Wild Vine Bistro executes a wide-ranging Italian-inspired menu
Wild Vine Bistro executes a wide-ranging Italian-inspired menu at its Bothell location. Laura Bliven, who has spent years in the restaurant business, runs the place with the help of family.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Risotto with shrimp||$17|
|Smoked Rack of Lamb||$22|
Wild Vine BistroItalian
18001 Bothell Everett Highway S.E., Bothell
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.- 1 a.m. Fridays; 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturdays; 4-10 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: $$/$$$ (Appetizers $4-$13; entrees $11-$26.)
Drinks: Full bar; well-made cocktails; moderately priced Italian/Northwest wine list.
Parking: Free in lot.
Sound: Quiet when the musicians take a break.
Who should go: North-end boomers on "date night."
Credit cards: All major.
Access: No obstacles.
Laura Bliven is finally living her dream. After 35 years of bartending and waiting tables, she is now the boss at Wild Vine Bistro, tucked behind Bartell Drugs in a spanking new Bothell redevelopment.
The candlelit, wood-paneled dining room and lounge are lavish with plants and flowers. Bliven is a lily freak. Years ago she had a greenhouse business on the side. Along with flowers she grew herbs and tomatoes that she sold to local restaurants. She plans to start another garden, this time to supply the kitchen at Wild Vine. Patio dining is in the offing, too.
But for now, she's happy to finally have put down the power tools (the build-out took almost two years) and pick up the martini shaker. Three nights a week you'll find her behind the bar pouring for the musicians she books to entertain nightly and her mostly boomer-aged clientele. They like to congregate at the bar, or at high tables in the lounge enjoying well-mixed cocktails or wine from a moderately price list of Bliven's personal favorites culled from Italy and the Northwest.
The staff includes her daughters, who have been working in restaurants since they were 16. The eldest is married to the chef, Ian West, a 25-year-old who's honed his cooking skills at Café Veloce and Brix Wine Café in Kirkland.
At Wild Vine, West executes a wide-ranging Italian-inspired menu. The same card serves for lunch and dinner. It offers nearly a dozen starters, an equal number of entrees, plus sandwiches and flatbread pizzas — quite a stretch for a modest neighborhood bistro, not to mention a budding chef.
Many efforts are laudable, some even applaudable, in particular seared ahi with a spicy coffee crust that put me in mind of Mexican chocolate, and an exquisite smoked rack of lamb divided into three juicy, double-handled chops. Frizzled carrots and chilled, lemony polenta were brilliant companions for the fish; minty yogurt and pillows of soft, warm polenta were well matched with the lamb.
That yogurt-mint sauce also embellished a lamb slider. It's one of a lively trio that includes a slab of salmon smothered with caper aioli and a venison patty dabbed with sweet roasted- apple aioli. (I'll bet the similarly sauced full-sized venison burger with arugula, pickled beets and blue cheese is just as good.)
Red pepper aioli complemented a pair of crisp, golden crab cakes dense with crab and studded with fresh corn. The risotto could have been creamier, but the saffron-tinted rice that overflowed the boundaries of a grilled Portobello cap was firm, and flavorful; if you add grilled prawns you won't be sorry. You can also add prawns or chicken to fettuccine swaddled in a spot-on Alfredo sauce already thick with mushrooms.
All these dishes suggest a kitchen that's capable, even creative, but things go awry.
Milk-braised veal cutlets, mushrooms and mushy chard sat dully in a thin and bitter accumulation of pan juices.
Salads tend to be overdressed and overwrought. A honeydew and spinach combo topped with crisped prosciutto and blue cheese was both overbearingly sweet and excessively salty.
Tomato soup was both salty and oily. (And the menu ought to indicate the cup size doesn't come with brioche grilled cheese.) The entree-sized zuppa di pesce — another tomato broth loaded with seafood and shellfish — was also loaded with wine.
Basil and garlic wafted from a brittle, nicely charred margherita flatbread pizza. But flatbread and focaccia, both made in house, were sometimes underbaked. A pesto chicken and prosciutto sandwich was so carelessly made it wasn't worth eating — bland poached chicken, hacked-at prosciutto, provolone baked onto a tired pesto-saturated bun. But the fried potatoes were great.
When a neighborhood bistro turns out a respectable risotto, yet stumbles over soups, salads and sandwiches, it's time to refocus. Bliven is a pro. I'd like to see the menu pruned, especially at lunch, to something more manageable. I want her to plant that garden and open the patio next summer. I want to go back for that rack of lamb. So Bothell, give your new neighbor a try.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.