We have finally made it to Vinegar Hill House and it was worth the unintentional prolonged wait! I’m pretty good at procrastination but this was getting ridiculous. This is the restaurant that was the impetuous for starting the outer borough experiences.
Vinegar Hill House restaurant has won over critics and casual eaters with its honest, raw, homey seasonal cuisine
We had the inside tip and look back in late 2008 as MonChi-Chi Rodriguez’s cousins are co-owners in the restaurant. Our group of friends have frequented this restaurant since its opening. For whatever reasons, I was unable to attend previous dinners at Vinegar Hill House with Rodriguez & Co. It was really starting to aggravate me as Vinegar Hill House was on the top of my list of restaurants to try. Word from my friends were always positive – honestly crafted and delicious seasonal food. On top of that, critics and lay eaters continued to pour on the press/blog posts as Vinegar Hill House won over those who went out to Dumbo – particularly for its artistry and cast-iron skillet chicken. I just had to go to Vinegar Hill House.
Walk over Brooklyn Bridge to the Vinegar Hill area of Dumbo, Brooklyn and find Vinegar Hill House beautifully tucked away
We were finally able to book a group dinner in its basement, a private dining room for larger sized parties. Getting over to Vinegar Hill House was part of the fun. It is a hop, skip and jump away from Tribeca. Walking over across the Brooklyn Bridge is the only proper way to do it when the weather is cooperative. The smell of the East River, the refreshing breeze, the lights of Manhattan and Brooklyn in a dazzling 360 degree panoramic view, and the” feels like walking on a boardwalk along a pier” stroll makes it perfect for hand holding with friends or cutie pies or both. The Vinegar Hill House is located in Vinegar Hill, which is a 4-5 block area in Dumbo, and only another 5-10 minute walk once over the Brooklyn Bridge. Contrary to its name, it isn’t a hill, there are no vinegar factories/shops, and the people there are not sour heads, but it is historically Irish.
Vinegar Hill House is tucked away on a small cobble street of sorts with no signage. The buzz emanating from the restaurant could be felt down the sleepy and quiet block. Inside the place was packed and brewing with energy. It was like walking into a hip country home converted into a restaurant. It was very Brooklyn. What’s there not to like? Salvaged furnishings, references to barns and farm life, laid back vibe amid the busyness, grey jeans and kicks, a vibrant and diverse clientele, and the open kitchen with its large, working brick oven that commands the attention of home-cooks.
Load up on some Famous Grouse and other more hip and unique scotches and whiskeys at Vinegar Hill House
A couple of us were strategically early in order to sneak in additional drinks undetected. Immediately one caught my eye – the Famous Grouse! It is hard to turn down a bottle of liquor with a gamey bird posing stoically on the label. I’ve never been exposed to the Famous Grouse as I prefer to drink single malt scotch, but I just had to make this exception. The scotch is named after the Red Grouse, the national bird of Scotland, and the blend is crafted from fine malt whiskeys including The Glenrothes, Highland Park Single Malt and Macallan Single Malt. It is damn tasty and interesting – of course get it neat if you’re proper. The smell of the scotch is noticeable but has floral hints and it is deceptively deep & rich given its color. It tastes fruity with a touch of smoke but the end is what’s intriguing. It finishes smooth like a Jameson shot – sweet like brittle and a solid way to start any meal.
Given we were dining privately downstairs, the chef constructed a special seasonal family style menu for us, which is below. I really like restaurants that purposefully keep its menus small – here’s the link to the complete Vinegar Hill House menu. Smaller menus seem to indicate that what is being served is absolutely awesome & thought out, unlike larger menus that seem less intimate and at times overbearing – especially to a group that wants to share as much of the menu as possible.
Vinegar Hill House’s chicken liver mousse was silky smooth deliciousness
First off, the chicken liver mousse was by far the all-star of the night. I was glad everyone loved it so, as liver can give some peeps a scare (those lil chickenheads). The mousse was silky smooth like a runny Peter Pan peanut butter that was perfect for spreading onto country bread. The chicken livers did not have any metallic or industrial taste that can sometimes contaminate it, meaning the cooks must have let it sit in a milk bath for some time. The only way to bathe. The sweet vinegar onion compote/chutney was a great contrast to the mousse and the pistachios were genius providing the textural crunch. This ain’t your Grandma’s chicken liver and onions, so don’t be bashful to pick up the bowl and lick the mousse clean sonny. Grandma would be proud.
