Sixty Vines is an interior designer’s dream restaurant. This new Plano hot spot has everything: breathtakingly high ceilings with exposed wooden beams like a gleaming white barn; an open kitchen with fresh pasta hanging from pipes and a dazzling copper-domed pizza oven; long communal tables set with beautiful English plateware and leather-bound menus; oversized lanterns filled with foot-tall candles; an area filled with comfy couches for the lounging crowd; a cutesy greenhouse patio. There are art-house coffee table books in the bathrooms, by the likes of David Bowie and Sebastião Salgado.
Sixty Vines is huge, and every dollar spent designing it is on display. But the centerpiece is the long bar along the back wall, with a striking faux-Picasso series of line drawings running its entire length. Oh, and that bar has 41 wines on tap by the half-glass, glass, double-glass or bottle, plus three beers brewed on the premises and a list of guest beers and ciders.
The name Sixty Vines comes from the fact that this restaurant offers 60 wines by the glass, but this is far more than just a wine bar. It has an efficient, high-quality kitchen, with good pizza and pasta to go alongside the drinks.
Sixty Vines is the brainchild of Front Burner Restaurants, which has also brought us Whiskey Cake, The Ranch at Las Colinas, Velvet Taco and, less reputably, Twin Peaks. I wouldn’t expect motorcycle gang shootouts like the one last year in Waco at this new property, though. Sixty Vines is a smoothly professional operation; it really feels like the company put all of its years of experience into designing this place.
Waiters walk around carrying iPads, managing the crowds. Wine lists are in iPad form, too. The couches fill up with people waiting for tables, drinks in hand. Text messages are used to manage the waiting list.
And right out of the gate, the food is as supremely confident as the atmosphere and service. Pizzas, for instance, arrive from that wood-fired oven with crisp, thin crusts, full of tiny air bubbles, the edges slightly burnt. As much as I liked the toppings — such as the lemon-herb goat cheese that brings wow to a squash blossom pie ($11) — the crust was my favorite part. That airy, crispy texture made a pizza-chomping madman out of me.
Texture also stands out about Sixty Vines’ in-house pastas, cooked al dente, served in fairly modest portions and tossed mostly with vegetables. They’re low-key, but the flavors sing, as in delicate orecchiette ($8) with finely cut bitter greens and chicken-apple sausage, or the beautifully textured fettuccine with diced squash and a ready-to-run egg yolk perched on top ($9). It bears noting that even the smaller portion of pasta is big enough for dinner, with a shared appetizer or two.
The best appetizers are also veggie-focused, like whole roasted cauliflower head served quite dramatically stabbed by steak knife ($11). The best florets are those slathered in homemade pesto and Parmesan. Salmon is cured with beets for an extra-deep hue, if not beet flavor, and topped with crispy fried capers ($7). Veggie sides are appealing too, like the mushroom blend mixed up with watercress and balsamic ($6).
The meatballs ($9) are big, hearty and Italian-grandmother-style in gently spicy tomato sauce. One appetizer oddity in this Mediterranean menu: potstickers ($10), stuffed to the brim with crab meat, the wontons just a little crispy. They feel out of place, and providing just one set of chopsticks for a “sharing plate” is silly. On my second visit, my waiter confessed to disliking the potstickers. That’s trustworthy service.
Though the pizzas and pastas are plenty excellent, one main course sticks out: the $17 burger. Its patty is “smothered” in cabernet sauvignon and then topped with raclette cheese. What, exactly, does dousing a burger patty in wine do? After eating it, I’m still not sure; maybe the wine marinade helps accentuate the intense Akaushi beef flavor, or maybe its acidity is a tenderizer.
Either way, this frou-frou burger is damn good: a thick hunk of superb beef cooked right to my requested medium-rare, with great char from the grill, slathered in caramelized onions and a beautiful layer of molten cheese, on an everything bun. The extras are nice, but it’s a perfectly cooked, flavorful patty that seals the deal. Accompanying potatoes are duck-fatty and salty.
Speaking of guilty pleasures, the desserts are satisfying, like olive oil cake with fruit and mascarpone ($5), or a glass mug filled with devil’s food cake, iced coffee and salted caramel ice cream ($6). Yes, that combination is as good as it sounds — like tiramisu but with varied textures.
Of course, we need to talk about wine. Sixty Vines has a good list of wines on tap, highlighted by its own “Vine Hugger” brand, which includes a silky, light Pinot Noir, unusually subtle Zinfandel and good imitation Bordeaux, all from California. The strong bottle list has plenty of good stuff in the $40 to $60 range. Most of the pizzas and pastas would pair well with Chateau de Trinquevedel rosé or good Pinot Noir like Navarro’s.
Overall, the menu feels affordable, its $10 noodles pretty filling. There are two exceptions: the burger, and the optional addition of shrimp to pasta. My table learned this the hard way.
“Would you like to add shrimp to your pasta?” the waiter asked. Sure, why not? He then warned us these were marinated shrimp, “not just plain.” Even better. When the pasta arrived, my friend said, “Huh, they only put three shrimp.”
The bill changed our tune. Each individual shrimp was $2, and itemized separately on the bill. “For a place with such fair prices,” my friend griped, “it’s weird that they nickel-and-dime you on the shrimp.”
Gripes aside, though, Sixty Vines’ food can be as impressive as its atmosphere. It’s a hell of a good wine bar experience, and I’m having dreams about the crusts that come out of that copper-covered pizza oven. Service is affable and well-trained on both food and drinks. For the west Plano crowd, this picture adds up to a pretty grand night out. If all the company’s Twin Peaks locations were converted into Sixty Vines instead, the world would be a more delicious, less gunfighty place.
Sixty Vines, 3701 Dallas Parkway, Plano, 469-620-8463, www.sixtyvines.com. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
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