By Danny Brody
The transformation of the Design District from a ghost-town to a chow-town has been hyped for so long my fingers are getting tired of typing it. But never have so many hyped for so few (i.e. uninspired Grass and short-lived The District). Celebrity chef Jonathan Eismann, however, may just make you believe the hype. Starting with the wine list, which contains an astounding 30 bottles under $30, including five bottles for a startling $21. That’s cheaper than you can reasonably expect from ANY restaurant, no less one with the pedigree and fine-dining ambitions of longtime Lincoln Road fave Pacific Time.
Begin the meal, no matter what you may be thinking of ordering food-wise, with a bottle of Mumm Sparkling Rosé. At $30 ($15 or more retail), this beautiful bubbly made from Pinot Noir grapes will launch your evening of indulgence without the high price tag and will probably pair well with almost anything you order. Place the order as you sit down, as the staff tends to bring your food out as it is cooked, sometimes even before your wine is delivered. This wine will go nicely with inexpensive starters like the Hot and Sour Popcorn Shrimp ($7), served over crunchy noodles, and the Crispy Crab Wontons ($8), served with Pacific Time Ketchup, a hoisin-like BBQ sauce. The crab filling is buoyant and tasty, while the wonton shell is greaselessly crunchy — a perfect match for the $22 Rosé de Provence from Domaine Houchart (around $12 retail). It comes in a screw-top bottle and is a great wine on a hot summer night.
Not a big fan of Rosé? I’ve relied on the organic Snoqualmie ‘Naked’ Riesling from Washington State many times as a go-to inexpensive and unusual wine (now showing up on more and more wine lists). Normally about $10 retail, at $24 on the PT list it’s still a bargain. It’ll also pair well with food, as most Rieslings will, especially the sake-steamed little neck clams, which are fresh and and just briny enough, or even the slightly vinegary Pan Broiled Sweetbreads, which is unusual for a wine. You can also ‘splurge’ on the ‘Eroica’ Riesling ($45), a collaboration of Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and German celebrity winemaker Dr. Loosen. At $20-plus retail, this isn’t just a bargain but probably one of the best food wines that you’ll find.
On the red side, light yet slightly complex Beaujolais wines often work well with Asian-inspired cuisine, especially in hot weather, and the 2006 Jean Descombes from well-known producer Georges Duboeuf ($31on the list, $15 or so retail) is no exception. Pair it with the soft gnudi, whose ricotta and parmigiano elements will play nicely off the floral-scented wine. You could also splurge on the 2003 La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($47) from the highly respected Italian Antinori family. This wine will pair well with anything with cheese in it, as well as with the steak or lamb dishes (retails for $20-plus).
In fact, there’s so much to like about this wine list, I see a lot of return visits to Pacific Time, where one can sample Chef Eismann’s light and elegant cuisine with an inexpensive bottle of good wine and imagine a future where the Design District is a real restaurant-destination neighborhood, not just a hype machine. I can dream, can’t I?