In recent months, Home Wine Kitchen in Maplewood has found its way onto a slew of best-of lists and chef/co-owner Cassy Vires has been getting national attention for her skills in the kitchen, most recently as a finalist for Food & Wine magazine's People's Best New Chef: Midwest.
Vires changes up her menu weekly--a pretty daunting task-- so every visit yields something new. While she has been known for her meaty dishes (and we've been known to indulge in them happily), this time around, we ranged a little further afield and tried some vegetable and seafood items, along with the requisite red meat.
First up was an order of Short Ribs ($14) and Red Shrimp ($16) from Starters. The short ribs were tender as could be, pulling away from the bone effortlessly, and topped with a spray of micro-greens for some color and textural contrast. Cinnamon and ginger were the primary flavors, with a nice bite of soy sauce and little bit of citrus. The plump shrimp had just enough heat and spice, thanks to some chiles, cilantro and lime juice, and they were cooked with a bit of Pernod, resulting in a subtle touch of anise.
The evening’s menu had some mouthwatering Vires creations based on duck, pork and beef, but two dishes caught our eye: the Tuna ($28) and the Tempeh ($20). The tuna was a plate of gorgeous rosy slices of fish topped with micro-greens and tender beech mushrooms. The mild flavor of the tuna was complemented and contrasted with plenty of tangy red onion. The tempeh was the real standout—something we never would have thought to see on the menu. This dish consisted of blocks of tempeh (a soy food akin to tofu) with plenty of chickpeas, potato, kale and cauliflower all in a mellow, aromatic curry with some coconut milk for sweetness. Paired with a glass of The Ned Pinot Gris ($8), it went straight to the top of the short list for our favorite dish of the year thus far.
For dessert, a riff on the classic ice-cream sandwich, subtly sweet honey ice cream between two lemon cookies, all house-made and oh-so-tasty.
Our meal was top-notch, but what was most impressive was the fact that going on two years, the offerings at Home Wine Kitchen continue to be inspired, inventive and consistently delicious. While still firmly grounded in the comfort food tradition, Vires has no problem looking at all cuisines and traditions to fire her culinary imagination, and the results continue to impress.
Vires and her husband (and co-owner) Josh Renbarger are in the process of opening up their second restaurant, Table, on Cherokee Street. If the success of Home Wine Kitchen is any indicator, that's going to be the reservation to get this summer.
Home Wine Kitchen, 7322 Manchester Road, 802-7676, homewinekitchen.com.