The new black
Vinology's new head chef, Robert Courser, has a background in Asian cuisine that shows up most strikingly in the fish entrees. The black tea leaf tuna, just shy of rare, made a fresh foil to the crispy fried rice cake that came with it. I'd order the dish again for the cake alone. Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, with a hint of sweetness, fry oil, and toasted sesame, it tasted like a refined funnel cake. The barbecued salmon was less successful. Coming from Arkansas, I expect "barbecued" to refer to food slow-cooked over an open flame; this was broiled and slathered in a super-cinnamony Asian barbecue sauce. I can forgive the term, since the salmon was perfectly cooked, but the sauce was so sweet and overpowering that I ended up scraping it off.
Besides changing chefs, Vinology is also open again for lunch after a yearlong hiatus. The new lunch menu addresses the local economy as well as local food: all of the entrees are $8, less than half the least expensive dinner entree. Sticking to the local theme, I was most interested in the butternut squash ravioli. Like all the lunch entrees, it came in a generous dinner-size portion. Spiced with cinnamon and sugar, the filling tasted like pumpkin pie, but it avoided the heaviness of a holiday dessert by substituting fresh sauteed mushrooms for a thick sauce. Although the ravioli were a little too sweet for me, I'd order them again just for the beautiful presentation: bright orange carrots with a shock of green stem, saffron-colored squash cubes, and a circumference drizzle of cheery spring-green pea puree. It was a comforting and warm choice for a chilly day but light enough that I could go back to work without a food hangover.