If there is one constant about the food scene it is that it is always changing. In the last decade, celebrity chefs and celebrity ingredients have ruled the day, with each one completely saturating our collective food consciousness to the point of tedium and banality (pork belly, we’re looking at you).
In the last 5 years, dining styles have undergone a slow and almost imperceptible shift, the kind that suggests that this isn’t just a trend, but an evolution in dining – one that is here to stay. Restaurants are bowing to customer requests for smaller portions and more diversity. Guests want to order multiple courses and taste more offerings on each visit. The “appetizer, entrée, dessert” method of eating out is fading fast.
Fine dining has taken a sampling approach, with restaurants like Alinea and Per Se serving 16 and 12 course tasting menus. But in the small plates movement, dining finds the kind of balance that translates to every menu (and venue), allowing the diner to sample multiple flavors and textures in just one sitting.
As usual, 2Vine is at the forefront of the movement here in Rochester, and as usual, they’re executing it impeccably.
On May 28, 2Vine introduced their new small plates menu, a collection of dishes with delicately balanced flavor profiles designed to be sampled together.
The small plates menu at 2Vine is true to 2Vine’s commitment to best in quality and to seasonal ingredients. Rich in flavor, color and texture, this menu is about providing a full, memorable and rewarding experience, not just a full stomach.
It was created by Chef Dmitriy Ruzhanskiy, a New York City transplant who trained under Chef Tom Colicchio, a pioneer of the small plates movement. Ruzhanskiy and 2Vine are a natural fit. Longtime fans of this Rochester institution will appreciate the new additions to the menu, but will likely find the transition seamless.
The Aged Sirloin
One of the highlights from Chef Ruzhanskiy’s new small plates menu is an aged sirloin prepared Japanese tataki-style – seared, grilled, and then marinated in soy, rice wine vinegar, and chili paste, and served cold with pickled mushrooms and a wasabi infused creme fraiche. As expected, the horseradish and the beef are a natural fit. What takes this dish beyond the expected is the incredible flavor and texture of the beef, which melts in your mouth and imparts sweet, spicy and umami notes while still showcasing the flavor and quality of the beef.
The Heirloom Tomato Salad
Another standout is the heirloom tomato salad, with tomatoes so sweet, so juicy, you almost want to accuse them of showing off. The light, creamy (dreamy?) cheese and soft, fruity, Thai basil scented olive oil combine to create a salad that tastes like summer. Small plate though it may be, this is a dish you’ll end up sharing; you cant help it. It’s simply your instinct to turn to your dining partner and say, “Here, taste this.”
Large Plates Menu
I also sampled several dishes from the standard or “full plate” menu, where I found perhaps the greatest surprise of the night, the vegan risotto cake, made with creamy al dente risotto, and toothy black beans and pinto beans. Light and tender inside, crunchy on the outside, the texture wasn’t the only surprise in this dish. As the kind of girl who always reaches for the steak first (Mama, as they say, didn’t raise no fool), I was blown away by the richness of the flavors, which managed to be bold and memorable without being intrusive or lingering. Do yourself a favor and give this dish a try. It will change everything you think you know about vegan dining.
And because we’re at 2Vine, I have to talk about the pasta. Always fresh, always house made, the pasta at 2Vine is the Paris of the Rochester dining scene; it’s always a good decision.
Fresh House-made Ricotta Gnocchi
The ricotta gnocchi is impossibly light and fluffy, the perfect pasta dish for summer – which is exactly what Chef Ruzhanskiy had in mind when he created it. Lightly dressed in a bright, citrusy olive oil, the gnocchi are tossed with spinach cooked crisp-tender and drizzled with aged balsamic. The end result is a marvelous dish of tender, creamy gnocchi that float among the tangy, crunchy greens.
Every dish on the menu was worth sampling, and thanks to the skillful, discerning hand (and palette) of Chef Ruzhanskiy, each dish can be sampled in the same sitting without any one flavor profile hugely dominating another. This is the kind of menu you will come back to time and again.
The mission of the small plates movement is to give diners a memorable and complex dining experience, and 2Vine executes that mission flawlessly.The food isn’t just a means to an end; it’s art, meant to be admired, experienced, and then talked about on the way home.
I expect we’ll be talking about this menu for a long time to come.