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Steering the Food Scene at Vintana

Luxury autos meet fine food in Escondido


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vintana interior

Inside Vintana

It’s tough to wrap your head around the concept of Vintana, a Cohn restaurant perched above a Lexus dealership in Escondido. Should “fine dining” and the “Auto Park Way” ever share the same sentence?

Guests stroll through the showroom dotted with Japanese cars before riding up to the penthouse in a glass elevator. The bar is bedecked with a 100-vodka-bottle rainbow and five flat-screen TVs. The dining room feels equally grandiose, with golden bubble chandeliers that call for a toast of champers right out of the gate, and dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass walls—fitting, since the name Vintana is a hybrid of the Spanish words for window and wine.

Tucked into a horseshoe booth, amid the sun-infused setting, it’s easy to warm up to the place. OK, the view of the speedway along Interstate 15 isn’t La Jolla Cove, but it adds urban flair, and Escondido direly needs more interesting eateries. Chef Deborah Scott’s eclectic California “sweet meets heat” cuisine, with a Southern kick, is a welcome addition.

Jack Johnson trickling from speakers and fresh-from-the-oven asiago, Parmesan, and cheddar popovers with jalapeño butter set the tone, as do a pair of scintillating sippers—chef Scott’s Mai Tai and a desert rose martini with the subtle floral aroma of rosewater. For starters, try Vintana’s Charcuterette—a smorgasbord of bacon-wrapped dates, spiced nuts, olives, pecorino, blue cheese, and prosciutto (although the chorizo in the chorizo mussels is MIA). A white bean and arugula salad alleviates any chorizo dismay, as notes of rosemary, fennel, lemon oil, pancetta, and balsamic syrup jazz up the greens and soft fava beans.

vintana exterior outsideNext, two hearty entrees arrive, with sun-dried peaches and nectarines nestling into the center of bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin over sweet potato hash, and a bacon-pecan corn waffle sharing a plate with blackberry-glazed bison ribs. For something lighter sans bacon, try the local favorite—sea bass with grilled artichokes in lemon poppy seed brown butter. To Vintana’s credit, the handsome staff delivers spot-on service, impressive at such an early stage.

A deconstruction of s’mores makes for a playful finish. Dip into the toasted white caps of marshmallow in search of a sweet chocolate center. While the wine list is fairly expansive, it favors safe, more predictable choices for now, as the savvy sommelier assesses the crowd. But diners take caution: Ordering that third bottle of wine just may lead to you driving off in a brand-new cherry-red SUV!

Lunch and dinner daily. Social hour in the vodka lounge and lanai from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Look for the summer open-air concert series presented by the Centre at Lexus Escondido. 1205 Auto Park Way, Escondido, dinevintana.com

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