22 Sep Quick Pick: D’vinos – Wine & Gourmet Tapas – Aarhus, Denmark
When other notorious eaters let a recommendation slip, you listen. So, when the immortal Hotdog Judge told me about a new tapas place that had popped up on his radar, I naturally listened. When he furthermore extended an invitation for fellow food blogger Malou and I to join him for a tasting of their menu, I was all ears!
The place in question, D’vinos, is a relatively new establishment located in a prime, central location on Aarhus’ Klostertorv square. Set in an old optician’s store, the meticulously restored dining room seats about fifty people with an additional outside seating arrangement offering ample space for people just popping by for a glass of wine and a snack or a few light dishes. Every single inch of the restaurant is newly restored but with attention to classical detail and a bit of playfulness thrown in: The internal décor, for example, is provided by a local adorably eccentric antiques dealer, ensuring a delightfully stylish mismatch between everything from tables and chairs to plates and cutlery.
The menu: What to eat at D’vinos ?
The menu at D’vinos offers a mix of slightly twisted tapas classics as well as other dishes from the Mediterranean region served as small, affordable servings. The card covers a total of 10-15 dishes from which you can either chose your own favorites or pick between two set menus; a six servings option and a lavish nine servings option which will take you across most of the board.
Wine pairings are available for each menu as an affordable and highly recommendable option. Unlike most restaurants in their price bracket, D’vinos import all of their wines themselves, many exclusively so, offering a unique wining and dining experience. Be advised though, that we’re talking a full glass per dish, meaning that a full nine glass wine menu will have you consuming about a bottle and a half of wine throughout the course of an evening. They mean well at D’vinos!
Interor at D’vinos – our table for the evening seen on the right. Image credits: dvinos.dk
The menu, we were told, is scheduled to change monthly so by the time you’re reading this, our dining experience may well be but a faded memory – but a delicious one at that – with the promise of new great memories to come. Revamping an entire menu that often is a bold gamble, but one that may pay off in terms of keeping regulars happy and coming back for more.
Food and wine: An evening at D’vinos
We kicked off our meal with a glass of the surprisingly crispy and complex house Cava and a couple of snacks in the shape of salted almonds and grissini-like bread sticks served with a pungent aioli for dipping. An informal start to an evening in cozy homely surroundings, which would see us explore a tour de force of a further eight dishes and wines off the menu.
As far as flavor and impression went, things escalated quickly from a gorgeous and relatively mild second serving of scallop with cauliflower purée and chorizo to a third course comprising confit pork belly fried crispy, doused in a sweet and spicy BBQ-like sauce made from beet root and served with a light red Rioja.
Speculations as to the mental health of the kitchen was made by at least two thirds of the party when next a creamy fish soup paired with Spanish riesling hit the table. Pork before fish? Had they completely lost their minds? The fish soup, though, turned out to be less of a soup and more of an intense bisque-like reduction of fish stock, lobster and cream laced with dill oil and vinegar. A dish so intense, flavorful and filling that it seemed a perfect natural progression from the pork belly and a playful jab at the purists in the crowd who thought they knew a thing or two about natural progression in a meal.
Full nine course menu. They mean well at D’vinos!
The unorthodox and challenging progression continued when a very non-Spanish dish, creamy (and slightly overcooked) mushroom risotto with Parmesan cheese, hit the table followed by a Danish classic: spicy sausage with braised red cabbage in a rock ‘n’ roll pairing with a lightly aged Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m not sure who got the brilliant idea to serve a simple sausage as part of a nine course tasting menu, but whoever you are, I salute you! As out of place as the dish may have seemed, it was just perfect in its simplicity and flavor: Perfect snap giving way to a tender interior bursting with juiciness and bold, smoked, spicy flavors from both pork and beef with the braised cabbage adding acidity and counterbalance to the smoky umami onslaught. A sausage so perfect that the producer was the only thing kept a secret from us that evening. The kitchen would tell us only that we were dealing with a small-scale local producer.
