My Meal Cost: $71.18 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars
One of the nice things about being retired is that we can just "decide" to go to lunch at a nice place on a Monday afternoon. This week, the Lovely Mrs. C and I were doing errands and decided to go to the new restaurant at the DoubleTree hotel on Temple near the Pomona-Diamond Bar border. For those who wonder, this is in Pomona.
I had originally heard that it was going to be a fine dining place and said so in a Facebook posting. In the comments on that post, a snarky commenter suggested that this place would be "basically an Olive Garden." Well it's not. The people, who I know who had been there, confirmed it and recommended it.
Most of Vita's food is sourced locally with produce from Cal-Poly and other local farms. Cheese is from Pomona cheese maker DiStefano, and they try to get as much from local sources as possible.
Their executive chef, David Wolfskill comes with a background of over 30 years cooking in Spain and 15 years of apprenticeships in numerous top restaurants throughout San Francisco. Chef David’s most recent assignment was as the Chef de Cuisine at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles overseeing the iconic Hotel's 5 restaurants, including, Smeraldi's, their tribute restaurant to modern Italian cuisine.
Vita is Italian for "to be alive" or life. The place is an upscale restaurant with a modern look but with warm wood accents. This restaurant was the only Pomona restaurant (and the farthest east) during the recent DineLA Restaurant Week with a prix fix menu during the week of July 13-27. I had hoped the lovely Mrs C and I might be able to do that but things didn't work out.
Upon arriving (without reservations--manageable on a Monday afternoon) we were seated by the maitre d'. Our waiter arrived shortly after with water and asked us about drinks. Again, we had no reason not to, so we each ordered a glass of the house sauvignon blanc. A very nice, cold white wine with a strong citrus taste (Mrs. C suggested lemon, I suggested grapefruit). It was very good on a hot summer afternoon. When the wine came we were also provided bread, both a crispy flatbread and a pillow of soft ciabatta. A dipping bowl of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar was provided. Since the Lovely Mrs. C is allergic to olives and olive oil, she asked for butter and was cheerfully accommodated.
When it came time to order, I had decided to order two items from the "Taste" section of the lunch menu. The first item that I knew I wanted was the Herb Arancini. Arancini are traditionally made from left-over risotto, which is formed in a ball with something in the center (in this case herbs, sometimes it's a small meat, mushroom, cheese, or other "something") then breaded and deep fried. The result should be a crunchy crisp outer coating with a creamy risotto interior. This was served with a Basil gorgonzola and chili oil dipping sauce and lived up to my expectations in all ways.
The second item that I had settled on was the DiStefano's burrata. Burrata is a small ball of fresh mozzarella cheese with fresh cream in the center. Since I had heard of DiStefano's and that they were known for their burrata, I was really looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, after I ordered, the waiter came back to inform us that they were out of the burrata, major disappointment. Because I had my heart set on that, I really didn't have a fall-back so asked the waiter what he thought would go well with the Arancini. He suggested the crispy polenta--not something I would necessarily have chosen on my own. This was fingers (about the size of steak fries) of polenta which had been fried so that there was a slight crispiness to the outside but the center was creamy corn-meal goodness. This came on a cast iron platter with Wild mushrooms, melted DiStefano's scarmoza cheese, fresh herbs, and a chianti vinegar. The fried polenta enhanced the experience of the mushrooms and cheese which in my mind was the overall flavor profile. While not something that I would have originally chosen, it is definitely something I would have again.
The Lovely Mrs. C decided on the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. This was prepared with thyme, chianti pickled shallots, black garlic, and porcini cream. In addition, there was a pool of extra virgin olive oil surrounding it. The olive oil was problematic and I asked the waiter if we could get it changed out, but Mrs. C not wanting to make a fuss, insisted that she could eat round it, and did so. However, the waiter was fully amenable to redoing it had she not insisted that it was OK. In addition there were shavings of parmesan cheese over the top. She reports that the mushroom ravioli were excellent and the porcini sauce was a perfect complement.
Since we were in such a beautiful locale and had no further obligations for the day, we decided to look at the dessert menu. Usually we look at it and then decide to do something when we get home. But this dessert menu had some real temptations. My recommendation is that you not look at the menu unless you're prepared to order! We were totally drawn to the Chocolate-Dark Cherry Bread Pudding with salted butterscotch, candied balsamic and young mint. This came with a scoop of espresso coffee ice cream drizzled with the candied balsamic sauce. The cherries were on the bottom and had an almost scorched flavor which combined with the sweet/salty caramel and the cinnamon of the bread pudding. With the cool sweetness of the ice cream and chocolate, this was one scrumptious way to end a meal.