Saturday, April 30, 2011

Enoteca Sogno Back in Biz

When I got the e-mail saying Enoteca Sogno was opening at its new Northside location (finally!) tonight, it wasn't that big of a deal.

I know a lot of people are fanatics about the place, but my interest is far more casual.

I'd been to  few terrific wine dinners there, but other than that, I'd only had dinner maybe twice.

But my dining companion suggested going (actually made a joke about not going), so we figured why not and off we went.

In my humble opinion, the new space is more attractive than the Broad Street space, with wooden floors, a curving bar and not nearly as many tables as they could have.

But the ones they did were all occupied tonight, so clearly lots of people were eager to see how things had come together.

The bartender was a familiar face and I planted kisses on both cheeks to mark him before he rushed off to keep his flourishing bar crowd refilled.

Our server was another RVA regular whom I know from at least two other restaurants.

Having arrived fairly late (we were told the horde arrived around 6:30 and we were closer to 8:30), we dove right in to the menu.

Vietti Roero Arneis, a light and earthy grape I'd never had before and a plate of  various Olli salami, made right here in Richmond got us off to a satisfying start.

No question, I see a lot of Olli in my future.

Chewy and soft in texture (okay, fat) and with each of the three kinds having distinctive kinds of spice, my companion declared it better than any American-made he'd had.

We sat back and savored it with our wine.

Mussels in white sauce over spaghetti came next and while the mussels were plump and the broth sop-worthy, the pasta was unnecessary because we'd also gotten the fresh tagliatelle with a mix of wild mushrooms and truffle oil.

Enjoyed with the wine, the earthiness of the mushrooms made it a lovely combination..

I chose the whole branzino roasted with garlic and herbs and the other eater got one of two specials for the evening, the veal Picatta (the other was a chicken Marsala and those were the only three proteins on the menu for tonight; more are to be added next week).

The branzino was the star and we ate it down to the bones, leaving a pile of them on the side of the plate.

The veal wasn't all it could have been, but it was late by this point and a new kitchen can be allowed one so-so plate on a mobbed opening night.

After so much food, we decided to move up to the bar to join the after-hours party tasting wines and talking about, what else, food and wine.

We started with the Mastro Janni Brunello di Montalcino 2005, a delicate but earthy wine that the owner had been saving for just such an evening and moved on to a Isole e Olena Cepparello, a wine so smooth and velvety as to be an example of what people miss when they don't drink red wine.

A Felsina Fontalloro sealed the evening for me with its very ripe red fruit nose, smooth tannins and beautiful long finish. 

A wine rep friend at the bar looked perplexed, asking, "How is it I've never heard of this wine?" 

My question would be more like, how is it I've never drunk this wine?

No one would argue that Gary York doesn't maintain an interesting wine list and, from last night's list, a well-priced one.

But it's hard to deny the pleasures of being included in the after-party and tasting the stuff he cellars for himself. It's even better with enough satisfying food first to prevent any chance of public loopiness.

Sometimes it's enough to be in the right place at the right time and just enjoy the moment.No doubt one of my strengths.

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