Following this mild case of surprise, came another Mediterranean classic: Perfectly fried codfish on a bed of ratatouille with just the right amount of bite served with a medium bodied Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc blend. Again, not the most natural of progressions at this stage of a tasting menu, but again one that simply worked.
As did the highlight of the evening: Braised pork cheeks in a thick glaze made from reduced natural roasting juices and the infused boiling liquid from the spicy sausages served earlier: a rich, sweet, powerful sucker punch of a sauce providing an explosion of flavor perfectly tamed by the powerfully fruity niche Cabernet blend in our glasses. A perfect climax to the meal in both taste, texture, serving size and intensity.
A main dish like this is hard to follow and sometimes leads to unnecessarily complex or challenging desserts in an effort to end on an even more bombastic note. The kitchen at D’vinos, though, showed perfect restraint and followed up with a classic and classy Gateau Marcel (classic French chocolate cake) served with sea buckthorn and assorted summer berries. A perfectly sized, comforting and deliciously decadent treat that rounded off the meal in perfect harmony and offered its own little twist in the form of its wine pairing: a naturally sweet Tempranillo (the quintessential red Spanish grape) that smelled, tasted and acted much like a crazy, young Port on steroids. An instant hit with my co-diners but not so much with me. As a result, I sacrificed mine to the blogging gods that are Klidmoster and Hotdog Judge and continued on the dry red, a much better pairing for Gateau Marcel in the mind of this humble food blogger.
With the meal thus drawing to an end, time came for Gin & Tonic and reflection:
D’Vinos in conclusion: Come for the food, stay for the wine and service
By and large, we found the dishes at D’vinos flavorful, well-prepared and well-presented with few misses to speak of. An opening serving of scallops on cauliflower purée lacked seasoning of the cauliflower but had, in turn, received an overly generous sprinkling of pepper. A few pieces of lettuce lacked washing and a couple of micro greens were a bit on the spent side. These sort of issues are not exactly uncommon for a new team coming together. What is rather uncommon, though, is the attention given to our feedback and opinions by the entire kitchen staff and crew, leaving us feeling that these issues would be immediately addressed.
The wines pairings were, one and all, interesting, challenging and at times unorthodox. While I did not personally enjoy the naturally sweet Tempranillo served with dessert, all wines were well-made and showed both character and style. The pairings put together by resident wine expert and Spanish native Dani Tano were interesting in ways ranging from safe and sound to surprising and curious – but always complimentary and never off. As a matter of fact, ignoring the affordable and diverse dining menu for one brief moment, the wine menu is reason enough on its own to warrant a visit to this new Aarhus institution.
The full wine menu as sampled during our visit. Photo credit: Malou, Klidmoster.dk
With its prominent location, small but dedicated staff and promises of an ever-changing menu, D’vinos is a place to keep an eye on for visitors and Aarhus-based foodies alike. In a time when value for money seems to be a new culinary megatrend, D’vinos offer more value for money than most: Solid no fuzz classic comforting dishes with emphasis on flavor and an exciting wine menu. The six-course menu priced at DKK 465/EUR 62 (DKK 760/EUR 101 with wines) should be enough for most eaters while the all out nine course menu (DKK 595/EUR 79, DKK 1060/EUR 142) is certainly a culinary experience worth sampling, but also an all evening onslaught fit for big stomachs and heavy drinkers.
D’vinos is a new establishment carried forth by a small but seasoned and dedicated team that is still coming together as a whole. To a nitpicking eater, this shows, but what also shows is the level of dedication, spirit and potential burning in the owners, managers and staff. Aarhus, take heed, in the opinion of this humble reviewer, if they can keep up the pace, they’re going to take this project far!
What we loved: Great, no fuzz Spanish and Mediterranean dishes served with character and soul in a beautiful and unique setting. Interesting wine menu with unique choices exclusive to the restaurant.
What we didn’t quite love: Few minor faults in a gorgeous whole made the slips seem larger than they actually were. Some diners may find the nine glass wine menu a little over the top. Consider asking the competent wine waiter to pick a bottle or two to suit the meal instead.