Vintage Year

IMG_2270Like most reasonable folks, we reject labels like “foodies,” but we do greatly enjoy the experience of eating in a restaurant where a well-trained professional puts considerable amount of time and thought into preparing quality food, which is then brought to you by polite people. Sometimes, there’s wine involved. We aren’t wealthy enough to have this experience every night (and also we just enjoy cooking healthy food at home), but there’s something really enjoyable about having a leisurely meal in public.

That’s a slightly-self-aware of saying that we also enjoy observing the choices made by the purveyors of our city’s higher end culinary experiences. Has the restaurant redecorated since our last visit? Is there a new chef? What happened to the old chef? Do any of the new menu items cater to our vegetarian and pescatarian lifestyles?

Again, we’re not obsessive about it, but we do have some opinions — and we’re always open to trying a new place if you suggest something in the comments section. And yes, we’re aware that by not eating hamburgers and BBQ, we’re probably missing out on some of your favorite spots and most-cherished food items.

But here are two of our current opinions: 1) We’re really glad that Vintage Year has re-opened. 2) Too much of the conversation about the best restaurants in our city focuses exclusively on Central and A&P Social. Both of those places are excellent, so it’s to their justified credit that they often monopolize talk about the best places to enjoy a great meal. But after a recent visit to Vintage Year, it’s clear that this place (which we reviewed in 2013 under its previous incarnation) belongs in the absolute top tier of Montgomery restaurants.

The words “chop house” are no longer in the name of the restaurant, which makes it much more efficient to tell someone where you’re going to dinner. But the name shortening isn’t the only change made by the new owners. The interior is mostly familiar, but the atmosphere has more light. It’s no longer a dim cave where Portishead is playing. It’s now airy and modern, without feeling pretentious or cold.

The service is top notch without being intrusive, and the menu has been revamped a bit, while keeping some of the old favorites (mac and cheese is now with Gouda rather than truffled, but still incredible). The offering of wines by the glass is good, too – next time we’ll test their martini skills.

For an appetizer, we split an order of the flash-fried oysters, which were solid and had good consistency. The mayo-based dipping sauce was a bit bland, but the oysters had the right amount of crunch to stand alone. Our two entrees were the halibut and the “seasonal veggie plate.”

The halibut was a special of the evening, not on the usual menu. It was served as a smallish rectangle with thin discs of potato next to it. The greens atop the fish gave a nice textural variety, and the whole thing was cooked perfectly. The only criticism might be that it felt a bit empty on the plate with the fish and few potato slices, but after the oysters, it was a sufficiently filling meal.

The veggie plate was more remarkable, with an unusual number of options touching but not co-mingling. The root vegetables were just incredible, with perfect texture and flavors. They went nicely with the brussels sprouts. The asparagus wasn’t overcooked, always a risk when roasting. There was a weird cylinder of white rice, which we didn’t touch because we were too busy sharing the smoked gouda mac and cheese. One nice thing about the veggie plate is that minus the mac and cheese (which we specifically asked for), it was vegan.

We were inclined to pass on dessert, but were convinced by our server to sample the strawberry shortcake. It was an excellent recommendation, and a great closing chapter to our meal. It was a fresh and bright herald of spring, and the shortcake portion wasn’t cloying, as it sometimes can be. A sugar cookie blended with the fruit to create a sweet, but not overpowering treat. It’s hard to say “leave room for dessert” when you’re eating at such a nice restaurant, but it’s true that a little something with whipped cream (or glaze) or coffee can be a perfect closing note to an excellent meal.

All in all, we were incredibly happy with all of the dimensions of our meal: the atmosphere, the service, the food, the price. Vintage Year belongs in any conversation about our city’s fine dining options.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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