132 West Commonwealth Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832
I know a lot of people are not too keen on Downtown Fullerton. It gets a bad rap for being a little rambunctious as the clock advances towards the wee hours of the night or early morning. I've also heard some grumbling about the lack of parking around the downtown area. I personally have always had a great time in this restaurant-rich mecca. Now with the new parking structure right across from one of my favorite spots in this area, Heroes, parking is a snap.
It had been awhile since we had made it up here on a Saturday night, and Fullerton was humming with activity, as usual when we arrived in this area at about 7 pm. What had brought us up this way? We were invited to try out D Vine, with our good friends Tom, from Toms' Foodie Blog, and his irrepressible other half, Daniele, from Dani's Decadent Deals. We always love hanging out with these crazy kids, and getting a chance to try a much raved about restaurant is an added bonus.
D Vine, which is located right in the heart of the action of Downtown Fullerton, near Heroes, Joe's, and Roscoe's has been in this spot for over a year now. They also have a Brea location, which has been around a bit longer, as they just celebrated their 4 year anniversary. Much of the credit for their longevity in the tough restaurant business can probably be credited to the dynamic duo who runs this restaurant, Lena Quezada, and Chef Walid Alarja.
These two met five years ago, and quickly formed a friendship over their passion to bring the finest Mediterranean cuisine to the people of North OC. Lena, who formerly worked in real estate, seems to be in charge of the business side of things, while Bethlehem native, Chef Walid, who has over thirty years in the culinary arts under his belt, has control of the kitchen. They also let us in on a little secret that they may have another future location in the works, but did not give us any other details. Something to look forward to perhaps.
Back in the here and now, we arrived at the Fullerton location of D Vine, and I was immediately hit by the liveliness of the space, which used to house a bank in its past incarnation. The restaurant is kind of three parts in one. They have 8,000 square feet of space, which includes a large banquet room, a comfortable patio, which is the perfect spot to take in the craziness that is Downtown Fullerton on most nights, and of course their dining area, which is where we were seated.
Taking advantage of the nightlife in this area, D Vine has joined the fray, by creating a lounge, which starts at 10 on Fridays and Saturdays, and goes until 2 am, with a DJ and a full bar. Of course, I am long in bed by the time that party gets going, (yes I feel that old), but I was told it's a pretty chill vibe here on weekend nights at D Vine, and the lounge experience has been attracting many late night revelers. As for us, not exactly early birds, but we did get to partake in the beautiful Tanya perform her belly dance routine, and she even got Katie and Daniele to dance with her. Watching all of this dancing really got me hungry, and lucky for us, the food started coming out.
When you sit down at D Vine you are presented with Fried Pita Chips, Olive Oil, and Za'atar as a welcoming gift. Just like when we are in a Mexican restaurant, and the chips and salsa are set before me, I could not stop eating these. The pita chips had a good crunch to them and were thinner than I thought they would have been. I used the olive oil to bind the Za'atar to the chips, which was a unique treat. They also sell Za'atar for you to take home for $5, which Dani took full advantage of.
Since I would be spending the evening with the very energetic Dani, I felt I should treat myself to a beer, and it was my first time trying Almaza, which is a popular Lebanese beer. Not a fan of heavy beers, this Almaza really hit the spot for me. This pilsner had a good clean taste, with a slight citrus finish near the end of each sip. Definitely made listening to Daniele much more enjoyable. Kidding, of course, or am I?
We ordered two cheese based appetizers to start things out at D Vine, the first of which was this Cheese Fatayer ($7). With this one, they stuffed some Mediterranean cheeses into a pocket dough, and then lightly fry it. Kind of like fried mozzarella, but of course lighter. I enjoyed the slight crunch to the dough, and the subtle flavor of the cheese did not overpower here. Tasty.
To finish out our daily double cheese odyssey, we also went with this Cheese Platter ($12), which featured Halloum and Nabulsi cheeses, which I hear are pretty common cheeses in the Mediterranean area. These cheeses were garnished with some cucumber. I'm not really a fan of cheese platters, so this was not really my cup of tea. I love cheese, but I'm not a fan of having it in chunks by itself. The rest of them all seemed to like this though.
