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Jan 13, 2009 04:34 AM

This Vintage Leaves Sour Taste

When West Roxbury’s Vintage opened its doors a couple of years ago, its arrival had South Shore diners abuzz. After all, an upscale, yet affordable steakhouse was a rare find (no pun intended). Vintage also lived up to its very definition: its ambience and fare were characterized by excellence, maturity and enduring appeal. Well, save for the last part: co-owner Jeffrey Fournier, who heads the highly esteemed 51 Lincoln in Newtonville, abruptly parted ways with the restaurant’s founding owners, leaving Vintage with a bit of an identity crisis and ultimately forcing its short-term closure. It now boasts a new ownership team, a revitalized menu, and even cheaper prices. Would Paul’s Palate find that this particular Vintage has aged well over time or would this establishment leave a sour taste in his mouth?

One thing is blatantly obvious: Vintage’s menu selection has undergone a drastic makeover. In lieu of quality cuts of steak tailored for the more carnivorous crowd, Executive Chef Brian Roskow and Sous Chef Claudinei Desouza have opted for a more eclectic selection of culinary offerings that include a variety of pastas, pizzas, meats, and seafood. These meals are presented as ‘family style dining,’ and the menu has more of an American Italian feel to it than its predecessor’s New American theme.

Vintage should be commended for its attempt to serve Halloween-inspired cocktails. Those that we sampled, however, were downright ghastly, as both concoctions possessed exorbitant amounts of straight alcohol while lacking any distinct, sweet flavor.

Appetizers were only a slight improvement. Calamari fritte were thankfully not overly fried and doughy, and yet were disappointingly bland and forgettable. Sam Adams-steamed mussels fared much better and the ale-flavored broth made for a wonderfully succulent, soppy dipping sauce for accompanying pieces of buttery garlic bread. My lone complaint of this dish was that it lacked muscles – ahem, mussels, since three shells were mysteriously devoid of the tasty mollusks.

Entrees were equally hit-or-miss. My wife’s veal parmigiana (sans cheese given my wife’s dairy allergy) was lightly breaded, lean, and perfectly cooked, not to mention the zesty red sauce in which it was slathered. A companion and I, however, order woefully overcooked seared rare ahi tuna (our deeply apologetic server informs us that the kitchen has had continuous problems that evening preparing this dish). In addition, a heaping side of ratatouille, while tasty, was an awkward, heavy pairing that simply overwhelmed the tuna’s light consistency.

Desserts, however, almost made this reviewer forget the evening’s prior culinary miscues. A flourless molten chocolate cake erupted with piping hot chocolate, and was one of the finest I’ve consumed in recent memory. For the more health conscious, a champagne-soaked pear doused with caramel and whipped cream was a light, yet comforting consolation prize.

Although its prices are better than ever (appetizers from $8-12, most pastas and meats ranging between $15-25), Vintage’s overall value appears to have depreciated over time given the substandard quality of its food. Clearly, its fare lacks the confidence and experimental touch of Fournier, its former proprietor. If tradition is what the new owners are staking their claim upon, their dishes must shine. Unfortunately, Paul’s Palate has found that Vintage’s initial, promising luster has worn off.

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  1. I have heard not such great things about the re-opening and I just noticed on craigslist that they are searching for a new head chef....they had better find a good one, unfortunately they are only willing to pay $55K so they might have a problem.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bakerboyz

      Im pretty sure there are a lot of very talented sous chefs in Boston who would be more than thrilled to make 55k... from what I know of don't cook cuz there is money in least not compared to the hours you actually work.

      1. re: yummy2184

        Wow, you mean a 200+ seat, "fine dining" restaurant, that wanted to retain a very good head chef, can get away with paying only 55K per year? I could see it if it was a smaller restaurant, that was ok with being "average or "below average" in quality and did not care about turnover. It just surprises me a bit given the hours that they work.

        1. re: bakerboyz

          Yes, the "fine dining" restaurants don't pay much, mostly because most restaurants struggle to get by in a good economy, let alone now. Houston's and Cheesecake Factory, conversely, pay quite well.

    2. "Halloween inspired cocktails"?

      When were you there?

      2 Replies
      1. re: DougMac

        Looks like he originally posted this to his blog in November:

        1. re: DougMac

          As a West Roxbury resident, I would think someone would have notified me before they transported us to the South Shore. I was wondering why my commute into the city got longer.

        2. I remember reviewing this place for The Dig and finding it one of the worst expensive steak places I've ever dined at (you'll notice I hardly ever dump hard on any place in print, thinking most bad places go away by themselves), but then had high hopes for it when it appeared that Jeff Fournier of 51 Lincoln was taking over (or at least consulting). I guess his involvement with it is over, and I don't really know what its current story is. Bring back the flapping chicken!

          1. We went there last night hoping for some old school Italian that my unadventurous family would like. Yikes! The food was about as Olive Garden as it gets, and we could barely hear each other over the noise. Rolls still frozen in the middle, chicken breaded so unappealingly at to be almost hostile - ick. We were hoping more for Little Vinnie's in Somerville, but it was not to be.