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Vin bites the dust

Alison Cook reports that Vin has finally decided to do the right thing and go out of business. Excellent news. Now Tilman Fertita can open a Babins in it’s place and begin to purge the Bayou Place of crap food karma.

My first and last visit to Vin was on my birthday last year and it was a complete disaster. Vin got almost universally positive reviews and seemed like a good choice, but somehow managed to turn out to be one of the worst meals I have ever had. By the time the whole ordeal was over I was imagining a kitchen staffed by young baboons pretending to be cooks for a new Ashton Kutcher pilot on Spike TV.

We kicked things off with frisee salad that looked promising enough. The dressing had a bitter vinegar kick that tasted almost rancid. To balance it out the kitchen crew spiked the dressing with enough salt to make us worry about going insane from sodium poisoning. I typically season my food aggressively and stayed with it longer than anyone else at the table (I picked the place, after all), but finally threw in the towel after I noticed individual salt crystals were coating my teeth with every bite.

The waiter described the soft shell crab with risotto as the restaurant’s signature dish, which seemed like a safe choice for a first time visit. The crab, unlike the salad, was bland and failed to stand up to the Shiner Bock batter. The risotto was both overcooked and had a faint alcohol flavor at the same time, as if someone in the kitchen forgot to add the wine at the right time and decided to splash it in at the last minute. The flatbread came out pale and under cooked. The chicken dishes the rest of the table ordered looked boring. No one noted any unpleasant flavors, but no flavors of any other sort were reported either.

Desperate to rid out palates of all things savory we decided to overlook the fact that the world’s tiniest deserts is an incredibly idiotic idea and ordered them anyway. The baboons in the kitchen, as it turns out, saved the best for last.

I noticed the bitter flavor shortly after I cracked the crust of the molten chocolate cake, but kept chipping away at the center hoping that I was being treated to the worlds most exotic chocolate from a remote part of the world only accessible by a canoe. The outside was edible enough, but the molten chocolate lacked any sort of moltiness (no, thats not a real word). After 30 seconds of torture I finally realized that I was eating charcoal.

For days I could not get the worlds tiniest desert disaster out of my mind. How exactly do you insert a lump of coal into the center of a a perfectly edible cake without doing a stint at the Fat Duck to learn the proper technique first? The only way I could think of would be to bake a perfectly ordinary molten chocolate cake, then microwave it on "high" just long enough to turn the liquid center into charcoal. It’s a tricky maneuver, because left in the microwave too long the center of the cake could turn into a diamond, all but guaranteeing a bad dining experience. Thankfully, the primate staff at Vin were up to the challenge.

Some people may say that Vin closure is a loss for the Houston dining scene. The city, after all, doesn’t appreciate inventive restaurants quite like other cosmopolitan hubs. I have a slightly different view. Other than a nice looking dining room, Vin had no business being in business. Good riddance.

Yes, I am still bitter.

February 6, 2008   1 Comment