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Dining

Mixed vintage

The Grape’s wine and food alternately pleases and dismays our critic

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New Zealand rack of lamb chops.
Photo: Beverly Poppe

There’s no denying that the wine bistro, a yuppified version of the gastropubs now springing up in major American cities, is having its day. Examples such as Nora’s Wine Bar on the west side, as well as the Palazzo’s Double Helix, offer patrons delicious wines and small dishes to accompany them, in a city well-suited to the concept.

Now we have The Grape at Town Square, part of a national chain with many locations in Florida and Georgia. At first blush, it’s purple in here, with wine-colored walls, a neat series of shelves housing wines for sale as you enter and wine-themed art all about.

I like the idea of listing wines according to color, body and style, and am even more enthusiastic about the chain’s “Grapes by the Bunch” conceit, which offers flights of any three wines on a page for a set price. The wine list at The Grape is eclectic and selected carefully, most wines within an affordable price range. If you’re looking for a Bordeaux from a top vintage, though, don’t expect to find one here.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
The Grape At Town Square
Building B, Suite 150
220-4727
Open Monday-Thursday, noon-midnight; Friday, noon-2 a.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.: Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Suggested dishes: spinach and smoked applewood bacon spread, $8; Kobe by the Bunch, $10; Grape mini crab cakes, $15; vanilla crème brûlée cheesecake, $8.
More Las Vegas Wine Bistros
Nora’s Wine Bar and Osteria
VOX Wine Lounge

Instead, you’ll encounter choices such as a Josmeyer Pinot Blanc from Alsace, a Zolo Malbec from Argentina or a delicate MacMurray Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma County, all served by the taste, glass or bottle. But caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware: The Grape’s menu does not list the vintages, and that’s anathema to any serious wine drinker.

When I walked in with nine friends on a slow night before Thanksgiving, jazz singers on electric pianos were doing their best Amy Winehouse imitations, and our friendly and beautiful server couldn’t have been more engaging.

We were seated against a back wall, at tables with high stools, our legs dangling in the air. The evening was a huge success, if you ask my friends. Most at the table liked their wines, and ditto the food, a series of dishes mostly designed for sharing. There’s always a grump in every crowd, though, and regarding a few of the dishes, that would be me.

The menu’s first section, called Specialty Spreads, advertises a “fresh-baked baguette” accompaniment. What we got was tasty, such as a spinach and applewood-smoked bacon spread that really tasted of the bacon, and a nice plate of mixed olives with tapenade; but the “bread” turned out to be a few flimsy slices, and hardly substantial.

From the Small Plates section, the Kobe by the Bunch sliders made the biggest hit, and we literally fought over them. Three beefy sliders brushed with Asian barbecue sauce and Dijon mustard retained an intensely meaty tang, and the buns, soft and chewy, made them taste better.

Smoked salmon with feta cheese, capers and onions was fine, too, but the dish needed more toast served alongside. The Grape Crostini, more toasted baguette with spreads of roasted garlic, stone fruit chutney and Vermont goat cheese, also seemed pusillanimous. But house antipasto, presented theatrically on a wood plank, was the skimpiest of all. A few cold cuts topped with fresh mozzarella and olives is all you can expect.

Our server suggested Grape mini crab cakes and one of the Mediterranean quesadillas, and we were all glad she did, because both dishes were just about perfect. The little crab cakes come with a terrific Creole aioli, around seven to an order, and our quesadilla, beef and cheddar cheese topped with caramelized onion and a light horseradish sauce, had the surprise of a pita-bread wrapper, instead of the expected flour tortilla.

Should you insist on a salad, the bland Caesar takes a backseat to a nice Asian grilled chicken salad, sweet chili and soy-marinated chicken tossed with carrots, cucumbers, red onion and mandarin orange slices, drizzled with a miso ginger vinaigrette.

And if that isn’t sweet enough for you, then the menu’s Delectable Sweets section has a proper vanilla crème brûlée cheesecake with a cookie crust, a version that makes even the most curmudgeonly cheesecake detractor—myself, for instance—stand up and take notice. I am not into group desserts, but those who are can try the chocolate fondue for two or four.

Personally, I’d rather have a Late Harvest Riesling and listen to the jazz go down.

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