Poutine. It's a seemingly simple concoction of fries, cheese curds and hot gravy (it's got to be hot) but, much to the chagrin of many a homesick Canadian, no restaurant in this town seems to do it right. So seeing the words "house cut fries," "cheddar curds," "smoked short rib" and "Montreal style gravy" appear as I scrolled through DeVine Wine & Grill's online menu not only stoked the salivary glands, but necessitated a drive out to the wilds of Oviedo.
And there, inside the chill, moody digs of this strip-mall hideaway, we dined on poutine ($13) about as Canadian as Ted Cruz. Steak fries? No! A tepid and "tangy" country gravy the color of old lace? Heavens no! I will concede that the curds, brought in fresh from Ellsworth, Wisconsin, were as squeaky as sneakers on parquet, but I say to anyone thinking of serving poutine on their menu: Take a trip up to Poutini's House of Poutine or La Banquise, then come back and do it right.
But turning away from the poutine, chef Chandler Cook's arancini ($12) had us cooing like piggish pigeons. We were impressed by the curried and fried risotto, pickled beet stems and watermelon radish – the advertised popcorn shoots were replaced by a mess of frisée, and red pepper harissa by a datil pepper sauce, but that didn't upset the fusion of this sharing plate. Crispy pig ears ($8) with a glass of meritage – pulled from one of the 32 self-serve enomatic wine dispensers ($3 for a card) – seemed vaguely fusiony as well. Beer might've been a more apropos quaff, seeing how this bar treat had us licking our fingers. The bar, by the by, takes up a good portion of the restaurant's space and seems like a perfectly fine spot in which to indulge in said bar treats next to just-out-of-college jokers making forays into grownupsville.
Our servers, a youthful pair bustling with a collegiate vigor, were exemplary – worthy of being cloned and disseminated to restaurants across the city. One of them nudged us toward the octopus salad ($13) and our verdict, after a few bites, nudged toward "fulfilling." The wee leggy Portuguese beast was to have been served "chilled," but it was warm. I'm not big on warm octopus mixed in a salad with cool jicama, radish and pea shoots, and neither was my dining comrade, but it was a minor offense. The unadulterated essence of lamb in a burger fashioned from the ruminant's shoulder ($14) was surely pleasing, as was a simple layering of feta-mint Greek yogurt. What needed work was the fossilized exterior of the steak fries; even dipping them into house-made ketchup failed to raise them from the dead.
The restaurant touts its scratch kitchen, lists a handful of local purveyors on their menu, and makes the most of seasonal ingredients. The lone dessert offering – a downside to being a relatively small scratch kitchen – was a blueberry bread pudding with house-made vanilla-malt ice cream ($8.50). This year's very late harvest means blueberries are, technically, in season, but highlighting them in a bread pudding seemed like a bit of a cop-out.
That ice cream, tho ... it was like butter spiked with an opioid, and it was precisely the high we needed.