Vine, always a nice-enough San Clemente spot for cozy eats, is a full-blown foodie find these days, reinvigorated by new ownership and the sweeping talents of chef Jared Cook. “This is the best lamb rack I’ve had in decades,” says my friend between bites of ravishing, tender lamb sauced with mint-rosemary yogurt atop sunchoke puree. He’s right to swoon, but I’m distracted—too busy loving a copious pot of sweet mussels and clams in saffron wine broth. Eclectic offerings, from burgers to sea bass, riff on wine country cooking with top-notch goods and seasonal gems grown in the freshly enlarged garden behind the 1937 building. Do order the beet salad, which outshines most others and rallies the palate with its celery leaves, filberts, pickled onions, and burnt citrus vinaigrette. Or share a killer array of charcuterie and cheeses, so diligently chosen and composed.
Prepare for sticky fingers with the Meyer lemon and honey duck wings—crispy, tangy, and the epitome of elite bar food.
The venue is split into patio, bar, and dining room, and any dish can be enjoyed in any space. The newly redecorated dining room is sure to book up for Valentine’s Day, so call now for two of the 45 seats. Nightly specials, where we discovered the rack of lamb, usually taste better than they sound, though the new team still struggles with consistency. But menu mainstays such as sea bass with Riesling-soaked raisins, and pork shank with cipollini onion confit and risotto are reliably tantalizing. Clearly, Vine’s new regime hopes to wow.
House burger, charcuterie and cheese plates, steamed shellfish, beet salad, duck wings, rack of lamb, pork schnitzel, sea bass (loup de mer), pork shank, nightly specials.
More To Come
Dinner is served nightly except Monday; expect lunch—or perhaps brunch—to be added by summer.
Russ Bendel Jr., former partner at Fleming’s Newport Beach, bought Vine last September.
211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949-361-2079, vinesanclemente.com
Photo above, dazzling rack of lamb, with herbed yogurt sauce.
Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue.