Shunning loud gatherings of nachos and buffalo wings, Adam and I chose to spend Superbowl evening sharing a selection of appetizers at Vignola. On two previous visits we’d been thoroughly delighted by the apps and a bit underwhelmed by the entrees. Perplexed, we vowed to stick with an “all app” approach “next time” (a strategy championed by a foodie friend who swore, “Vignola is all about awesome apps.”).
Sunday night offerings being meager in Portland, we thought we’d struck upon a quiet way to cap off a busy weekend, enjoy small plates of culinary diversity and avoid shouts of “Who dat!”
Best laid plans and all. . .
With little fanfare, the Dana Street eatery has chosen to offer a prix fixe menu on Sunday nights. $25 for three courses. Take it or leave it. Too tired to move, we took it. The results were — again — mixed.
Options for the first course were two salads and two pizzas — all made for two. We chose the Organic Mista Greens, which came piled high in a creative and crispy mix. Flavorful and full of snap, the greens themselves hit the mark. How can you not love fresh, flavorful greens in February? Sheep’s milk cheese and lightly spiced walnuts added a yin/yang pungent/sweet flair — that is, when you could find them. My beef? Not enough of the cheese and nuts, and barely enough of the Maine honey vinaigrette to qualify as dressing. Beets were listed as an ingredient, but heck if I found a-one. As Adam put it, “That was a nice heap of greens — I just wouldn’t call it a salad.”
For entrees, Adam picked the roasted lamb leg and I chose the pork saltimbocca. An artistic fan of balsalmic reduction and basil oil provided a dense and herby slathering sauce for Adam’s slightly gamey lamb. He pronounced the meat tasty if slightly overcooked. Paired with root veggies and mashed potatoes, it was a satisfying, if uninspired, meal.
The sides were the stars of my pork dish. Salty and earthy, the crispy kale packed a wallop of flavor into a crunchy bit of greens. Mushed into the zesty mound of soft polenta, it was flavorful fun on a fork that completely overshadowed the slabs of breaded pork. Tough, a tad chewy, and not exactly warm, the pork was — lets say — a disappointment.
Perhaps still craving appetizers, Adam and I both choose the savory cheese plate for dessert over the sweet offerings — a mango semifreddo and a chocolate coconut caramel tart (the latter combination screamed “CAVITY!!” to me).
Plopped on a small pile of fennel and greens and topped with a chilled dollop of pear compote, the three cheeses were a smidge too mild for my taste. Adam was happier with the selection, but hardly wowed.
A Bayley Hazen blue was the standout of the trio, providing a dense — almost licoricey — paste that melted on the tongue. A mild white cheddar and an aged Beemster Classic couldn’t compete.
It was a pleasant meal, with lovely service from our waitress Liz, but not at the level we’d hoped.
We’ll try for an “all app” dinner at Vignola again — just not on a Sunday.