Vinos+Tapas has one of the most extensive and most interesting menus in San Miguel de Allende. Too extensive some say, especially if you want to make a serious dent into trying some of the most intriguing sounding dishes in town. My usual approach is to hit Chef Stefania Chavez with a “¿Que recomiendas?” And let her pick four items for Don Day’s Wife and I to share.
The new menu lists twelve tapas, the small courses that originated in the northeast of Spain; six pinxtos, the small courses that originated in Basque country in the northwest of Spain; ten appetizers, some of which, like patatas bravas and croquettes, would be just as at home in the tapas or pinxtos sections; and twelve specials. Some of the dishes that you would struggle to find anywhere else in San Miguel are fettucini with oyster mushrooms in a truffle cream sauce, lobster medallion with foie gras, and bone marrow with escamoles.
On our most recent visit, Stefania made all the decisions. The restaurant was adding some new dishes to the menu and Stefania invited The Gentlemen Who Lunch to be her tasting panel. As it was the last lunch of the snowbird season, the group became The Ladies and Gentlemen Who Lunch.
Almost retired chef Mark Tamiso has been working with Chef Stefania to help fine tune the restaurant’s enormous amount of offerings and they had picked five for us to sample.
First up was an amuse bouche that will be offered to all guests upon their arrival. Vinos+Tapas calls it a chupito…in English, a shot. It’s a glass of spiced tomato juice topped with, amongst other things, crispy bits of bacon and fresh Genovese basil. It was a great little treat to start the meal.
Every year, dondayinsma publishes a list of the very best things to eat in San Miguel and the next dish instantly made the 2017 list.
Figs are still mostly seasonal in San Miguel and seasonal fruits are exciting simply because they’re the forbidden fruits for nine months of the year. Chef Stef took black figs, stuffed them with goat cheese and wrapped them in pancetta. The union of tastes and textures was extraordinary.
I’ve raved and written about Mark Tamiso’s pickles before but never enjoyed them as much as I did that day at lunch.
A round of toast was topped first with peppery chorizo, then grilled pineapple, then the giardiniera, the fancy name for Mark’s pickles.
The fourth dish was the most imaginative. Sea scallops were sliced razor thin to look like white clouds on the plate. They were then dressed with Spanish onion, dill and orange segments and beautifully topped with cucumber florets. Some found the dish a little salty; some didn’t. Either way it was one of the most original seafood carpaccios that I’d ever eaten.
When I saw on the menu that dessert was to be pannacotta I wasn’t excited. It’s not that I don’t like pannacotta. It’s just that I get it often. And often it’s a little boring.
Vinos+Tapas pannacotta was far from it. I got my first glimpse of it when it was still in the kitchen. Each bowl was topped with a different colored edible flower. The custard was swimming in a sea of passion fruit juice and seeds and the eye appeal was matched by the tongue appeal.
Vinos+Tapas has been around for over a year now and it just keeps getting better. Stefania Chavez is imaginative and aggressive with her dishes. She boldly goes where others wouldn’t. She adventurously pairs salmon with a caper sauce. She stuffs squid with veal. She tops sweetbreads with cheese. The dishes aren’t always perfect but they continue to get better. Because I’m guessing Stefania continues to experiment and look for improvements.
Forty dishes on a menu, without even including the soups and salads, is an extraordinary amount for a kitchen to accomplish. But Stefania Chavez does it and still finds the important time to be out in the dining room, interacting with her customers, suggesting and explaining her menu, tossing her head sideways and scrunching her face bashfully when she receives a compliment.
I think you’ll like her new menu. I think you’ll like the changes she’s made. I know that I do.
Vinos+Tapas is located at Insurgentes #63 In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Thursday, 1:00 pm to 10:00 pm; Friday and Saturday, 1:00 pm to Midnight; Sunday, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. For reservations, call 415 152 2563.