Monday, November 7, 2011

World Cuisine comes to the West Side at Vitor’s

Dexter Checks Out the Entrance to Vitor's
      A few years ago, we went to Vitor’s with Lisa for brunch.  It was in a small building with H & R Block.  We had some remarkable French toast and were impressed that they had a coffee bar.  Since then, Vitor’s moved to a larger location on Harrison Avenue and some of our friends have eaten there and said they thought it was excellent.  We had a coupon and thought we’d go there for lunch.  It’s a charming building – actually, two connected structures – with several international flags on the street side façade and a patio in the back.

A Display of Awards and the Dining Room
The interior features include a tile floor that resembles slate, burgundy walls with white chair rails and large, framed posters of Parisian landmarks.  There are a number of dining rooms and the coffee bar, which is set off to one side.  The reason for enumerating these details is because it feels like
a New Orleans restaurant, and not one of the dinosaurs with overpriced mediocre food and loud interiors like Antoine’s or Galatoire’s.  Rather, it’s akin to one of the relaxed, but intriguing, offerings by the Brennan family because of its ambitious menu, charming ambience, and spot-on service.

The Coffee Bar
with Some Custom Blends

      Since they were serving breakfast and lunch, we decided to order a number of dishes and share them.  The breakfast items were the Breakfast Eggrolls and the Hot, Fresh Donuts.  The lunch items, both specials recommended by Gina, our server, were the Pumpkin crêpes topped with cream and a caramel dressing drizzled on them and the Ham and Cheese sandwich that came with a cup of soup.

Breakfast Eggrolls
Hot Donuts Made To Order

The Eggrolls were sausage, bacon, and egg served in a wonton roll with an Asian aioli sauce (though, it was more like a homemade sweet and sour accompanied by a smooth mustard dressing).  The wonton roll was perfectly textured in terms of its elasticity and crispness, which is not an easy balance for a restaurant that isn’t primarily focused on an Asian cuisine.  However, Vitor’s offers a variety of Thai and Filipino dishes and now an extensive sushi bar as well in addition to the focus that is French/Italian or what used to be called ‘Continental’.  There were four yeast donuts with their holes and a Cappuccino crème brulée sauce.  These were hot, freshly made to order, and just as good (if not better because of that dipping sauce) as those we had at Graffiano’s in Washington, DC.  I realize that The French Laundry began offering these a decade ago and so my fingers are crossed that other restaurants will follow the trend of these three trailblazers and maybe knock bread pudding and/or crème brulée off their menus.  

Grilled Ham and Cheese with Tomato Basil Soup
      The specials were exactly that and like those of about twenty years ago, were actually priced slightly lower than comparable dishes.  This is another trend for which I hope profusely.  The sandwich was served on baguette slices with an Italian spiced ham and a blend of two grilled cheeses.  The tomato basil soup was a killer.  The texture of the bisque was as good as anything we had in France.  In fact, it reminded us in its thick but complex texture of an onion soup we had at La Rosairie in Chenonçeau and a mushroom soup served like it was a cappuccino at Aqua in San Francisco.  Yeah, that bisque was that good.  Basil was the main spice, but there were other herbes de Provence notes such as tarragon and maybe dill.  Since we were sharing, Gina generously brought a second cup and that’s when we decided we wouldn’t be using the coupon and, yes, we’d return in the very near future.

Pumpkin Crepes
There were three crêpes, and again the texture was perfectly balanced, filled with sautéed pumpkin.  The pumpkin kept the dish from being overly sweet with the caramel and the cream.  Another chef would use apple or pear and it would be dessert.  This was more interesting because it worked as a brunch dish as much as a potential dessert.

      Gina’s service was terrific.  She was friendly, collaborated actively with her busser, and had a keen sense of entrepreneurship.  She gave us her card and listed her hours serving at Vitor’s.  She also happens to be the manager and her welcoming, laid-back manner, coupled with an eagle eye for details concerning her customers and the kitchen’s timing puts diners immediately at ease.  Her commitment to Vitor’s reminded me of Boo’s commitment to Jean Robert’s enterprises, which is the backbone for why they’re both such outstanding servers.  We overheard a couple of conversations she had with customers and it’s obvious that her manner is consistent with everyone she meets.  The various menus, catering assignments, and push to broaden the cuisines offered speaks to a protean talent.  We could certainly see Vitor on Top Chef especially after Megan Ketover, Orchids’ pastry chef, held her own on Top Chef:  Just Desserts for half the season this fall.
Vitor's on Urbanspoon

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