Va de Vi, Walnut Creek CA
August lived in Spain for a year in college and loves the cuisine. For years we had heard about Va de Vi, a tapa joint in downtown Walnut Creek. Now that this blog gives us a reason to go out for dinner, it was time we gave this place a try.
This is a tapa restaurant so portions are served as such. Expect to share a single item with one other person, and you’ll want to order at least four to six times together. We chose five because we wanted to taste some variety and see how they put a Californian twist on Spanish bar food.
We started with roasted mushrooms with a slow-poached egg, fennel soubise, and bacon marmalade. Before eating we were instructed by the waiter to break the egg and stir to enrich the soubise. The dish was beyond decadent and rich with plentiful oyster mushrooms roasted to perfection, the soubise was a nice touch and not overpowering (the egg yolk probably helped with that), and the bacon marmalade was a most excellent touch.
Next was herb and ricotta gnudi, but what we received was not what was on the menu. The menu described it as having butternut squash, black garlic, and lacinato kale puree. Instead the gnudi came with more oyster mushrooms sauteed with lacinato kale (not a puree). It wasn’t what we expected, but it was still good. The gnudis were light and flavorful, and August said she wished she could have a whole bowlful just this dish.
For the third round we ordered grilled Louisiana gulf shrimp with white cheddar grits and warm bacon vinaigrette. The shrimp were grilled beyond perfection and came three on a skewer with two skewers, so there was nothing awkward about sharing this between two people. August thought the vinaigrette made the grits oily, but the flavor overall was amazing.
The lechon (crispy pork belly) was served on rice cakes with pickled onions and sweet chili soy glaze. The lechon was definitely crispy, probably a little too much so. The skin was supposed to be crispy, but the meat ended up being dry and chewy. The rice cakes were actually globs of rice formed into little patties, so the description was misleading. August compared the sweet chili soy glaze to Panda Express sweet-and-sour sauce. The lamb, unfortunately, was no better. August grew up eating lamb and has never turned it away, until tonight. You might be able to tell in the picture – the first sign it wasn’t good quality was the color of the lamb. Gray is not attractive. Then, upon chewing it, we could tell it was not lamb, but old mutton! There is a huge difference in flavor (more gamey) and texture (more tough). Thankfully, it was served with truffled Roman style gnocchi, which made up for the disappointment in the meat. They were delicate in texture and strong in flavor, with a hint of melted Parmesan cheese that put them over the top.
The service was impeccable, with the staff working as a team to swap out our plates and flatware between each tapa. Most likely we would return, but for specific dishes. Even still, we could be in for another surprise, like the gnudi that did not match its description. And you can be sure we won’t get lamb from there again.