EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar has always been a neighborhood place – it’s just that Cole Valley is hardly an ordinary neighborhood.
As the restaurant came of age, property values skyrocketed and the well- heeled neighbors came to eat chef Arnold Wongâs adventurous and playful riffs on a host of Asian cuisines. And they came for the restaurant’s wine program one of most whimsical of its time which featured a huge, number of rarities by the glass.
The dot-com millionaires have long since sold their homes and moved back to Ohio. Wong has refashioned the menu for Asian small plates ö everything under $15 — and wine director Darin Snow has recalibrated the wine list, making it a little leaner and a little less high-end (EOS has always had a very low markup on its wines) yet every bit as interesting.
And it’s still designed to pair with pan-Asian food, which means low-oak, high-acid wines juicy Beaujolais, Austrian Grunel Veltliners and the racy new line Australian Rieslings.
The by-the-glass program remains one of the most creative in San Francisco. Ten different win flights are available on any given night, drawn from about 50 wine by the glass, available in 2 or 4 ounce pours. You can compare the world’s Chardonnays in one course, Syrahs and Shirazes the next.
“Originally,” says Snow, 33, “we would kick off each week with a guest winemaker or importer of the featured wines. And even though these events were hugely successful, we learned people wanted more. Currently, we run everything from a Red, White & Rose flight to a California Spice Flight.”
Flights change almost daily, making EOS a great place for experimentation.
Food and wine pairing: Pierre Robert cheese and nonvintage Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne ($85). “Champagne is not just a great celebration wine, it is also an excellent wine with food,” Snow says. “Pierre Robert, a triple cream cow’s milk, is like a cheese made with creme fraiche. The popcorn toastiness of a Champagne like the nonvintage Bollinger Special Cuvee and the cleansing acids in the finish balance the rich, creamy decadence of the cheese.”
Current staff favorite: 2000 Brandborg Napa Valley Charbono ($36). “As Zinfandel prices soar, the rise in similar varieties such as Charbono gives consumers more selections. At $36, this intense, jammy and deep-purple- colored wine has it all. Wonderful combination of blackberry huckleberry and spices. A great accompaniment to the heartier dishes, it is a great opportunity for the staff to introduce a new wine with a little familiarity.ä
Current passion: “A section I call ‘Back of the Teeth Reds’ devoted to those chewy reds like Charbono and Petite Sirah that can keep you warm on those chilly foggy Cole Valley nights.”
Most exciting wines by the glass: 2001 Peay Vineyards Sonoma Coast Roussanne ($15 or $7.50 for 4- or 2-ounce tastes). “To be able to offer this wine by the glass, with a production of 100 cases total, is what the EOS wine bar is all about. (This is) perhaps the best example of Roussanne from the New World yet. Finding this wine, before it disappeared and being able to introduce a varietal few have heard of by the glass begins to push the boundaries of white wine.”
Most underrated region: Languedoc in France. “With our budgets limited from a few years ago, finding good wines and good values doesn’t have to be hard. This region has been producing great wine for centuries, but with Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley prices climbing, here is the answer. Syrah, Cabernet and other popular varieties from this region can be a wine bargain hunter’s dream.”
Most unjustly overlooked wine: Marsanne. “Marsanne is a grape with humility. When pairing wines with food, an important characteristic is texture. Marsanne has an incredible texture. The, creamy, silky texture makes it an ideal food wine. This versatility makes it an ideal white wine to serve throughout your meal.”
Advice for the adventurous diner: When out-to dinner, especially in a wine bar like EOS, don’t be afraid to experiment with new wines. Explain to your sommelier or waiter what you like about a wine, but be open to new experiences.”
If I could change everyone’s wine tastes just for a day, I would have them: ãThink white when pairing wine with cheese. We often think wine and cheese are a great combination, but too often we assume red wine. Reds are great matches for harder and aged cow’s milk cheeses, but white wines from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley can be magical combinations with softer, younger goat’s milk cheeses. Perhaps one of the most beautiful pairings is Chablis and a fresh goat’s milk cheese. Instead of port and blue, try a late- harvest Riesling or Sauternes.”
What the chef has with his meal: 2000 Henschke Littlehampton Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris, from Australia. “The lime zest and lilac-scented nose and slight off-dry quality of this wine, along with its silky texture, make it refreshing and a great pairing with the Grilled Thai Spiced Pork Tenderloin, Kaffir-Braised Red Cabbage and Cranberry Gastric or Tea-Smoked Peking Duck Breast with a Plum-Shiso Compote.”
Note: EOS Restaurant & Wine Bar is at 901 Cole St., San Francisco; (415) 566- 3063.
Patrick J. Comiskey is a senior editor for Wine & Spirits Magazine. E-mail him at wine@sfchronicIe.com.