Most hotel restaurants do little to inspire. Unless you're dining at the Ritz, chances are your meal will be some variation of wilted salad and boxed pasta gussied up with Italian canned tomatoes.
That's closer to what was cooking at Grissini Trattoria, the Concord Hilton's restaurant before the farm-to-fork Plate & Vine took residency in September. This isn't Oakland. The local-seasonal restaurant model is a rarity here, and I think that alone is a good reason for Walnut Creek residents to support what executive chef Dwayne Griffith and his staff are doing.
The better reason is the food. Despite a few hits and misses and a lag between courses, we enjoyed our meal and may even go back for seconds of some
Griffith has completely revamped the menu from tired Italian standbys to a songbook of locally sourced ingredients and regionally inspired cuisine. The footnotes read like a Who's Who of local purveyors, from Fiscalini Farms and Capay Organic to Point Reyes Farmstead and California Olive Ranch. Again, this is not a big deal in Berkeley or San Francisco, but it's noteworthy in Concord.
The same goes
Plate & Vine's tiled, wood-fired pizza oven is one of few structures remaining after the three-month renovation. We stayed close to the
My favorite entree was the Organic Arborio Risotto & Butternut Squash ($16). The rice was punched up with fresh sage, nutty grana padano cheese, and amaretto crumbs, and the color was bright and beautiful, like light saffron. The addition of silky, sauteed spinach made me feel a little less guilty about sucking down all those carbs.
Another winner was the Diver Harvested Sea Scallops ($21), four warm, plump scallops swimming in brown butter, capers, juicy raisins, roasted cauliflower and sauteed spinach. I liked the different textures and balance of sweet and tangy flavors. My husband also enjoyed his Twelve Hour Braised Short Ribs, which came with a celeriac and potato gratin and sweet, roasted root vegetables, including turnips and carrots. "The ribs were succulent," he says. "And I liked the variety of vegetables."
Our waiter didn't know what celeriac was when my husband asked him. He also didn't know the ingredients in the Yogurt Pana Cotta listed on the dessert menu, but he sped to the kitchen and back with both answers.
For dessert, we ended up going with the Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake ($8), which, ironically, was the only one of six desserts not made in-house. It showed. Straight out of the refrigerator, the round mini cheesecake was hard and cold, almost fudgey and, therefore, a bit disappointing. Otherwise, we had a pleasant meal and assure you that Plate & Vine is worth your time.
PLATE & VINE
* * ½
FOOD: * * ½
AMBIENCE: * * ½
SERVICE: * * ½
WHERE: 1970 Diamond Blvd., Concord
HOURS: 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Fridays; 7 to 11:30 a.m. and
5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays
VEGETARIAN: The best options are Organic Arborio Risotto & Butternut Squash or Red Organic Quinoa & Zucchini Carpaccio.
BEVERAGES: The wine list is almost exclusively Napa and Sonoma with two flights, plus a full bar and coffee, tea and sodas.
NOISE LEVEL: Low
PARKING: The restaurant is inside the Concord Hilton. The hotel has separate restaurant parking.
KIDS: A separate menu has chicken fingers and the like, but our kid preferred the Dungeness Crab Macaroni & Cheese from the appetizer menu.
PLUSES: Locally sourced ingredients and hearty portions
MINUSES: Long wait between dishes.
DATE OPENED: Reopened Sept. 4
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Restaurants are rated on a scale of one to four, with four representing a truly extraordinary experience for that type of restaurant.
$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Most entrees under $20
$$$ Most entrees under $30
$$$$ Most entrees under $40