Monday, March 24, 2008

Vida Y Vino

As someone who spent her teen years in Fremont, I've always considered that city pretty bleak for good food, bars, and nightlife. It wasn't much of an issue back then, when I was more concerned about learning calculus than cultivating my love for food, but sometimes when I go back to visit, it can be a challenge finding a decent place to eat or lounge with friends. So I was slightly skeptical when I read some great things about Vida Y Vino on and in the general press. "A wine bistro in Fremont?! With good wine selection and food? In a shopping complex?"

So I decided on a whim to check it out for lunch with a friend (who very graciously agreed to drive over from San Jose). And we were not disappointed.

A handful of tables and tall barrels were arranged outside the bistro. As a further testament to the owner's attention to detail, each table featured a centerpiece of a flower inserted into an empty wine bottle-turned-vase.

The interior of the bistro was even more lovely. Velvety plush couches and matching cushions occupied one corner of the room, facing a black baby grand piano and other musical equipment (for their live music nights). The bar area looked rather majestic, with its marble counter, brass accents, and contemporary square bar stools. An array of wine bottles stood in an orderly line in a wooden cabinet behind the bar. And classy tables of polished wood were positioned along the wall towards the back of the space.

Looks like an elegant place to sip wine!

Live music (jazz, r&b, acoustic guitar) featured on most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Where the action happens...

When I walked in, I was immediately greeted by the hostess, a friendly elderly woman with a soothing voice and a very warm smile. When I mentioned that I was waiting for a friend to join me, she offered me a sample of her favorite Cabernet Sauvignon to sip on as I waited. When my friend arrived, she offered him a sample as well, then proceeded to explain the daily specials.

Of course, the main test of a wine bistro is its wine list, and Vida had a great selection of wines from across the globe, available by the glass and bottle. They also had reasonably priced "wine flights" with pre-selected wines fitting an overall theme. My friend ordered the Sauvignon Blanc flight, while I decided to try the Red Eye flight (all red wines).

Red Eye flight

The wines, from left to right:
1. Santa Rita Carmenere (Chile): From what I've read, Chile is known for its production of the carmenere grape. The wine is dark with lots of ripe flavors, although it was a little too earthy for my tastes. Lovely finish, though.
2. Fleur du Cap Pinotage (South Africa): My first taste of something from South Africa! The color was interesting - ruby red body and slightly purple edges. Lots of plum and dark cherry flavors, with hints of an almost bitter chocolate.
3. C.K. Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (California): My favorite of this trio because it was the most fruit forward. The cherry and blackberry flavors were balanced with a good amount of tannins.

Vida Y Vino also has champagne, dessert wine, sake, and beer. That kind of variety already makes it a winner in my book. And in addition to great wines, Vida has some pretty scrumptious food, including sandwiches, crepes, cheese platters, and desserts.

Ham & cheese panini - crispy warm bread and melted cheesy goodness. Served with salt and vinegar chips.

Turkey & swiss crepe - loved the diced avocado and tomato on top!

The service was also wonderful. The hostess had good wine recommendations, constantly checked on us, and was just a pleasure to talk to. I'm definitely coming back here again!

Vida Y Vino
43808 Christy Street
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 490-8466

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Pat's

Just a belated photo for the past Irish holiday and associated festivities...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gochi Japanese Fusion Tapas

The name says it all - Japanese fusion tapas. Gochi's menu consists of standard traditional items, such as onigiri, karage, and tempura, but also has a great selection of interesting dishes that mix in European elements, such as unagi-topped pizza and green tea creme brulee. So this izakaya would be a good place for both the Japanese foodie purists and the inquisitive adventurers.

Reservations are a MUST at this place. I showed up with two friends at 6pm on a Saturday, only a half hour after they opened, to find that most of the tables were already booked and all the remaining seats were occupied by walk-in guests. Luckily we only had to wait about half an hour to sit down, but I made a mental note to myself to call in next time.

And now for the food...

The ankimo (monkfish liver) was amazing. This "foie gras of the ocean" was smooth and silky, with a milder flavor than most types of liver I've tried. Served with a healthy amount of ponzu sauce and sliced green onions.

Mushroom tempura - light and crispy batter

My personal favorite for the night was the duck tataki - slices of lightly seared duck with a dash of spicy mustard on top. The meat was tender and retained a wonderful pink color in the middle. My only complaint was that the duck could've been sliced a little thinner.

Close-up shot... succulent.

A more traditional dish - katsu with three kinds of dipping sauce

And you can't go to an izakaya without trying their onigiri - a neat little snack of rice in a triangular shape usually filled with a salty or sour ingredient. The one pictured here had a crispy outer layer and a salted salmon filling.

And Kirin on tap is the perfect complement to such great food!

19980 Homestead Road
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 725-0542