Vinoteca Pulls Out All the Stops
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A diner could be forgiven for thinking that most of the new wine bars around Washington pop out of the same mold. Is there an establishment in the pack that doesn't offer a platter of shaved meat, pour wines by the taste or spring from an idea launched by a couple of grape-happy friends who hope to win fans in an up-and-coming Zip code?
Guilty as charged: Vinoteca, introduced last fall by childhood pals Paul Carlson and Diego Cerezo and located just off U Street (at 1940 11th St. NW; 202-332-9463). The restaurateurs' menu embraces charcuterie (think bresaola, speck and prosciutto), and their wine program encourages exploration with 2 1/2-ounce pours and about 60 labels.
Vinoteca gets the award for trying hardest to please, though, thanks to its sheer volume of enticements. Make a wish of the place; chances are, it's yours. Happy hour? Vinoteca pours some 20 wines for $5 a glass Sunday and Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Reservations? The restaurant takes them. Variety? There's a 40-seat bar, bright in red tile, plus a photo-lined dining room and an upstairs lounge dressed up with art and antiques. If you need some visual stimulation, there's a flat-screen TV and even live music on occasion. When pals and I dropped by on a recent Sunday, dinner was accompanied by a flamenco dancer.
The food is easy to like. Vinoteca's sliders go beyond the usual beef (mini) burgers to include juicy lamb with feta cheese, tuna with chili mayonnaise and venison with brie. And a plate of tender sauteed shrimp with tongue-teasing grits disappeared before it made its way around our table. Helping to put out the flames is a "bubble bath" -- Vinoteca's way of showing off a trio of champagnes in a flight for $13.