Came to Vinifera on a Thursday evening for dinner with friends.
This restaurant/bar was chosen based on its location which was a mid-point for everyone to drive to.
Unless you know its located inside the Westin, this place is really easy to miss. Â We sat in the bar first before moving over to the dining area. Â The restaurant was relatively slow for a Thursday evening with only several tables occupied, so we were quickly seated and served. Â
Since none of us were too hungry, we decided to order bunch of tapa dishes for sharing. Â Based on our server's suggestion of 3-4 plates per person, we basically ordered one of almost everything on the tapas menu as well as a cheeseboard. Â That was actually alot more food than anticipated. Â Some dishes were hits while others were eh. Â I particularly liked the pork habana and the crispy calamari.
All in all, my friends and I had an enjoyable time catching up, and went home with a happy belly.
We ate here a few times over the course of a stay at the Westin and weren't impressed. The first morning, we walked in and the waitress told us the dining room was full, so seated us at a coffee table with a couch on either side. Not the easiest place to eat breakfast, but we dealt with it. We ordered and something as simple as blueberry smoothies took so long that she brought a strawberry smoothie out as an offering "on them." Not really sure why blueberry takes longer than strawberry, but whatever. I had granola and yogurt that was verygood. My friend had the oatmeal/banana brulee which was also good. My son ordered a bagel with butter - it came out with cream cheese and jelly, but no butter - so we had to ask for that. My other son ordered pancakes and the fruit plate, but instead of the fruits listed on the menu, he got a small bowl of berries - which he liked just fine.
After we ordered, it took 45 minutes to get breakfast. While we sat at there at our coffee table, another family came in and were brought to a row of empty (real) tables we hadn't seen when we came in. I'm still not sure why they were able to sit there and we weren't, but despite coming in after we'd ordered, they were eating before we got our food.
That night we ordered room service in my friends room while the kids watched a movie. Again, the food took 45 minutes to arrive. 2 cheeseburgers were fine. I got a charcuterie plate that was pretty good, except for the bread, which was toasted to the consistency of pumice. My friend ordered mushroom ravioli for his son - we should have suspected something was up from the low price, but what he got was a single ravioli. I realize now that Vinifera is a tapas bar, but nothing in the in-room dining menu indicates that. My Â friend got a bowl of mushroom soup and a chicken ceasar, but the chicken appeared to be breaded and fried chicken tenders.
After dinner we ordered 3 bowls of ice cream for the kids. After clearing up some confusion caused by a comma missing between the names of the flavors as they were listed in the menu (it's Cherry Biscotti COMMA chocolate chip, not "Cherry Biscotti Chocolate Chip) the order was in - two chocolate, one chocolate chip. Forty five minutes later, we called down to find out what was up and were told that they were out out of cookie dough - which was kind of odd because we didn't order any. We cleared that up and they said they'd call back - and when they did they apologized that our order had been entirely overlooked. I told them to just forget the order but they said it would be on the house and up within 5 minutes. So, good. ok then. Now we're back on track. 4 minutes later there was a knock at the door and a man delivered 3 bowls each containing a scoop of ice cream roughly the size of a golf ball. Â
I should stop here and again point out that we didn't realize that this is a "small plates" type of restaurant Â - because there's nothing anywhere that seems to indicate that. Sure, when you first look at the prices you might think "WOW! This is the most reasonable room service menu I've ever seen!". . . but there's a reason the prices are so low, I guess. I've never heard of ice cream coming in a "tapas" sized portion, but then, I've never been to Spain, so what do I know.
The next morning we headed back down there for breakfast and this time the place was empty. We sat outside and a woman who appeared to be a manager or hostess was very attentive. I really enjoyed the granola and yogurt I'd had the previous morning so I ordered it again. My friend liked his oatmeal banana creme brulee, so he asked for that again but she told him they were out of bananas and offered raspberries instead. Good enough. The kids each got a bagel with fruit, but this time, when they ordered she asked if they wanted "a fruit plate or a bowl of berries." Â Ah. . .so it's a choice.
When I got my breakfast, it was *entirely* different from the one I'd had the previous morning. Different yogurt. Different granola. Even a different bowl. When he got his "brulee," it was simply a bowl of oatmeal with 4 raspberries on top. No brulee. Â Even the kids pointed out that along with their bagels, the bowl of berries was different. . .even the little cup the butter was different. Not a big deal, but it shows there's a distinct lack of any well-established standards going on in the kitchen.
But, oddly - through it all, while we were marvelling at how long things took and how everything was different day to day, there was a woman in chef's whites walking around the patio clipping herbs and trimming tomato plants and doing what seemed to be some planting of tomato trimmings. That's all well & good, but there are obviously some timing and quality issues that need to be worked out on the line before anyone is worried about trimming the basil out on the patio. It seems they're not seeing the forest for the trees.
I've been hearing tons about Vinifera for several years now, but earlier tonight I finally got a chance to try it out personally. We went for Mother's Day and I'm happy to report that we'll be coming back many times in the future.
Vinifera is essentially a refined tapas restaurant that places special emphasis on vino, and while that may seem like an odd combination, it works very well. Tucked away in the Westin Hotel right off Sunrise Valley, Vinifera completely belies it's "hotel restaurant" moniker, and is easily one of the best kept secrets in the Reston dining scene.
The menu is split into two halves: the small plate selection and standard entrÃ©e list. The small plates are moderately priced, which allows any size group at any budget to order a few to share and experiment with dishes you might not otherwise. The main courses are few in number but all very well done (all three of ours were outstanding from first bite to last). I ordered the lamb chops and was completely blown away: a dish which I find that most restaurants don't get right, my three chops here were perfectly cooked and paired with an incredible burgundy sauce.
The wine list is diverse and accessible- you won't find anything truly unique there, but what is present is more than capable of complementing your dinner. We ordered a rose and chardonnay, both of which were priced lower than I've seen in other local restaurants. Sufficed to say, we enjoyed both.
Dessert was a joy, as well. I'm usually not that big on chocolate cakes and other like-minded confections, but Vinifera's "chocolate decadence" plate was delicious. Most of my ire when it comes to chocolate desserts is due to their overwhelming sweetness, but that was not an issue here: the dark chocolate fudge cake was perfectly rich and (not over-) sweet.
While not the very best restaurant of it's class in the Reston/Fairfax area, Vinifera is absolutely worth a visit. As my family did this evening, you'll come to the conclusion that it will from now on be part of your regular dining rotation.