This beautiful platter was way more in my wheelhouse. Out next for us was the crowd-pleasing D Vine Mezza ($15). Their menu proclaims that this is great for sharing, but that's a lie. I wanted this all for myself. This platter comes with a grand slam of items; hummus, baba ghanoush, Mediterranean salad, and turshi. The hummus here is very creamy, and one of the better ones I have had, although I'd like to see if they could make a spicy version on my next visit here. The baba ghanoush, which is seasoned eggplant was my favorite item of the four. Great earthy flavor, with some wonderful spices, added. This went quickly between the four of us. I was not so sure that I was going to like the turshi, which is a combination of pickles, turnips, and olives, but I enjoyed the pickles and turnips very much. Kind of brought to mind the pickle platters you get in good Jewish delis. The Mediterranean salad impressed also, with its combination of cucumbers, bell peppers, onion, tomato, parsley, and lettuce, all dressed simply with lemon juice, house spices, and olive oil. Very fresh, and I liked how the veggies all stayed crisp through their very short stay on this plate.
This is a sampling of two of the items off of the D-Vine entree menu, which allowed us to try a little more of everything they have to offer. These Lamb Chops ($15) were insanely delicious. They were cooked perfectly tender and spiced with just the right balance, so it did not interfere with the natural flavor of the lamb. I did not care who was looking, but I had to get every last piece off the bones. It was worth it. The Half Chicken ($15) takes 25 minuted to prepare, but with chicken this juicy, it's worth the wait. I'm always a little skittish about chicken in restaurants because it's almost always overcooked, but not the case at D Vine. Chef Walid definitely knows his way around a bird, and this poultry was brought to life with the best garlic sauce we have had to date in OC. Katie's been on the lookout for one that compares to the one by her old work in Ontario, and she has finally found it here at D Vine. This garlic sauce is also available for sale, so I know what I'm getting Katie for Christmas.
The most popular item on the D-Vine menu is understandably, the Chicken Shawarma ($12). This chicken dish blew us away. I made a little sandwich with the provided pita bread and garlic sauce, which was awesome. The entrees here come with one cold appetizer and rice, but you can sub out the rice, and for an extra dollar and get another cold appetizer. I was hoping for more baba ghanoush, but they gave us a white cabbage salad, which resembled coleslaw in looks, but not in taste, and my favorite of the two, a beet salad. This fresh beet salad was prepared only using olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to coat the cubed beets. Very tasty, and made me think that I don't eat beets nearly enough.
Dessert would be our last hurrah on this visit to D Vine, and they finished things off with a bang for us. Again, this is two desserts on one plate, the first of which is the Ashta Ice Cream ($6) in the center of the plate. They offer four different flavors of ice cream, and we were given the rose water flavor, which included crushed pistachios on top of it. I thought the rose was going to be too overpowering, but it hung around the background just enough. The Layalee Lubnan ($6) is not something I would generally order, but it was good nonetheless. It uses a base of semolina pudding and is then topped with whipped cream, crushed pistachios, and a simple syrup. This is the perfect dessert for people that are not too fond of overly sweetened desserts.
It's easy to see why D Vine has gotten lots of praise from all the food blogs that I regularly read. The food was pretty stellar, and I really liked the ambiance here as well. The chicken dishes, hummus, baba ghanoush, lamb chops, garlic sauce, and beet salad were all standouts for me on this evening, and we will definitely be back to try some, or all of these in the near future. The price point was pretty impressive at D Vine as well. No entrees approach the $20 mark, and they also offer plenty of sandwiches and kebabs, which were also pretty reasonable. I was also impressed that they are becoming part of the surrounding community, by incorporating the late night lounge, full bar, and cigar lounge into their restaurant. D Vine is definitely another reason that can be added to my list of why I love Downtown Fullerton.
We would like to thank Lena and Chef Walid for their generosity and hospitality on this evening. We loved getting a chance to meet you, try your delicious cuisine, and share your passion for your restaurant. We would also like to thank everyone else at D Vine, who made our stay very enjoyable. Lastly, we would like to thank the great Bob Bradley, for coordinating this visit, and making sure we could share this restaurant with all of you.
For more information about D Vine, head to their website here: http://www.dvineexperience.com/index.php