I haven’t crushed this hard on a wine bar in ages. “You’re going to swoon right out of your chair if you’re not careful,” one of my oldest friends tells me between sips of a rosé from the Mosel. Owners Thomas Dahlgren and Will Trow must have felt a similar rush the first time they got a taste of what chef Eric Hendry was whipping up in their phone-booth-size kitchen.
Hendry, formerly of Model Milk, is an ace at deploying secret weapons. He adds a splash of fish sauce to the pea-shell jus that’s poured over blitzed edamame, cubed ham and fresh Okanagan peas. A Beach Angel oyster baked in its massive shell gets a spicy-salty-sour lift from yuzu kosho, this year’s trendiest condiment. What makes that glossy quenelle of squid-ink aioli such a deep shade of black? Activated charcoal, of course.
Dahlgren is the man popping corks tonight. There’s no printed wine list, so he pours tableside tastes of several options, the price for a glass hand-scrawled in silver marker on each bottle. We chart a course together, steered by his enthusiasm. First, a bright sparkling chardonnay, grown in starfish-fossil-rich soil by a freethinking lady winemaker in the Jura. Onto Germany for a Rheingau riesling just as the soundtrack switches to the synth opening of “99 Luftballons.”
As a crowd bottlenecks near the entry beneath a vintage Riopelle exhibition poster, we’re steadying ourselves for more. Hendry grills up an order of maple-glazed maitake mushrooms. Dahlgren surfaces with new oenological discoveries: off-dry oloroso sherry, spätburgunder rosé from the Mosel and a Vacqueyras with meaty aromas reminiscent of the hickory-smoked green olives we ordered to start this adventure. We clink glasses under a light fixture shaped like an unfolded paper clip. Everything is illuminated.