Beautiful, plump scallops that were perfectly prepared on a bed of mediterranean couscous pearl salad and drizzled with citrus oil. Light, bright, and succulent.
On to the main course! It was….Duck Confit! Guys, I know a good duck confit, so when this came out I was excited, but trying not to get my hopes up. I’ve been let down before. But, um, well….DAMN. It was really, really good. The duck was tender and not fatty. What’s their secret?Turns out, if you don’t already know, the chef is from France and grew up with dishes like this, so it’s no wonder that they’re so well done. Well played, Vertical. Well played.
Dessert was a molten chocolate cake served with a vanilla gelato, which seems to be a staple out here in L.A. As a chocoholic, I’m a sucker for it every time. This one was really great. Too many times I’ve dug into one of these, had my mouth scalded, and found the cake to taste a little like stale spongy cardboard. Not the case here at all. And it was the perfect portion after all of that Spring Menu goodness.
The verdict on Vertical is: I love finding little gems like this. It’s a great place to meet friends and try a flight of wine or sit down for a romantic dinner. Get out to Vertical; you will enjoy it. Coming up in May, they are rolling out a special brunch menu for Mother’s Day. You can find it here. You should check it out!
By Brian Waters