Friday, December 01, 2006
Vinum Populi - A New Wine Bar in Culver City
Vinum Populi is the brand new wine bar/lounge adjacent to Ugo in Culver City (no sign yet, just look for Ugo on Cardiff). It is a cozy, dark space, with exposed brick walls, the total opposite of Ugo's bright, clean, blue and white Mediterranean look. All the servers and bartenders wear those pinch caps that Michael Corlene wore when he was laying low in Sicily, which go nicely with all the old framed photos of Italy, which complement the Italian salltellite TV playing behind the bar. They have happy hour from 5:30-7:30, where they offer $4 a glass house wine, and complementary prociutto, cheese, goat cheese stuffed peppers, and some cheese accompaniments, like truffle honey, and red wine gelee. Definitely go during happy hour, the regular menu items are good, but the portions are a little skimpy. Their regular menu offers a selection of salumi, cheese and panini. After missing out on lardo at Mozza, I was able to satisfy my craving here! They serve it sliced ultra thin on warm toasted bread. It is light, delicate and pleasantly salty.
We also tried their olive bread, which is a thin flatbread with tapenade spread on it.
Watch out for their stuffed peppers at happy hour! I naively took a big bite not realizing how hot they were going to be!
Almost all of their wines are Italian and every single wine in the house is available to taste. All of the bottles are hooked up to a machine called an Enomatic. You buy a card, load it up with however much you want to spend, put it in the machine, press the button corresponding to the wine you want, and out it comes. They are priced by the one once pour, if you want a whole glass, just keep pressing the button until you have a full glass. If you would like to purchase a bottle to take home, they take 30% off the price. Info and tasting notes are displayed in front of each bottle, it is a great way to learn about varietals you may never have heard of before, and sample before committing to a whole glass or bottle. They also have a few bottles selling for more than $100, so this is a good opportuntiy to taste high end wines you would may not normally buy. My favorite advantage of the Enomatic is that it creates an evironment conducive to mingling and meeting other patrons, as if I were at a cocktail party. The downside is the bartender only pours the house selection; all other wine by the glass are only available self-serve at the machine. And if the bottle is empty at the Enomatic, you may find yourself flagging down a server to replace it. I have friends who really enjoy the interaction with the bartender, discussing the selections, etc., who think they may not dig this set up so much. But, I assured them that on both my visits the friendly owners were circulating, and more than happy to discuss the wines and guide my choices. Vinum Populi is a great place to enjoy many wines, relax, snack, and mingle.
3865 Cardiff Ave
Culver City CA 90232