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.

Vinum Populi
3865 Cardiff Ave
Culver City CA 90232


Billy said...

geez louise..

you know if you ever want a dinner companion just give me a holler

OrganiCat said...

This is such a good idea! I'm just kicking myself for not coming up with it first!!! The only downside for me (a person with many food restrictions), was the limited menu. The next time I go, I'll just have a big dinner before I load up my card! Thanks for the tip!

Zazoo Pitts said...

I just went here tonight and was thinking about when you were going to cover it!

I'm shocked you got free apps! We paid for our stuff, it was happy hour and they didn't give us anything! If anyone else goes, make sure to ask your server as ours didn't tell us about any of that stuff.

The food was disappointing. The peppers are too hot (they'll kill your mouth to taste the wine). We also had the bread (ehhh..) and the pesto chicken with tomatoes (deli cold). It's crazy that it is openly connected to Ugo but you can't order anything off of their menu.

The wine was okay. I guess I'm not a big Italian wine fan. That's about 95% of what they have. About 30% of the wines are over $80 a bottle so that translates into $5 for one ounce.

While I enjoyed the atmosphere better, the price and food selection leave something to be desired. Great if you love Italian wines. I think I'll be sticking to Bottlerock.

The machine is pretty cool though. I wonder what happens if it gets really crowded and someone else pushes the button when your card is in the machine. If you do happen to be around when a bottle empties out, make sure to flag your server...they will probably give you the remainder of the bottle -- plus you get to see the machine unmount the bottle which is pretty Robocop.

triplecreme said...

Mark - I am glad you checked it out. Yes, the peppers are out of control. You have to sit at the bar for the free happy hour apps., they are set up at the bar. It is funny, some of their best wines are the least expensive ones, especially the non-Italian wines like the Protocolo from Spain.

OrganiCat said...

I must concur about that Protocolo. I'd had it before, and getting a hearty glassful for a mere $4 was a delight! I think I tried 2 other Spanish and a South Africa, everything else being Italian. That's pretty fabulous for $20!

Anonymous said...

Enomatic??? Enomatic?!?!?!

That is so cool. Why can't we have those doo-hickeys over here? I have to tell my Italian pals about this, they'll get a kick out of it.

This sounds a lot like the aperitivo tradition that is popping up more and more in Rome (it's more of a northern thing but it's slowly making its way here). Only down side: no stuffed peppers. Bree, can you send some over? ;-)

triplecreme said...

Shelley - the Enomatic is from Italy! When it was delivered, it came with two Italian men to install them!! There has to be a bar in Rome who has one!

Anonymous said...

I've seen the machine at a wine bar in the main square of Montefalco. So many sagrantinos to taste, so few euros in my pocket...

Anonymous said...

The machine is wonderful! My first experience was in Greve-in-Chianti. And thanks for the lardo tip, triplec. Can't wait until tomorrow night! Last lardo was in Panzano at Dario Cecchini's shop. YUMMMMM.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys has any of you tried some indian wine ??? they r pretty good as well at $20 a bottle they make some really nice wines

Anonymous said...

This used to be a favorite place to go and bring out of town least until my party & I were verbally assaulted by the Manager minutes before they were closing tonight. Our party of 8 had spent a good 3 hours there, not to mention a good amount of money, when one of us tried to order something to eat. She was told the kitchen was closed - we were not aware of that prior, nor were we warned it was closing. Being 110 lbs. & full of wine, she went across the street & brought back a small order of mac & cheese to eat & soak up some of the alcohol. She was nearly finished when the Manager approached us stating how 'DISRESPECTFUL!!!' it was to bring in food from another restaurant. He was correct to a point, but the manner & tone in which he was speaking to us was COMPLETELY unnecessary & totally astounded us all! We really thought he was joking at first because he was that ridiculous. We tried to apologize or at least defend ourselves from the verbal blows, but he was RELENTLESS! His tirade lasted nearly 30 minutes. I am still in shock that it actually happened because his manner was so uncalled for & assaulting. Usually, people try to accommodate customers, not embarrass, threaten, & belittle them. We're not the type of people that are difficult or rude or ANYTHING like that...I've spent plenty of years in the service industry to know that his manner was completely out of line, especially for a totally blew us away & shocked us into tears LITERALLY! The other servers we had prior to 'the king' were great & actually apologized to me for his behavior...I guess this happens often? I am sick to my stomach from it & can't sleep now. Thank you Manager w/ the dark hair & glasses...wish I would have gotten your name....but I am posting this everywhere I can