03/22/2011 01:46 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Vai Spuntino: Bites and Flights in Soho


Small people have to use their actions to stand out, from Wayne Chrebet going over the middle, to Tom Cruise going over the edge. For a small restaurant using its eats to stand out, hit Vai Spuntino.

Liberally pulling from French, Italian, and Spanish culinary traditions, this wine-centric small plate affair from the same Daniel/Jean Georges vet behind the larger UWS parent resto is serving up serious flavor in digs so seriously intimate they only have room for tables on one of the walls, surrounding them with angled mirrors and custom candle-lit globes hanging from the ceiling, though if they want Lionel Ritchie to show up they better commence the dancing. The ever evolving menu's built for exploration, broken into categories like Formaggi (Italy's Salva Cremasco w/ pickled peaches, NY's Kunik w/ citrus marmalade) and Crudo, which features bay scallop w/ sea urchin & tomato water, and avocado'd yellowfin coated in mirin, but not Mirren, as Helen doesn't have time to just hang around dinner, what with her busy schedule of having a sweet rack. Noshing continues with Lightly Cooked offerings of bacalao (w/ cauliflower & Yukon golds), chili-sauced Alaskan king crab legs, and herb buttered branzino, before moving to meaty Slow Cooked options ranging from halibut cassoulet, to beef short ribs with sweet garlic, which thinks it's awesome in spite of everyone else saying it stinks.

Expanding the sampling theme to the bevs, each place is set with three wine glasses, to be filled with a combo of their 20 "by-the" offerings to make a comestibles-appropriate flight, a far more appetizing option than spending an entire dinner paired up with a Cruise.