Domiciled in the stately brick edifice that was Giraffe, a culinary
trendsetter for nearly two decades, the four-year-old Tre Vigne is well
on its way to setting a few trends of its own. Presided over by Afrim Berisha
and members of his family -- the same management team that brings you the
ever-popular Aquila in New Providence -- this elegant establishment has already
succeeded in significantly raising the bar for fine dining in the central New
The interior is stylish and sophisticated yet charmingly understated.
Tuscanesque in tone -- replete with walls of muted brown and beige, soft
recessed lighting, fresh flowers, and cushy upholstered chairs -- it resonates
with the subtle, pervasive romanticism of a small European hotel. And service
is completely commensurate with the surroundings: pleasant, personable,
unobtrusive, and uncompromisingly professional.
Should you arrive early for your reservation, be sure to pause for a
leisurely libation at the cozy, diminutive bar. You will discover some very
nice vintages available by the glass, along with a first-class wine list that
emphasizes top-notch (albeit somewhat pricey) selections from Italy and California.
The 2001 Glass Mountain Chardonnay ($7.00 per glass) is an excellent value and
not too heavy on the oak. But even more to my liking is the lean and luscious
representative from Sonoma-Cutrer ($11.00)...
If red is more appealing, it's difficult to top the power and finesse of
Beaulieu Vineyards 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.00). Feel like splurging on a
bottle...? I highly recommend the 1997 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico
($90.00). Definitely worth the expenditure for that special occasion.
Once settled in at table, the amuse-bouche puts in a well-timed
appearance. On one occasion, it may be sweet mini crab cakes, on another,
bacala -- tiny morsels of salt cod invigorated with a light tomato sauce -- or,
perhaps, smoked salmon with an ethereal goat cheese mousse. All are exquisite.
The menu itself is a reasonably compact chronicle, the current bill-of-fare
boasting just ten appetizers and nine entrées supplemented by a limited number
of daily specials. Executive Chef Eric Gomez gives you just enough choices to
whet the appetite without causing a cerebral meltdown. Even with the limited
number of options, however, decisions will be difficult.
So permit me to offer a few suggestions... If you enjoy clams, I would urge
you to start things off with the littlenecks simmered in a sea redolent of
garlic and tomato ($10.00). The broth is delicate but alive with flavor, and
the bivalves are marvelously plump and tender and completely devoid of
sediment. The baby spinach salad ($8.00) adorned with generous chunks of
Gorgonzola cheese, pear slices, and a host of candied walnuts also has a great
deal to recommend it. The honey Dijon dressing applied too liberally and/or too
assertively seasoned could be the kiss of death... but the greenery is gently
coated rather than inundated, and the dressing itself is imbued with just the
proper interplay of sweetness and spice.
You can't help but be impressed by the chef's judicious utilization and
integration of ingredients. Mr. Gomez seems to know instinctively when he has
just enough of a good thing... and I have yet to see him overplay his hand.
Take the humble anchovy, for example. Diminutive of stature but rather ornery
of disposition, it has been know to wreak havoc with the taste buds if employed
too aggressively. You either love it or hate it... and I freely confess that I
tend to be of the latter inclination. And yet... when the chef adjoins tiny
morsels of this pugnaciously pungent denizen of the deep to his "Penne
Tuscan" ($8.00) -- penne pasta tossed with tiny cauliflower florets,
slices of zucchini, toasted pine nuts, and fresh bread crumbs -- the resultant
commingling of flavors is nothing short of extraordinary. The anchovy adds just
the proper pizzazz to the dish without usurping center stage.
Even if it is not to be found on the regular menu or listed among the daily
specials, the kitchen can usually whip up the duck confit ($13.00)
without a great deal of difficulty... and it is well worth the pointed inquiry.
Rich and succulent, it is perched atop a pillow of braised spinach, accompanied
by crisp salsifies, and finished with an incredible Barolo/blood
orange/balsamic reduction. Utterly superb!
With so many prodigious preludes in the offing, you can't help but wonder if
disappointment is destined to arrive with the entrées. This, of course, is true
of many restaurants, establishments that have cultivated an infamous reputation
for teasing you with gastronomic foreplay only to let you down at the moment of
truth. But I can assure you that this is not the case at Tre Vigne. The
main courses demonstrate the same care in preparation and presentation as do
Finny fare is treated with great affection and a decidedly gentle touch. The
striped bass ($25.00), for example, is pan seared, its natural essences
mellifluously mated with a seductive artichoke and root vegetable pesto sauce;
and the Chatham cod's ($25.00) crisp golden brown crust yields to a moist &
flaky interior and is beautifully complemented by morel mushrooms, roasted red
pepper coulis, and potato gnocchi so supernal they seem to defy the laws
of physics. The special salmon is also of exceptional quality. This is one fish
that I prefer cooked through, not translucent at the center, and Mr. Gomez does
precisely that, placing the wild king filet ($25.00) on an ethereal bed of
Lovers of the sea may be in their element... but so, indeed, are those who
revel in meatier matters. The braised lamb shank ($25.00) paired with an
addictive mound of truffle whipped potatoes is simply incomparable, the flesh
so mouth-wateringly tender that it literally falls off the bone. Rather than
disguising the lamb's own inimitable flavor, which I truly appreciate, the chef
succeeds in bringing it to the fore with a mesmerizing natural jus
reduction... And the veal tenderloin ($33.00) is every bit as tender and
succulent and also marvelously well matched with sweet potato gnocchi and a
potent port wine reduction... ditto the grilled filet mignon ($33.00) paired
with colcannon potatoes, a compelling coalescence of potatoes, pancetta, onion,
and Savoy cabbage.
Desserts ($7.00), in the talented hands of pastry chef Julie Casey, like
their antecedents, show a definitive sense of style without being architecturally
or constituently abhorrent. And, when it is available, the special triple
chocolate mousse cake -- three luscious layers of white, dark, and milk
chocolate accented with a chocolate almond crisp spoon -- epitomizes her
finespun approach to sweet endings. Chocoholics will also celebrate her
"Chocolate Symphony" orchestrated in three sensuously satisfying
movements: white chocolate macadamia nut tart, mini chocolate gâteau,
and chocolate gelato.
The "Cheesecake of the Day" -- in my encounter, a creamy orange --
and a marvelously moist three-nut banana raisin bread pudding may be more
down-home of disposition but certainly no less delicious.
Seldom have I been treated to such appealing and comfortable evenings at
table. If you enjoy exceptional cuisine served in warm, romantic surroundings
with impeccable service, I am certain that Tre Vigne will meet -- and
exceed -- your lofty expectations. Once seduced by its considerable charms,
this is one restaurant that will surely woo you back again and again.
Cuisine: Mediterranean with
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 12:00 noon - 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Thurs,
5:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. -
9:00 p.m. (Labor Day thru July 4th)
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Business Casual
Smoking: Smoking is permitted at the bar only.
Alcohol: License; excellent wine list
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Web Site: www.trevignerestaurant.com