As a girl who loves food, but whose budget allows for dining out only once in a great while, I don’t often make it into fine dining restaurants. Which means when I do have the opportunity to dine in a glamorous, upscale establishment, I often feel incredibly out of place. Not so with Ann Arbor’s Vinology. Opened in 2006 as an “everyday” wine bar, Vinology has the elegance of fine dining, yet is an incredibly accessible, relaxed, and fun environment.
Since I am by no means a wine aficionado, I was encouraged when I read that Vinology’s list is built for both the novice and the expert to enjoy. Even more exciting was that this wine list was one of two in Michigan to be named Most Notable on the 2013 Diner’s Choice Awards Top 100 Restaurants list on OpenTable.
Owner Kristin Jonna says that the fact that the awards were determined by reviews from over 5 million diners themselves was a particular source of pride. She elaborated, “This is a great recognition for us, and knowing that it stems from actual diners makes it even more special. We strive every day to provide an amazing wine and cuisine experience for our customers. It’s wonderful to know our diners are enjoying what we do at Vinology.”
So, when we arrived at the restaurant, I knew that I would have a hard time making a poor choice off of Vinology’s wine list (which has recently been updated to pair with Chef Jim Leonardo’s fall menu). My friend, Shelia, and I decided we should share a flight, and selected the Fruit Bomb.
The menu classified the flight as a “Luscious” trio of a Sincerely Shiraz, a Lote 44 Malbec, and a Field Recordings Fiction Zinfandel: all fruit driven wines with juicy, intense flavors. Since my descriptions will not do them justice, suffice it to say they were delicious, and a perfect way to start our Vinology experience.
When it was time to select our fare, I barely even glanced at any of the menu options. Let me explain. Have you ever spotted something on a restaurant menu and known that you would not be able to stop daydreaming about it until you had tasted that glorious dish? If you have, you understand the intense yearning that began when I first saw Pumpkin Manicotti on Vinology’s fall menu a full two weeks earlier.
Thus, I knew what I had come for. Shelia and I did decide to share both the Pumpkin Manicotti and a Fried Green Tomato flatbread, however, so we could each try something a little out of the norm for us.
When our food arrived, it looked even better than I’d anticipated. As it would turn out, the taste exceeded my expectations, as well. The sweetness of the pumpkin, the richness of the parmesan cream sauce, and the distinct, salty deliciousness of the prosciutto completely justified those weeks of daydreaming of the manicotti.
The flatbread was a similarly delectable surprise. An item I never would have selected myself (daunted by the carolina slaw included in the toppings), the pimento cheese, tomatoes, and country ham made for an interesting, savory dish that was unlike any flatbread I have had before. Not only was it appetizing, it was enormous; Shelia and I both commented that we had expected a much smaller portion and didn’t need much more to have a nice, light dinner for two.
And if not for Vinny Jonna (Kristin’s brother and manager of Vinology), we would have stuck with our two dishes and had said light dinner. But Vinny was kind enough to let us sample a couple of his favorite items currently on the menu, and thus our dinner ended up being much larger than we intended.
And, as wonderful as my Pumpkin Manicotti turned out to be, and as ample as the portions of our initial orders were, I am so glad we got to try a couple additional dishes, because they were phenomenal. First was the Mini Lamb Kofta, which was, to put it simply, an adorable and scrumptiously executed take on the traditional Greek dish.
Next, and possibly my favorite of the dishes (sorry, Pumpkin Manicotti) was the Tandoori Boston Cod. Every bite was different, and each seemed more delicious than the last. Sitting atop a bed of ginger roasted carrots, zucchini, and hothouse tomatoes, surrounded by a lobster-butternut veloute and topped with apple chutney, the Tandoori Boston Cod was an intricate, sweet, savory dish with a delightful kick.
While we ate entirely too much of the food he brought us, Vinny stopped by again to chat with us. He talked with us about his love for Ann Arbor (a hub for culture and cuisine), the sparkling wine on tap at Vinology (the first location with such a feature), and the Jonna family’s next restaurant venture (to open next year in the location once home to South Bar in Birmingham).
Though the drive to Vinology was not what I would call short (it took about an hour from my office in Royal Oak), it was absolutely worth it. We left the restaurant full of delicious food and scrumptious wine, already talking about when we would be back. If you are in the area (or even if you aren’t), I highly recommend a trip to Vinology. (In the meantime, check it out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!)