The other starter was an intelligent shaved salad of fresh market vegetables. Given the season, it was loaded with shredded carrots and a little red cabbage. Julienned salads are predominately Asian since it is easy to pick up with chopsticks, so it was cool to see it so prominent on the menu. Coupled with the shaved veggies (sounds inappropriate somehow…) were La Tur cheese and segments of grapefruits. La Tur is a cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy, a region renown for its wine (Nebbiolo grapes, Barbera grapes, Barolos, Barbaresco) and truffles, and is a blend of three cheeses – goat, sheep and cow. The La Tur was fabulous providing a buttery richness tang and danced well with the acidic brightness of the grapefruit. The unsung heroes in this dish for me were the clever uses of cumin and ginger in the vinaigrette – it rocked
Vinegar Hill House is famous for its cast iron chicken, which is awesome, but its Red Wattle pork chop was unbelievable
For a dish that has received a lot of fanfare, the cast iron chicken lived up to its word. The skin was crispy, the chicken tasted like chicken (which is hard to do these days), and it was succulent, moist with the right amount of seasoning. It goes to show that cast iron skillets continue to be one of the best cooking vessels known to man and also make for one awesome plate.
I’m a fluke man, but I rarely eat it cooked nowadays…oohh baby I like it raw. It was interesting and relatively new for me to eat it pan seared. Fluke also goes by the alias Summer Flounder and frequents the Talk House. Growing up, I was majorly addicted to fried flounder with plenty of lemon and squirts of ketchup. The fluke at Vinegar Hill House had a splendid crunchy outside that was a nice backdrop for the flaky white flesh. I was excited that it was paired with ramps and I was not disappointed, although I wish there were more of them on the plate. The ramps were sauteed to the point of wilting and acted as a bed for the fluke. These were crafty plated with a creamy yogurt for extra moisture, decadent croutons for its buttery crunch, and chorizo for that intoxicating Spanish smoked paprika. I’m normally not a fan of chorizo with my seafood as I find the sausage to be overpowering and a dictator on the plate, but this time around, the fluke held up well (probably b/c of the yogurt) and proof of the thought behind what could be misconstrued as a simple dish.
The red wattle country chop was out of this world. It was served on top of cheesy grits that would make any Southerner cry out mama. The pork chop was served like a steak and was a hunky slab of meat. What made it all the more excellent was that it was cooked medium rare-ish. Beautifully pink, moisture, and oozing of unmatched pork flavor. This was easily one of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. Red Wattle is a breed of pig and its meat is darker and more tender than other pigs although leaner. Red Wattles are facing challenges as breeders have pursued more fatty breeds to commercialize and sell, so eating and enjoying it is precious and a way to support these pigs! The best part of this meal – eating the succulent meat around the bone – it is always the best part and screw manners and go at it with one’s hands.
Sadly I didn’t really get a try of the wild boar shank and given my love for braised animal parts, I was disappointed in my self. I guess I’ll just have to visit Vinegar Hill House again … darn!
The side dishes were nothing to snuff at. The crushed roasted beets were tasty but the twice baked potato was downright awesome. Honestly, who does not love potatoes as everyone wishes they were a little bit Irish. But these potato skins brought to new heights were stuffed with bacalao and parmesan cheese. Bacalao is salted cod and is a staple across the Mediterranean and one hell of a topping for potatoes – woo wee!
Do not forget dessert at Vinegar Hill House and just go ahead and eat at this restaurant as soon as possible
And one cannot skimp on dessert, especially when its a Guinness chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. Words can’t describe how much I enjoyed it. Guinness is a personal favorite and turning it into a sugary dessert loaded with frosting just puts a smile on my face.
Vinegar Hill House just sings to my soul. Seasonal ingredients cooked in an honest and raw manner yet with a homey and farm stand feel. This is superb New American fare in a comfortable and cool environment. With other items such as braised beef cheeks, tarts with pork belly, and pork rib cannelloni on its ever changing menu, I’ll be back with an appetite. If anyone wants to hold hands across the Brooklyn Bridge for dinner, just give me a holla. Next time, we will have to grab drinks at 68 Jay St Bar after. Hello Brooklyn.