Published: Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.
By BOB CANNING
TWISTED 2 (T2)
Cuisine: California dishes, specializing in Hawaiian fish
Ambiance: Casual, cozy, friendly
Hours: 5 to 10 P.M. Wednesday through Saturday
Location: 29 Petaluma Blvd. North inside the Lan Mart building,
(Prices for entrée and beverage: $$$$ more than $20; $$$ $14 to $20; $$ $9 to $14; $ less than $9)
FOR THE ARGUS-COURIER
Long-time residents will remember Dick and Julie Warner's Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Café with great fondness. In his four-star review in 1998, food critic Jeff Cox called Twisted Vines “a treasure of a restaurant.” And the San Francisco Chronicle celebrated Twisted Vines' “wedding of great food and wine without undue formality.”
Twisted Vines is back in a new “fun-size” reincarnation called Twisted 2. As tiny as it is (600 square feet with five tables), a heck of a lot is happening here. The restaurant is tucked away in the Lan Mart building where the former eatery was located, but in a different space. The Warners refer to their new baby as “T2.”
“Since we closed Twisted Vines,” Julie says, “I've worked as a chef for other people, commuting 90 minutes for six of those years. I love restaurant work but I missed my town. We also thought it was time to get Dick behind a wine bar again.”
Husband Dick is the ultimate wine maven. He grew up in Modesto's Wine Country, where in the '70s he transported grapes in trailer rigs and crushed them for Inglenook. Starting in the late '80s, he made a name for himself in the industry with his own wine-related businesses. Dick Warner Wines has been a staple in Petaluma for years, and it now shares space with the bistro. His philosophy is “Life is too short to drink bad wine.”
T2 has a comfortable and organic look thanks to the fun elements artist Dee Dushkes has selected. Wine crate panels, for example, line the lower portion of a long wall like a sort of logo-stamped wainscoting.
“I wanted a casual but elegant abstract vibe,” says Dushkes, “and the sculptural wall pieces that I made use elements of the wine industry: the metal bands that encircle the wine barrels as a base, with broken green wine bottle fragments wrapped with copper to emulate leaves and small maple trimmings to simulate grape vines.”
T2's focal point is a metal wine glass rendering over a small bar that can seat three (four with luck). The sculpture is emblazoned with the restaurant's name with twisted vines entwined around the stem of the glass.
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food,” said George Bernard Shaw, and Julie Warner believes in that Shavism wholeheartedly, as she was the chef de cuisine at a high-end Glen Ellen restaurant. Now she's happier making dishes locally, not only at T2 but for her eponymous catering service headquartered at the same location. Indeed, a lot is happening here.
Let's start with a small but superb salad the night I was there: mixed greens with chopped butternut squash, walnuts, apple slices and sautéed, julienned baby Brussels sprouts, topped with goat cheese crumbles in a light maple syrup vinaigrette. Sometimes culinary experiments can fall flat but this was a home run — even for Brussels sprouts haters. The salad was matched perfectly with a crisp John Anthony 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.
“The menu is small,” says Julie, “and will change frequently.”
One of the mainstays of Twisted Vines was the exquisite fish from the Aloha State, and T2 is serving it too, just as swimmingly fresh but in a fun, unique way. How does “Happy Hour and a Half” sound? From 5 to 6:30 p.m., opt for a delicious seared mahi-mahi or ono, or a melt-in-your mouth Ahi sashimi appetizer with wasabi, soy and Asian slaw (market price: about $12 to $16). Some sashimi is known to be frozen and dyed, but T2 has a steadfast rule: only fresh, natural fish it has shipped immediately from Hawaii will be served.
A complete four-course prix fixe dinner ($95 with wine; $60 without wine) is a meal fit for the most finicky foodie. Choices include a mouthwatering pan-roasted Liberty duck breast or grilled lamb chops, thick and succulent, with an unusual but delightful red quinoa tabouli and mint salsa. Both dishes are matched with a Cliff Lede 2010 Cabernet (Stags Leap).
All wines by the 3- or 6-ounce glass are reasonably priced, with no bottle more than $46. However, corkage fee is $35.
“We are all about showcasing my food and Dick's wine selections,” Julie explains. “We only seat 20 at the max and a good part of our income comes from our wines sales. Also, with more than 30 years in the business, Dick has access to wines that many people are unable to experience.”
Bottom line: T2 is event dining for a romantic evening or a special occasion, so leave the kids at home.
(Contact Bob Canning at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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