The Tangled Vine is a cute restaurant and wine bar that opened about two months ago, about a block from the Museum of Natural History.
If the Upper West Side is always a bit risky for a new restaurant, this is the place to be, as the residential community is upscale, subway access is good, and the area has been hospitable to the right kind of destination dining.
The Tangled Vine ought to fit in well here. It’s pretty, without being fancy; intelligent, without being snooty; inexpensive without being cheap.
The focus is on Old World wines that are organic, sustainable, and/or biodynamic. I suspect there are aren’t many customers who can explain the difference between those three terms. They are explained on the menu, and even then I keep forgetting. Do patrons choose their wine bars based on that?
Fortunately, the wine list is very approachable, with dozens of bottles below $75, and plenty below $50. If you order by the glass, as I did, the pours are generous.
The Spanish-themed menu is by David Seigel, who earned one star at Mercat in 2007. Frank Bruni found the space insufferably loud, implying that the food alone might have been closer to two stars. Several dishes Bruni liked, and others resembling them, make their way onto the menu at the Tangled Vine.
The menu is dominated by cheese, crostini, and charcuterie—the kind of snacks you’d expect to order at a wine bar. There are also about a dozen larger plates, ranging from $9–23, with most under $20. Cauliflower Crostini ($6; below left) were a perfect start.
The menu offers several “trios”—generous two-ounce pours of thematically related wines with paired food. An excellent Sherry and Madeira trio ($19) came with the Chickpea crostini (above right), an addictive concoction with morcilla (blood sausage) and apricots.
The Pinot Noir trio ($21) came with a Montadito (left), or pork belly slider, here served in a pita pocket with pickled radish and garlic dijonaise. This was my favorite of the three dishes.
I came here on a publicist’s suggestion, and although I paid fully for my meal, it did seem that I got a bit more attention after I’d introduced myself. For the first half-hour, I felt a bit neglected, even though plenty of staff were on hand, and the room was nowhere near full. As it was early, perhaps they were still setting up.
When you order a single glass, most wine bars first offer a taste before a full pour. That wasn’t done here. I don’t think I have ever declined a wine, and I don’t think many customers do, but it’s a nice touch that the Tangled Vine might want to consider.
I’m not really qualified to write about the wines themselves, but I loved the sherries, and the Pinot Noir trio included a reserve Givry that normally sells for about $20 a glass that was absolutely terrific. After you’ve had that, it’s hard to move on to anything else, but after I gave them the challenge, the server recommended a smooth Montalcino that ended the evening on a strong note.
Great wine bars have sprung up all over town, so it’s hard to recommend the Tangled Vine as a destination. Personally, I think its affordable Old World theme and great Spanish tapas-style cuisine make a more compelling story than the organic spin, which you tend to forget after the first sip of a wonderful Pinot Noir.
The Tangled Vine (434 Amsterdam Avenue at 81st Street, Upper West Side)