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You Pour At Toast Enoteca & Cucina

Toast Enoteca & Cucina's pizza.
Courtesy photo

Raising a glass of wine to the newly opened Toast Enoteca & Cucina is apropos for a place that offers you endless opportunities for wine by the glass. Toast takes the term literally, featuring more than 65 varietals by the glass and more than 400 wines available by the bottle – that’s a lotta grapes taking one for the team. It isn’t just that Toast has an extensive wine selection – so do many wine bars – it’s the manner in which you can sample the extensive collection.

In the center of the venue, with its artsy, all-the-rage warehouse design with high ceilings and exposed pipe, stands a circular mechanical beast that quickly draws your attention. Bottles of wine line the sexy Enomatic device, which has a narrow piping that feeds into the bottles. This wine dispenser’s unique functionality allows wine to be exposed and sampled while keeping the integrity and balance for longer periods of time. It’s an amazing device for numerous unique styles of wine, not just the usual suspects. Many of these exceptional varietals never see the “wine-by the-glass” light of day, but here abound without gouging your pocketbook too deeply.

If you choose to partake in tastings, you can purchase a card for the value of your choice. Simply place the card in the slot, choose your wine, place your glass under, press the red button and out it flows. A fun procedure with great interaction, the search for new taste treasures takes on a whole-new edge.

Being there on a rainy Tuesday night, the venue was relatively quiet, and the device easy to access. One has to wonder how congested it could be with a full house, but that’s likely half the fun--interacting with other guest and comparing your thoughts. The pours are one ounce, which is pretty much a standard tasting. It became a little cumbersome going back and forth from the table to the wine, especially when trying to navigate unceremoniously through other tables...but we’ll do anything for a rare Pinot.

Prices for each pour were pretty much in the $2 range, with a couple of finer varietals topping off at $5 a pour. We wound up putting $45 on our shared card, which dwindled pretty quickly. We pondered if we had really enjoyed $45 worth of wine (keeping in mind most restaurants charge $7 to $10 for a glass). When factoring the wines available, we agreed that we had. Toast had both red and white dispensers, and another row of wines at the bar.

Seated for dinner at the unassuming tables, we were a bit distracted by the tableside's rotating colored lights. They were certainly meant to create an ambiance, but made it challenging to read the menu (blue light and beige menus are not good play buddies). Toast has a small half-page menu brimming with surprisingly numerous selections.

Banana creme pie.
Courtesy photo

The emphasis is on easy fare: antipastos, insalates, paninis, pizzas and six more refined entrée dishes with chicken, fish and beef offerings. Large crispy bread with basil and parmesan cheese graced the table creating a fresh blend of texture and taste. For appetizers the pere e gorgonzola (gorgonzola cheese in baked pear, $10) and the polenta al ragu di cinghiale (polenta in wild boar ragu, $12)) were both fine introductions to Toasts’ cuisine. The cheese-baked pear was indeed a showstopper. Who knew that putting together such simple components would create something so distinctly individual and scrumptious? The polenta was perfectly composed with the robust ragu, creating a splendidly rich complexity.

It’s hard to pass up pizza, especially when it comes out obviously freshly prepared with complete regard for flavor and no concern for a perfectly round shape. Verde bianco e rosso (pomodoro sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh arugula, $12) fit the bill flawlessly. This simple thin crispy crust was wonderful. Add thick molten Buffalo mozzarella cheese, and the players say it all. Delicious and surprisingly light.

The entrees, while good, didn’t quite match up to their predecessors: pollo alla cacciatora (chicken hunter’s style, $15) and pesce allo zafferano (sea bass in a clam and saffron sauce) were two interesting sounding dishes that both didn’t quite live up to expectations. An unusual stew-like consistency for the cacciatore was rather sweet yet earthy at the same time. Then again, that’s what a cacciatora is, just a little heavy on the Kalamata olives perhaps. The more simple sea bass suffered from being a tad too fishy and lacked real savory flavor. Neither dish really hit it out of the ballpark. What was enchanting was the individual size banana cream pie which was lathered with sweet goodness.

Toast Enoteca & Cucina presents itself as a new, creative attempt at dining out. Clearly showcasing its wine offerings paired with interesting and mostly delectable fare, Toast does indeed separate itself from just another night of eating out. The interactive nature of the wine pour system is certainly chic and unique, but after a while, it becomes a bit of work for the patron, unintentionally disrupting the flow of having a pleasant dining experience and conversation. Guess it’s all about what you’re looking for in an evening. Service was uneven, with inconsistent lag time between dishes. Perhaps Toast is still in its early stages (at review time it hadbeen open for about month) and is still defining itself. Time will tell, of course.

The good: Fun, interactive and creative concept.

The bad: Still has a few bugs to work out.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-296-4207
  • Name: Toast Enoteca & Cucina
  • Address: 927 J Street