The Vineyard Room - dinner - March 21, 2004

We'd had dinner at The Vineyard Room once previously and really enjoyed it, so we decided to make a spur-of-the-moment return visit after browsing their current menu, which changes on a seasonal basis.

Even though DCA was fairly crowded that day, we didn't figure we needed a reservation, especially since we didn't really decide to go until right at dinner time. We made our way upstairs and checked in with the host. He said they would prepare a table and asked us to wait in the lounge area. On the coffee tables in the lounge area are huge bowls filled with green and red grapes to snack on while you wait for your table. They didn't have that last time, so I thought that was a nice little touch, especially since I particularly like grapes. After a few minutes, we were shown to our table. Bread was brought and then we were offered a choice of Pellegrino water or Evian water. For dinner, there is a choice of three courses (first course, entree and dessert) for $43 ($62 with the wine pairing - one glass of wine with each course from a selected list) or four courses (first course, second course, entree and dessert) for $56 ($85 with the wine pairing). Adding a cheese course in either case is an additional $15.

Here is their current menu:



Tuscan Flat Bread - in the traditional style topped with Gorgonzola dolcelatte caramelized onions, rosemary pesto drizzled with black pepper cream

Parma Prosciutto - shaved upon order with freshly cut cantaloupe, red onion, Parmigiano-Reggiano, served with focaccia crostini and aromatic extra virgin olive oil

Wine Country Platter - tasting menu of cannelloni crostini with soppresata, spinach stuffed phylo, pickled beets and goat cheese, watercress orange jicama salad

Winter Green Salad - local greens, Fuji apple, pancetta, Asiago cheese, finished with verjus Meyer lemon vinaigrette

Soup of the Day - composed of this season's produce, herbs and house stocks



Salmon Carpaccio - paper thin with arugula, fennel pollen and finished with a champagne vinaigrette

Hudson Valley Foie Gras - on grilled brioche with roasted quince, frisee, cranberry-quince vinaigrette

Petite Roasted Duck - served with tastes of potato-chestnut puree, fresh currant jam, kumquat marmalade, mustardo sauce

Diver Scallop - atop garlic mashed potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, red peppers accented with verdi sauce



Veal Osso Buco - slow roasted with rosemary pappardelle, citrus gremolada, in a red wine reduction

Pan Roasted Wild King Salmon - atop creamy polenta with roasted early asparagus, horseradish-apple relish, pinot noir sauce

Free Range Young Chicken - with sweet potato risotto, red chard, pancetta Fontina cheese and pine nuts in a honey-dijon sauce

Beef Medallion - Hudson Valley foie gras potato puree, cipollini onions, port wine sauce

Pacific Bass - on tender black pepper gnocchi served with Manila clams, fava beans in a roasted red pepper broth

Vegetable Polenta - with braised spinach, chanterelle mushrooms and Gorgonzola dolcelatte

Portobello Ravioli - served with freshly shaved Asiago, wild mushroom-veal jus



Assorted Cheeses - Morbier, Manchego, Gorgonzola, Asiago, San Simon, Camembert and dried fruit relish with artisan breads



Roasted Banana Panna Cotta - strawberry saba sauce

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte - vanilla bean gelato and mint infused candied orange

Panettone Bread Pudding - amaretto gelato

Trio of Blue Cheese and Port - Maytag, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola dolcelatte (additional $10)


In addition, they have daily specials that can be substituted for the course on the main menu. The additions for this evening were as follows:

Steamed Mussels - apple wood bacon, bay leaves, shallots in a sauvignon blanc broth

Roasted Lamb Chops - apple relish, red pepper mint sauce, served with garlic mashed potatoes

Milk Chocolate Cheesecake - amaretto cookie crust, champagne sabayon


There is also an individually priced kid's menu available as follows:

Green Salad - house vinaigrette or ranch ..... $3.99
Pasta - with marinara, butter or alfredo sauce ..... $5.99     with chicken breast ..... $7.99
Pizza - your choice of cheese or pepperoni ..... $5.99
Desserts - $3.99 each
     ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or dulce de leche
     kids cookies
     seasonal fruit with whipped cream


Children also receive a Golden Vine Winery Activity Book that has a word unscramble, a word search, finding pictures, matching like items, a maze, and areas to color. They also receive crayons with the Golden Vine Winery logo in four wine-related colors: Napa Red, Sonoma Gold, Santa Barbara Blue and Monterey Green.

