THE MOVEABLE FEAST: Vinnie’s 1905 lunches
Vincent Ginocchio, the Godfather of the kitchen of 1905 restaurant on Kantipath, allowed us to eat his new lunch menu while diners dined in the Rana Rocco faded splendour of the restaurant perched over a lake where geese cackle.
Said Vinnie, “I put on the lunch menu everything I miss about the US.” So you have fusion starters like the maki roll with matshuhissa salsa, and you have 17 sandwiches, several sides or snacks, and enough entrees to satisfy the most demanding palate.
Vinnie, who is American and in constant movement even when he is still, had Dwarika Pyakhurel start us on a vegetable sandwich in herbed Foccacia bread which Vinnie said had a lot of love in it. It was a melody of tomatoes, egg plant, capsicum with onions caramelised almost into a marmalade where the sharp notes of balsamic vinegar and pepper contrasted wonderfully with the slightly sweet taste of the vegetables. The Foccacia was warm and soft and flavoured and echoed the pre-pizza focaccia from AD 997 which were covered with herbs and spices and oven cooked.
The tofu and veggie skewers served with a rice noodle salad, was marinated in soy, ginger, sesame and coriander, which would have pleased Liu An, a prince of the Han Dynasty, who developed tofu in an attempt to achieve immortality in the first century.
In Oliver Twist Charles Dickens made reference to a fried fish warehouse. That was in 1838. By 1864, a Mr Lees opened the first fish and chip shop in England. Vinnie stood fish and chips on their head with a dish called Beer Battered Fish and Chips. Beautifully golden, the batter has beer and salt added to it which gives it a delicious edge and the accompanying chips are big crunchy and perfectly salted. It is the best variation of fish and chips I have ever eaten. You don’t need the traditional vinegar and even the Tartar sau-ce — tart and tantalising, though it is can be saved for a last bite because the fish and the chips say it all.
According to the foodie Rombauers, a strip steak is created when the tenderloin is removed from the loin leaving chewy but soft strips. Vinnie’s New York strip with mustard swirled mash and onion rings brought everything Manhattan into 1905. Roasted in balsamic vinegar there was a sweetish tang to the steak and the mustard mash complemented the steak and heightened the taste of the mashed potatoes. Steaks and mustard have always gone together as Anatole France says, “A tale without love is like me-at without mustard — an insipid dish”. Not only was Vinnie’s steak outstanding, his onion rings were the best barring none in Kathmandu. They were crisp and the onions were tempered in the brilliant batter.
But the great dish was the Philly Cheese Steak. It is to Philadelphia what hot dogs are to New York. It’s a gigantic street food sandwich with large rolls, extra thin slices of steak (almost translucent), sauted onions and melted cheese. It’s so delicious you want more until Vinnie brings on the Pannecotta, which is Italian clotted cream cooked with sugar, gelatin and vanilla floating sensuously in a sea of chocolate. In Aztec lore, a goddess transformed herself into a vanilla plant to be near her lover. And chocolate comes from Aztec country as well. With them the Italians created bliss. As the flavours lull, Vinnie says, “I just like what I do. You can make out by the food if the cook is a sad or happy person.”
Vinnie’s lunches in 1905 are going to be happy. Call 4225272, 4215068.