BY PETE TITTL Contributing columnist firstname.lastname@example.org
The dust has settled from the successful spring opening of Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill, and though they're still tinkering with the menu, one clear winner is the Sunday morning brunch. It's a great way to celebrate the weekend, with or without the "bottomless mimosa" ($22).
I stuck with the iced tea, since getting blotto on a non-work day isn't my style -- or not anymore. The brunch menu, like the lunch and dinner menu, has a wide range of prices and so many tempting choices. The 11 "small plates" include steamed clams, fried green beans, the lollipop lamb rack, Buffalo spring roll, and a ninniku tuna roll. There are four salad options, four sandwiches, including a fried egg sandwich ($9), a veggie burger and that amazing braised short ribs grilled cheese (made with Brie and Gruyere).
WIKI'S WINE DIVE & GRILL (SUNDAY BRUNCH)
11350 Ming Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended, particularly for parties of four or more.
Prices: Sunday brunch, "small plates" $7 to $16; soup and salad, $8 to $17; sandwiches, $12 to $16; brunch entrees, $9 to $18; "side kicks," $4 to $8; desserts, $8; child's plate, $8.
Payment: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover and personal checks accepted.
Dress: Casually dressy
Amenities: Wheelchair accessible; beer and wine served; some vegetarian options.
We, however, could not get past the list of brunch specials, which included shrimp and grits ($13), oysters on the half shell with bacon vinaigrette ($13), Southern fried chicken and pancakes ($11), a quiche made with Gruyere cheese, sauteed onions and prosciutto ($10) and a frittata made with artichoke, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and spinach ($12). Decisions can be so taxing on a Sunday morning. My companion finally opted for the crÃ¨me brÃ»lee French toast ($9) with a side of bacon ($4), while I ordered the filet mignon and eggs ($18).
Then came the morning's biggest disappointment. I wanted a side of the au gratin potatoes ($6) made with Gruyere cheese, Irish butter and cream as well as roasted garlic. The combination seemed so inviting, and our waiter admitted this version is even better than the one his mom prepares. Alas, the kitchen was out, so the chef substituted some miniature baked fingerling potatoes tossed in olive oil and garlic. Props for the successful improvisation, but I must come back for those potatoes another Sunday.
Both meals were excellent. The French toast was made with a thick- cut bread that had massive pores in the center, was yellow throughout and inspired a debate. Was it egg bread, had the egg batter soaked all the way through to the center of the bread or both? I do get sick of French toast served where it's given the most minimal of egg wash and looks like normal toast in the center. The "crÃ¨me brÃ»lee" effect came from the crunchy, sugary exterior that was not overdone; just enough to suggest, in the opinion of my companion, that it had been torched, though I'm sure the same could've been accomplished in the grilling process. The use of cinnamon is appropriately restrained. If you like crÃ¨me brÃ»lee, you'll love this.
My filet was medium rare (waiter Damien forgot to ask how I wanted it) but it was an island in a lake of ranchero sauce that worked with both the beef and the three over-easy eggs sharing the plate. Didn't see any "scorching" on those. The sauce was a pureed delight of tomato and peppers, not too spicy in the least. It would've worked great with toast had I had the foresight to order that.
Overall, it was a very relaxing brunch spot, with the patio pretty full and two guys on horns playing mellow songs like Sting's "Fragile" and some jazz standards. We were seated near a cool "put your name on a cork and we'll glue it to the wall" improvised artwork. Fun to read the names of other Bakersfieldians who had been dining and drinking there. Other than the snafu with the steak, our waiter was a positive, personable asset to our meal, having a real familiarity with the menu and quite conversant about his days working in Boston restaurants.
The Sunday Brunch at Wiki's Wine Dive & Grill can be recommended for a fine dining experience.