Alibi V.25 No.47 • Nov 24-30, 2016 

Restaurant Review

423 Textures and Flavors

A Vintage repast

On the occasion of my first visit to Vintage 423, I strolled in at 3:08pm on an unseasonably warm Thursday afternoon. As soon as my black Nautica high-tops passed through the glass door and I gazed up at the electric blue waterfall cascading over the back of the bar, I felt underdressed. I glanced down at my t-shirt and jeans, then around to the small handful of afternoon tipplers, shrugged and followed the hostess and my dining partner to a large black and gray booth in the corner with button-tufted upholstery that rose up a foot over my head, creating the aura of privacy.

Our friendly server, Landon, quickly brought water and took our drink orders: a Bourberry Old Fashioned ($11) and an Aston Martin ($11). Minutes later, we exchanged our food order for the cocktails. The Aston Martin was a much more feminine-looking drink than the name implied—a martini glass of pink liquid with five blueberries floating on top. It was candy-like in flavor, but light and with an appropriate balance of sweet and tart. The Bourberry, jazzed up with St. Germain and muddled blackberries, was … too jazzed up. There was so much going on in the glass (a lot of ice and berries and orange) that the foundation—whiskey and water—was sort of lost. I'm not a dumb kid anymore, and if I'm going to order a libation with good whiskey, I certainly want to be able to taste it. I ordered another shot of Woodford Reserve ($10), and upon receiving it, dumped it into the lowball glass along with some water and a twist of lemon. Way better.

With a big smile, Landon brought out the buffet of appetizers we'd chosen: duck tacos ($14), oysters ($18), a cup of lobster bisque ($6) and asparagus tempura ($13). Everything was beautifully presented; the juicy red duck lay on bright full moons of white jicama, the bisque was topped with a flaky, golden square of puff pastry, the oysters were sprinkled with a confetti of toppings and lay on a bed of rock salt. The tacos were the absolute scene-stealers. The duck confit topped with shaved cabbage and sliced radishes lent a weight to the otherwise light tacos and was spicy and rich with red chile that (incredibly) reminded me of my mother's. No one's red is a good as my mom's, so I was happily surprised when the heat and flavor brought my home to mind. The best part was the crunchy, juicy jicama “shell” that carried the duck—it brought the whole dish together in a delightfully textured fusion of bright and savory notes.

The smoked Blue Point oysters with lemon caviar, wasabi crème fraîche, mignonette sauce and arugula slush were tasty though mildly confusing. The lemon caviar had a fun, zesty snap, and all the toppings blended well—particularly, though surprisingly, with a sip of the Aston Martin—but the choice to serve the shellfish at room temperature was disconcerting. The lobster bisque was nice, and the asparagus was heavy since the mango-habañero beurre blanc sauce that it came with wasn't tangy enough to balance the hefty fried tempura coating.

The smoked Blue Point oysters with lemon caviar, wasabi crème fraîche, mignonette sauce and arugula slush were tasty though mildly confusing. The lemon caviar had a fun, zesty snap, and all the toppings blended well—particularly, though surprisingly, with a sip of the Aston Martin—but the choice to serve the shellfish at room temperature was disconcerting.

My next sojourn to Vintage 423 occurred on a blustery, cold Friday night. I made reservations just in case everyone in the Northeast Heights decided 5:15pm wasn't too early for a mad dinner rush; I also dressed up (sort of) to match the décor level. My dinner guest and I were seated in the restaurant proper (as opposed to the lounge with the bar and tall booths). Our waiter brought us water—and who should it be but the amiable Landon again. We gave our drink orders and pondered the pricey dinner menu. With the arrival of a McLaren Manhattan ($11) and a Moscow mule ($11), we requested bacon quail ($18) as an appetizer, sea scallops oscar ($37) and braised short ribs ($30). The mule was perfect: fresh, zingy and gingery. The Manhattan was also top-notch: lightly sweet, subtly oaky and served with a single cherry at the bottom of the martini glass. We munched on warm, crusty bread with olive oil and a four cheese mixture in the short time before the quail arrived. (We were on a bit of a time crunch, but the kitchen was certainly up to the task.) The moist, dark quail wrapped in pleasantly crunchy bacon was fine, but what really elevated it was its pairing with a delightful jalapeño aioli with just the right amount of heat.

Soon the entrees arrived, beautifully arranged on shining white dishes that stood out against the black tablecloth. Four fat scallops ringed a demisphere of lobster mashed potatoes topped with sautéed asparagus and a creamy lemon béarnaise sauce. I ripped my gaze away to peek at my companion's meal: a large, dark hunk of meat with a whole roasted green chile, mashed potatoes, a red chile demi-glace, and roasted asparagus and carrots. We dug in. The mollusks had a nice sear on the outside and were soft on the inside; they were peppery and buttery. The potatoes didn't have that silky, creamy texture that I was hoping for, but they did have generous pieces of lobster mixed in. The asparagus was magnificent with the lemon béarnaise.

Pilfered bites from the nearby dish revealed the braised beef to be oh so tender. The meat itself wasn't really seasoned with anything other than salt, but the demi-glace and roasted green chile solved that. As we requested our bill, we also ordered the crème brûlée ($9) garnished with sweet whipped cream and fresh berries. It arrived quickly—cool crème speckled with miniscule black vanilla beans and topped with a warm, caramelized sugar shell. I cracked the top. The crème was less viscous than expected, but fantastically and paradoxically light yet rich. The berries pushed the whole thing over the edge and into heaven. From the unobtrusive yet helpful service to the savory and satisfying cuisine, this classy place is a good vintage.

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Vintage 423
8000 Paseo Del Norte NE
(505) 821-1918
vintage-423.com
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-10pm
Vibe: Look out for cougars and Mafiosos
Alibi Recommends: Duck tacos, McLaren Manhattan, Moscow Mule, crème brûlée