Amuse-bouche Hervé Wine Bar

HERVÉ

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - James M. Keller I The New Mex­i­can

Once you be­come aware of the brick­paved pedes­trian al­ley on San Fran­cisco Street that pen­e­trates into the block of shops not far across Burro Al­ley from the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, it’s hard to imag­ine why it is so easy to miss, lined as it is with wine bar­rels and invit­ing pots of flow­ers. The walk­way de­posits you at Hervé, which, most im­me­di­ately, is a spa­cious wine bar and tast­ing room in the space for­merly oc­cu­pied by the night­club Sky­light, where you can perch on a barstool and con­sume a glass or sam­ple a flight of wines pro­duced by St. Clair Win­ery. Founded in 1981 by Bur­gun­dian trans­plant Hervé Lescombes (hence the name), St. Clair tends its grapes at Lords­burg, in the deep south of New Mex­ico, and pro­cesses them at its win­ery in Dem­ing.

You could or­der food right there at the tast­ing bar, but let’s say you wanted to set­tle in to more restau­rant­like digs. No prob­lem. Con­tinue through to the din­ing space, a large, ap­peal­ing room in which you may stake your claim among more than a dozen widely spaced ta­bles: two-tops, four-tops, high-tops, easy chairs with cof­fee ta­bles — what­ever rings your bells. Here you can or­der from a list of 16 va­ri­etals or, in a few cases, blends pro­duced by St. Clair or other la­bels that op­er­ate un­der its aegis. A pre­de­ter­mined, in­ex­pen­sive flight of three, two-ounce pours (which is very lit­tle wine) changes from day to day, al­though when­ever I or­dered it, chardon­nay and caber­net sauvi­gnon were both in the lineup. Add a fourth pour (plus four bucks) and you get to choose your own se­lec­tions from the list.

I haven’t tasted all the wines on of­fer. Of those I have, I en­coun­tered none that were un­grat­i­fy­ing and sev­eral that I will hap­pily re­visit in the fu­ture, among them a charm­ing, light rosé (made from syrah, I would think), a hearty and mus­cu­lar pe­tite sirah, the “Danielle” sparkling wine (they call it dry, I found it fruity), and an im­pe­rial kir (its bub­bly rasp­berry sweet­ness prov­ing a balm on a hot day). The

en­thu­si­as­tic wait­staff pro­vides in­formed com­men­tary, if you want it.

The food menu is de­signed for nosh­ing and shar­ing. A char­cu­terie board ($20) of­fers a gen­er­ous se­lec­tion of cured meats, patés, and other good­ies; a step up from there, the “Hervé board” ($25) also in­cludes sev­eral cheeses and choco­lates — re­ally a meal’s worth of munch­ing for two. Of the lit­tle bites, ex­cel­lent hum­mus with feta makes for fine communal dip­ping, while a bowl of bal­samic roasted grapes and olives (with rose­mary) is on the “meh” side and crispy sa­lumi chips were pain­fully salty. An or­der of br­uschette — you choose four from the eight prepa­ra­tions avail­able — is a good bet; I par­tic­u­larly rel­ished those fea­tur­ing ar­ti­choke and Parme­san, Ser­rano ham and pesto (again with Parme­san), cured salmon with ca­pers and green-chile cream cheese (such a pleasant kick!), and that hum­mus again, now with red peppers and sun-dried toma­toes in the mix. For a ta­ble of four, each br­uschetta ar­rived thought­fully sliced into four seg­ments.

We need not en­ter the ar­gu­ment about whether green beans and pota­toes prop­erly fig­ure in a salade niçoise; if they were good enough for Es­coffier, they’re good enough for me. Hervé’s ver­sion is a thing of beauty: slices of rare ahi tuna lightly seared at the se­same-coated edges, along with wedges of pota­toes and hard-boiled eggs, green beans, pun­gent an­chovies, and a mix of salad greens and olives, each in­gre­di­ent ar­rayed in its own ter­ri­tory rather than mixed to­gether. Less stout beans, of the clas­sic French hari­cot vert sort, would make it even bet­ter. A bur­rata salad with basil was tasty, since var­i­ous in­car­na­tions of tomato tarted up the bur­rata, which of­fered creamy tex­ture but not much fla­vor. For dessert, a de­con­structed bis­co­chito gelato sand­wich was yummy though we left much of the bis­co­chito be­hind, find­ing it dif­fi­cult to cut with uten­sils.

The hand­some room in­vites re­lax­ation, with met­al­work bal­cony rail­ings and a sky­light adding a sense of airi­ness. Sad to say, it has not been con­ducive to the long-term sur­vival of its oc­cu­pants. Hervé should be able to make a go of it, though, be­ing a taste­ful, mod­estly priced hang­out that is mere steps from the Len­sic. Man­age­ment might be wise to keep it open later than it cur­rently does and ac­tively court post-per­for­mance au­di­ences. It would be a great place to linger, snack, and sip, a tempt­ing al­ter­na­tive to head­ing di­rectly home af­ter a lec­ture or con­cert.

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