A Catalan-trained chef branches out

Stepping away from a narrow focus can be rewarding -- just look at Paul Simon, who built on his folk foundation by incorporating African and Brazilian musical elements... well, maybe it's not always rewarding. But for some food that should be, check out The Tangled Vine Wine Bar & Kitchen.

From a Jean Georges-trained former Mercat exec chef who wanted to branch out from hyper-specific Catalonian fare and explore other European influences, the centerpiece of Tangled's cellar-inspired, stone-walled & chandelier'd corner digs is a mahogany-stained bar book-ended by two naturally-cooling wine towers made of cast limestone from Burgundy, which, beyond wine racks, is famous for its Scotch, cannonballs, and consistently great hair. The bites begin with country-hopping cheeses/charcuterie, plus various crostinis (chickpeas & blood sausage, braised kale/pecorino/quail egg...), before moving to a melange of larger plates including southern France's pizza-like pissaladiere (nicoise olives, caramelized onions, anchovies), an Italianate black truffle risotto made w/ Spanish Calasparra rice, and award-winning Fideos Negros: pasta w/ garlic aioli, squid ink, and braised cuttlefish, which you'll keep ordering in hopes that those fish will finally be ready to sleep with you. Fueling the food fun's a 160-strong seasonal grape-booze menu, cobbled by a NY Times taster from across the EU (France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany), and featuring 30 glasses plus rotating reserve wines; to boot, 80% of the bottles are some combo of organic, sustainable, or biodynamic -- exactly how Stephen Baldwin and Pauly Shore describe their continued rapport.

To maximize your journey, Vine's offering signature Trios -- flights of three, food-paired, 2oz pours, with themes including Sherry, Riesling, and oysters, which are so well complemented they actually prefer the fridge over troubled waters.