Wine Vault Bistro
★★★1/2 (Very Good to Excellent)
3731-A India Street (south of Washington), Mission Hills, 619-295-3939; winevaultbistro.com
HOURS: Dinner Thursday–Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m.; occasionally open other days for winemaker dinners.
PRICES: Three-course chef dinners most Thursdays, $20; a few à la carte choices (e.g., cheese plate $15). Five-course chef dinners Friday–Saturday, $30, plus $20 for matched wines. Other wines $5 per glass, $10 corkage for in-house bottles, $20 for outside choices.
CUISINE & BEVERAGES: Local-sourced, seasonal delicacies; menus change constantly, with some à la carte dishes; mainly these are chef’s tasting dinners. Vast repertory of wines, including bargain finds, plus artisanal beers and ales.
PICK HITS: Five-course Friday and Saturday chef’s tasting dinners. Second best: Thursday-night three-course chef’s tasting.
NEED TO KNOW: Food easily earns four stars, but discomforts (noise, hard chairs, very slow service) detract from the experience. Reservations essential; most five-course weekend meals are sold out several days ahead. Premises up three short, well-banistered flights above Saffron Thai, with free parking behind Shakespeare Pub, and wheelchair access to back patio (with fireplace). For best wine pours, go in groups of four to six. Visa and MasterCard accepted, but not Discover (check when reserving for other cards).