A San Mateo County Restaurant Review from Gerald Weisl of www.weimax.com

VAULT 164

 

164 South “B” Street
San Mateo

Tel; 650-348-8164

Open Mon-Fri from 11:30 through dinner
Saturday 5-11
Sunday 5-9

 


Fried Calamari…


Brussels Sprouts “Chips”


Atlantic Salmon

 


Italian “Fried Chicken”

 

We booked a table one early Sunday evening and arrived to find a noisy, bustling restaurant and bar scene.  This place is located in an historic old building, the home of San Mateo’s first bank.
The Old Bat asked the young hostess for a “quiet” table and the kid brought us to a two-top in the middle of the loud dining room.  She then pointed at a table by the south wall and we opted for that one, as it was clearly a much quieter area.
No wine glasses are on the table as part of the place setting.  A drinks list is presented along with a menu and wine list.

This is a restaurant that specializes in “something for everyone” in terms of both food and wine.

The menu is large and varied.  Starters include Fried Calamari, Mussels & Frites, Crab Cakes,  Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Flatbreads, Caesar Salad, Poached Pear Salad and a Salmon & Corn Chowder.  Steaks come in four formats, from a Skirt Steak to a Sirloin, a $39 Rib-eye or Filet Mignon (with or without crab).  Seafood offerings include Salmon, Tuna, Scallops, Prawns and Branzino.  Other main plates include a Pork Chop, Lamb Shank, Mac & Cheese, Burgers, Grilled Tofu and a Pasta Special.

There are 24 wines by the glass!  There’s an Oregon Pinot Gris for $9, Chardonnays from Wente ($9), Kali-Hart ($11) and Trefethen ($15).  The Wagner’s Family blended white wine called Conundrum is listed, mistakenly, as having a Napa appellation and it’s $10 a glass. There are three Pinot Noirs on the list, including one called Hob Nob from a marketing company…$8 a glass of Languedoc Pinot Noir.  Josh Cellars Cabernet is $9, another marketing-department brand.  Amongst all the big-liquor-distributor’s quota items, somehow we find Fritz Dry Creek Zinfandel for  $10 and Frog’s Leap Napa Zin for  $14.  Silver Oak Cabernet is $24 a glass…the Alexander Valley bottling.  These three wines are not sold by the big distributors.
The list tends to feature “big brands” and well-known names, but it is not a list curated by someone who’s a savvy wine buyer.

The main list is substantial and like the food menu, there’s something for everyone.  The list is put together by a young lady who’s got the letters “CS” after her name, indicating, I suppose, she’s a Certified Sommelier.  One would expect, then, to find not only more interesting selections, but that the names of the wines might be correctly typed on the wine list.  They’re certainly spelled properly on the label!  Maybe CS indicates “Can’t Spell”?

There are but four Sauvignon Blancs, one from New Zealand, a big brand from France and two from Napa.  Fifteen Chardonnays grace the list, with some big brands such as Wente, Sonoma Cutrer and Cakebread being featured.  These are balanced by a Ramey Sonoma Coast (bottling $56), Pahlmeyer ($125) and Kistler ($95).  There are two white Burgundies, a Chablis Premier Cru from Vocoret for a mere $50 (the cru is not listed, so the question is do they really have a “premier cru” bottling at this price or is it a misprint and it’s the simple, basic Chablis?), along with a Matrot Meursault.  These two French wines come from the big liquor house and are purchased, most likely, for convenience rather than outstanding quality.
There’s a Concannon Pinot Grigio ($25) with the appellation listed as “Livermore.”  This brand’s Pinot Grigio is either sourced from the Central Valley or California’s Central Coast, depending upon the bottling…the high end wholesales for no more than $6 and the cheapie would cost them $3.
In sparkling wines, there’s a very obscure French bubbly for $34 a bottle, a Spanish Cava Brut Rose ($40) from a brand that specializes more in table wines from Rioja, Chandon’s Blanc de Noirs ($40), a co-op Champagne and a big brand of Champagne for $85.  Curiously, Roederer Estate, a winery in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley of California, is listed as being French and it “costs French” at $95, another sloppy error.
Of the dozen Pinot Noirs, 5 are from California, 3 from Oregon and 5 from France.  A Domaine Drouhin from Oregon is $70, while Flowers from Sonoma is $75.  Five Merlots on the list, with Swanson at $65.
I wouldn’t touch any of the lower-priced Cabernet selections, apart from Robert Mondavi’s at $42…and then I’d insist it be their Napa Valley wine, not one of their lower-tiered wines.  The list incorrectly bills a quartet of wines as carrying the “Meritage” designation.  While Quintessa’s may actually qualify for the Meritage designation, it is not labeled as such.  And the other three blends would not qualify for the Meritage designation as they are not made exclusively of “Bordeaux” grape varieties.
A Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet is $96, while Caymus’ current vintage is $125 a bottle. Jordan’s current bottling is $80.

The Old Bat ordered a Dry Martini and I figured the New Zealand Sauvignon, Matua ($9 a glass) would be acceptable with the Fried Calamari starter.  The Sauvignon was perfectly standard, but the Martini was not strained properly and had little bits of ice floating in it.  She finally sent it back and we were not charged for it, thank you.

I produced a bottle of red and the server asked if she should open this for us.  Along with this, she told us they charged a $15 corkage fee and asked if this was alright.  Certainly.   She opened the bottle and a few moments later brought two nice “Burgundy” stems.
But she immediately began pouring the wine, stepping back to have a look to see if she’d poured a sufficient amount.  In fact, she should have poured the “say,” so that I could first determine if the bottle was in good condition, or not.

We ordered the “Crispy Calamari” starter ($10) and the menu description notes it’s accompanied “with Pasilla, Red peppers and onions, Wasabi Aioli and Chile Lime Sauce.”  This was certainly an ample portion for two people…but there were more of the various vegetables on the plate than Calamari.  The Brussels Sprouts Chips with Lemon Salt ($7) was a small bowl of Brussels Sprouts leaves plunged into the fryer…

For a main plate, The Old Bat ordered Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon ($25) which came on top of a mix of vegetables including Fingerling Potatoes, Peppers, Corn, Spinach and Shitake Mushrooms.  The Salmon was nicely cooked…lightly flakey and tender.
Chicken Contadina ($19) was my selection and this was described as “Italian Fried Chicken” and it was on a plate with Crispy Potatoes, Cippolini Onions, Roasted Garlic and Peppers.  There were also a few mushrooms in the mix.
The Chicken was a bit dried out and it had been rolled around in some sort of Italian seasoning mix which gave it a reddish/brown color.  A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary on top were a signal, I suppose, that this was somehow “Italian.”

The bill tallied to $91 before the tip, as the server deleted the flawed Martini from the check.

This is a convenient neighborhood place, especially if you’re seeing a movie across the street at the theater.

Please Note:  The reviews displayed on this site represent only the views of the author.  These are purely personal and written based on a single visit, so we can present but a mere snapshot of a dining establishment.