Ian Pike 9:20 a.m., May 21
I knew 100 Wines -- the latest bistro to pop up in the heart of Hillcrest -- was the newborn of Cohn Restaurant Group, but it wasn't until I entered the space that I realized the similarities with another Cohn restaurant, one of my favorites -- BO-beau -- went beyond the cozy old-world decor and right into the kitchen. Both restaurants share Chef Katherine Humphus.
Of course, once I realized this, I couldn't help but compare the two from the moment I sat down. Wouldn't it be fantastic to have another BO-beau a few miles closer to me? My party of three arrived just as the doors were opening, and learned of the "5-7 With Friends" happy hour special, which included $7 sharable snacks and $7 martinis.
We skipped the hard liquor and ordered a bottle of rosé. On the wine front: I love how 100 Wines chooses to break down wine on the menu by price range, and offers tasting notes to boot. I chose a $30 bottle of a granache rosé from Provence called Clos Clemintine. The description here was more about region than taste: "Provence is the land of rosé, taste this and see why rosé is the next big thing." It was one of the few on the list without any helpful description, but fortunately I was already familiar with this type of wine from that region.
We ordered the lamb meatballs (from the happy hour menu) and a daily special of pork belly, which we'd seen written in chalk on a board above the bar. While we were waiting for our food, we were given a bowl of roasted chickpeas flavored with red pepper and lemon. I joked that they should have been called "chickTEASE." The seasoning was delicious, and we were hungry, but unlike edamame, a snack that these were clearly mirroring, there was no satisfying pop of bean to chew -- just very tasty, inedible skins to suck on. After trying to get some kind of discernible nub from the goodies in the bowl, each of us grew frustrated and gave up.
When the real food arrived, our exasperation with the chickpeas was soon forgotten. The lamb meatballs had a caramelizing sear, and the yogurt sauce complimented them nicely.
The pork belly was served atop a thick slice of rosemary bread.
We got two pizzas for the table, served rectangular on a board (as it is at BO-beau). The Prosciutto pizza had a bit too much of the house made mozzarella on top, but once a piece was adjusted for ratios, the combination of green grapes, prosciutto, cheese, and balsamic port reduction was delicious. The other pizza was another special from the board -- fig, cheese, bacon, and sun-dried tomato, all coming together for a moan-inducing mouthful.
We didn't make it to dessert... at least, not this time.