After our server took our order, we enjoyed the view from our table. The restaurant has two separate seating areas, an uncovered patio section closer to the Seasons of the Vine building, and a covered patio section by the main walkway, with a terrific view of the Paradise Pier section of DCA.

We were brought a "compliments of the chef" appetizer that consisted of shredded dungeness crab on a crostini. Since we love seafood, it was definitely a delightful treat.

For my first course, I had ordered prosciutto, which I've learned to really like over the past year or so. It was absolutely delicious, and it was also a rather generous serving. My husband had ordered the soup of the day, which was red bell pepper and lobster, and he enjoyed that very much.

For my second course, I had opted to substitute the mussels, which were very tasty and which also came in a fairly generous portion. The mussels themselves were also rather large. Often when I've had mussels in a pasta or seafood dish elsewhere, the meat itself was only a portion of the size of the shell, but in this case, most of the mussels had meat that was the size of the shells themselves. For my husband's second course, he had ordered the salmon, and he said that he particularly liked the flavor of the sauce.

For my entree, I had again opted to substitute from the daily specials menu, ordering the lamb chops. They were cooked very well, with very tasty and tender meat. My husband had ordered the beef medallion and really liked it, noting that it was also cooked to his order.

All during the meal, the server and runners and bussers had been very attentive, constantly refilling our water glasses. There must have been some kind of mixup between the server and the runners, though, because for each of the dishes that we ordered differently, they kept starting to give me my husband's order and vice versa, but it wasn't a major inconvenience to correct them. My husband had ordered wine separately, partly because this is almost the only place that he can find his favorite wine, and the server was very attentive in bringing out the wines as well when the courses appeared. Our dishes were cleared fairly soon after we finished each dish, but my husband commented that it was a little timed better this time. On our last visit, our dishes were removed almost immediately after we'd finished each course, and our next course was immediately brought out. This time, there was a bit more time in between each course so that we could enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant and our dinner in general.

After our entree dishes had been taken away, the server came by to ask if we wanted our dessert then or to wait a while as my husband hadn't finished his wine yet. We asked him to hold off for a few minutes, so we got a little extra break before our dessert. I had ordered coffee, and our server brought over a very nice cup and saucer set and used a small pot to fill my cup. Shortly thereafter, they brought us both the bread pudding that we had ordered. I really enjoyed the bread pudding, something else I've learned to love over the past couple years because of another restaurant, but I ended up only eating about half my dessert because again, it was a fairly generous serving, and I was already quite full from the rest of my dinner, and bread pudding also contained quite a few raisins, which I don't particularly like.

The restaurant offers a 15% discount for premium annual passholders, so that was really nice.

Even though I enjoyed our previous dinner at this restaurant, I think I liked this experience much better than last time because I had a better idea of what to expect. For some reason, I had been under the impression that the restaurant was in a downstairs room, intimate and dark and contained. I guess that's the image that "Vineyard Room" conjures up for me, so I was very surprised when we were seated in the covered patio. We'd eaten at the open patio for lunch previously when they still had a terrace restaurant, but I hadn't known that the covered patio portion was the Vineyard Room. While you do get a terrific view of the Paradise Pier section of DCA, there is also the downside that you also hear all of the sounds of the theme park, which is a bit incongruous with the wonderful food, service and decor. People were lining up in the walkway down below us for the upcoming parade, so you could hear all of them, as well as the bands that rolled by to entertain the waiting crowds. This time, because I knew what to expect, there was no disconnect between what I expected and what it was really like. I actually think the restaurant is a perfect opportunity for parents who want to enjoy wonderful food with wonderful service and yet still not worry too much about their children in what would normally be a more intimate and quiet atmosphere. I know that some parents have expressed hesitation in having dinner at Napa Rose because they are not sure how their younger children might be in that atmosphere. Since The Vineyard Room is a covered patio with theme park sounds abounding, it's not as quiet as one might expect at the Blue Bayou or Napa Rose, but the quality of the food and service and the beautiful decor are definitely close to par with that we've come to enjoy at Napa Rose. The addition of the activity book and crayons and what looks like a decent kid's menu also makes the restaurant a bit more family friendly.

This is definitely a restaurant that we plan to return to, especially as the menus continue to change.


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