Last week’s dinner at the Westside fixture Vim Dining & Desserts showed off why Chef Jesikah Stolaroff’s desserts give new meaning to the term “epic.” One glance at the array of possible desserts makes one wonder why appetizers and entrees are necessary. Why not just have a cocktail and go straight for dessert? Chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream. Carrot cake with whiskey cherries and nutmeg cream cheese frosting. Chai spice cake with ginger coconut whipped cream. See what I mean?
However, my companion, Bev, and I set out to dine properly; we ordered a Fresh Choice (cucumber, gin, cilantro, lime, celery bitters and aloe liqueur) from the house listing of inventive cocktails ($14) and an inflation-defying glass of Stags Leap Merlot 2019 ($18). Bev enjoyed every trace of the pale green cocktail, served in a stemmed coupe. My glass of Merlot showcased Stags Leap’s reputation for finesse, balance and opulent herbal black cherry notes.
Vim’s seasonal salad for our evening was a robust (i.e., huge) mound of chopped kale tossed in a delicious pink peppercorn dressing ($14). Perfectly accessorized for a winter-spring transition, the salad was garnished with slices of pear, dried cranberries, crisp bread crumbs, thickets of spun Manchego cheese and a hidden layer of avocado crema at the bottom.
Our two entrees proved excellent and generously proportioned. Bev loved her spinach-stuffed chicken breast ($35), which came with an unusual—and successful—side of mushroom bread pudding. The succulent roast chicken breast stuffed with Ricotta and spinach had been sliced along a bed of spinach topped with caramelized onion jus. Carved into appealing morsels, the mushroom bread pudding was soft and earthy inside, crisply browned on the outside. A comforting tour de force addition to a dish that was already sophisticated comfort food.
My steelhead with sunchokes ($38) was terrific. I know, most of us don’t wake up in the morning craving sunchokes. But this chef will have you rethinking food choices. The beautiful, moist filet of pink steelhead was topped with rosettes of tangerine chili tapenade, all sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts. The fried sunchokes, crisp as French fries but soft inside, sat on a sunchoke puree layered with black garlic aioli. A sheaf of long al dente green beans punctuated the center of the plate—not one false move in this dish of ingeniously paired ingredients and textures.
Chef Stolaroff brings her knack for unexpected flavor and texture pairings to everything she does, but nowhere is it more in play than in her desserts. We shared an order of dreamy strawberry Ricotta cake ($13). Like a lighter, less sweet version of cheesecake, Ricotta cake sat in a tall wedge in the center of the plate. On one side was a band of sliced, very ripe fresh strawberries, sliced atop a glaze of slow-roasted strawberry jam (think strawberry reduction). This oral luxury was highlighted by a sensational, slightly fruity ruby chocolate ganache (from pink cacao beans and a whole other creature than dark chocolate), plus an alabaster oval of pistachio whipped cream. Tiny pieces of flash-dried honeycomb dotted the pistachio cream, the cake and the sensual pink chocolate glaze. Seriously, we could barely believe this dish. It tasted as gorgeous as it looked. Even after a substantial dinner, our forks never stopped moving, restlessly seeking out every trace of the pink cacao cream, the addictive cake, the intensely-flavored roasted strawberries. I can’t wait to go back!
I absolutely agree! Vim is a treasure for Santa Cruz. We are so lucky to have such a great restaurant!
I love sunchokes–and I love Vim!