Review: Vine Yard East

Come for the wine, stay for the food
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  January 17, 2012

PORTUGAL CALLING A traditional pork and clams dish.
The spelling of this six-month-old restaurant's name indicates one of its primary draws: an emphasis on wine. Through its extensive wine list, a wine club (with 125 members already), monthly wine dinners, and other special events, Vine Yard East owner Jeff Boisseau hopes to find a niche for his eatery.

In Rhode Island-ese, it's in a spot where Cattails and before that Joseph's used to be. On a recent Friday night, Vine Yard East was full of families, couples, and girls' night out tables, enjoying the homemade potato chips and BBQ sauce dip, the large portioned entrées and, yes, the wines.

Of the almost five dozen bottles offered, more than half are offered by the glass, including one sparkling, three ports, and several reds and whites. The latter are overwhelmingly domestic, from California, Oregon, and Washington State. But among the whites, there are two Chilean, five Italian, and a Portuguese vinho verde. The reds include three Argentinian Malbecs, two Italian Chiantis, and a French Bordeaux. Lots of choices.

I can't give a personal report on the wines, because both of us were off wine that night, but I might have been tempted by a bottle of Italian prosecco, by the mere name (Flip Flop Riesling), or by the Pinot noir from Oregon. I was a bit disappointed not to find any locally-sourced wines among this long list.

That disappointment carried over to the "chef's mussels" ($9) we ordered to start our meal. They just didn't taste as fresh as most mussels we've had in Rhode Island, and our server told us they came from a Boston-based vendor. The sauce of shallots, beer, and coriander seeds was tasty, and the mussels were large, but for me, the sweet briney treat of these shellfish was missing.

Bill and I also shared a VYE house salad ($9), which they cordially split onto separate plates. I'm not sure if that meant we got more "goodies" with our greens, but the dried cherries, toasted pecans, and slivers of Granny Smith apples were abundant. The crumbled Gorgonzola was not as liberal, but the sweetness of the maple balsamic dressing had us each cleaning our plates.

Vine Yard East has a menu for all appetites, from stuffies, chicken wings, or burgers at the bar (or the dining room) to pizzas, pastas, and entrées (including grilled steaks and a 14-ounce pork chop). Traditional Portuguese touches show up in the pork and littlenecks, the shrimp with chorizo, and the fish and chips (in chorizo beer batter).

But Bill could not takes his eyes off the Guinness-braised beef short rib, with red lentils, green beans, and parsnip puree ($19). From the opening "Guinness" to the closing "parsnip," he was there. And, as it turned out, those two items were very appealing. Unfortunately, the lentils and the green beans were both woefully undercooked (and this from the man who likes almost everything al dente!). The portion of short rib which came home with us simply had to have its legumes re-cooked.

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Related: Review: Pal's Restaurant, Review: Café Zelda, Review: Trattoria Romana South, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Italy, Rhode Island, Portugal,  More more >
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