Vin Bar

Houston's socialites will have to wait just a tad longer for the famed Valentino's to open. Meanwhile, Chef Cunninghame West and staff are honing their skills at the newly opened Vin Bar (Hotel Derek, 2525 West Loop S., 713-850-9200), Houston's first "crudo" bar. West has been in Houston one month. Previously, he worked at Valentino's in Las Vegas and then moved to Virginia to open his own restaurant in Blacksburg.

"Whenever you ask people about their favorite foods, sushi is almost always in their top three choices," says West, "so the 'crudo' bar takes this concept and builds on it." "Crudo" means "raw" in Italian, and the menu is split into three sections. The Italian sashimi includes snapper with lemon aioli and green apple scallops. The carpaccio includes swordfish in a lemon sauce and beef Cipriani. And the tartare includes both a traditional steak tartare made from Wagyu beef, and a tuna tartare.

"At Vin Bar, the plates are small, so it gives the customer lots of opportunities to taste many different things. And we hope they will," says West. Dish enjoyed the steak tartare, finding it to be perfectly executed, and can only imagine that the other raw items are equally excellent.

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Paul Galvani