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Venue Review: D'Vine Wine Cafe

To err is human; we forgive D'Vine
D'Vine Wine Cafe
By "Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer"
The Charlotte Observer

14815 John J. Delaney Drive in Ballantyne Village

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Talk about your amazing recoveries.

On our first dinner at D'Vine Wine Café, we perused the menu, ordered wine flights, then ordered entrees – only to find the place was out of four of its nine possibilities.

A lot of diners would have written the place off. I don't have that luxury – which turned out to be a blessing, since the whole experience after
that was terrific.

Our server made a colossal error by not initially alerting us to what was unavailable. (I'm betting it's because many people order small plates, and she didn't want to call attention to the deficit. She should have asked if we were considering entrees, then clued us in.) But in every other respect, she was perfect: friendly but not too doting, dead-on in descriptions and recommendations, and prompt.

We began with three fat, juicy seared scallops with an intense Thai-seasoned sauce, and a plate of three hummus variations with warm pita.

Our flights arrived in curved silver brackets; “Interesting Whites” came from Oregon, Spain and Australia (loved the Yalumba); Pinot Noirs came from California, Oregon and New Zealand. The lineups are diverse, not painfully California-centric, and lesser-knowns have a definite place. Tastes, half-glasses and full ones join flights as options.

Chef Jay Mangiaracina's menu changes every four to five weeks. Still present among entrees is the lush wild boar tenderloin I had the first night, over sweet potatoes, with blackberry sauce. Even better is a sizable hunk of grouper billed as North Carolina's, atop slightly chewy red quinoa with yuzu sauce.

Grilled chicken skewers come with marinated vegetables, a gracious plenty for $10. In fact, all of our portions were gracious, which is even better when two sizes are offered for each entrée. My smaller boar plate was $9, giving me just less than a palm-sized amount of meat and room for cheeses afterward.

You choose three of the available six cheeses (don't miss Irish Ivernia), and our server described each accurately – a rarity. At $9, this could serve as dessert for four, or two if greedy.

On our second night, when service was equally adept, we tried trios. Sliders are one each of seared spicy tuna, a lobster-crabcake and Kobe beef with Swiss cheese. The beef had a good char on it, though it proved overcooked inside, while the cake was moist and meaty and the tuna somewhere in between. More impressive was the cheesecake sampling ($6): vanilla, blackberry and chocolate.

A frugal group could sample D'Vine's wine, cheese, sandwich and dessert offerings – and throw in a salad apiece – for $25 or less, including tip. (
Really frugal folks can check out www.restaurant.com, where I bought a $25 gift certificate for $10. These might be sold out by now, and the minimum food purchase is $35, but it was a great deal.)

D'Vine is on the second floor of the building housing the theater. You'll see patio seating before you go in, then bar-height tables as well as upholstered lounging with big coffee tables on which to spread out. Those there for dinner go through the back, near the small retail area.

That dining room placement feels a bit like an afterthought, but don't let that stop you. D'Vine works dinner well, generously and with enthusiasm.

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July 24, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer

Ballantyne wine café makes up for not alerting diners as to what was not available. Fare is delicious, prices a nice surprise.

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