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A Night at the Chef's Table

Ever wondered what it’s like to sit at the two-person Chef’s Table at Vino e Vivo? Tim Ashe, a frequent reviewer on Seacoast Eats, recently visited us, and provided this behind the scenes review of his dining experience. Our chef's table is available by reservation on Resy with a 5 p.m. seating and a 7 p.m. seating. Each menu is customized daily by Chef Paul Callahan and Sous Chef Jonathan Parsons.

By Tim Ashe

Oohhh, Seacoast Eaters, have I got a date night delight for you!!! I was given a personal invitation to this "Chef's Table" after commenting on another Seacoast Eater's post. So, after accepting and making reservations, we took the drive over to Exeter August

20th and arrived at Vino e Vivo at 163 Water St, to spend an evening with Chef Paul Callahan and his team.

After hearing numerous positive comments on this restaurant, I thought it was high time to pay them a visit. We were so excited for the opportunity!!!

Because this was the "Chef's Table " we knew what we had to eat was going to be the "Chef's Choice" or "Chef's Whim". We were so excited with anticipation for what was to come. I know this review is going to be a long one, so if you decide to read to its completion, I appreciate your commitment. For those that choose not to, thank you for the time you did give me. I am grateful!

After being greeted by Tony, the owner, we were brought to our seats at the Chef's Table. We noticed the flower and the personal fan. The fan is there to help cool you from the heat coming from the kitchen. I found this a very thoughtful addition. The seating provided us with a front row seat to all the action. I also took another shot of the restaurant as I turned around. Chef Paul came over and introduced himself as did we. Chef was so gracious and very gregarious. I knew we were in for an amazing evening. With every course there was a wine pairing, albeit a half or less pour (they want to ensure you're able to make it home safely).

Prior to every course, Tony would deliver our wine and give us a very detailed explanation of the wine, its origin, composition, etc.

Our first course was Yellow Fin Tuna . Made with shishito peppers, shaved radish, grapefruit wedges, shishito pepper sauce and a buttermilk sauce with orange honey and dusted with matcha. The Tuna was so fresh & delicious!!! The flavors of the accompaniments worked perfectly with the tuna.

Wine pairing was a Lucien Albrecht Cremant Brut Rose . Simply fantastic!

Our second course was scallops with smoked ham, potatoes and leeks ladled with a potage cream broth It was so smooth, and the different flavors and textures worked together harmoniously, putting a terrific finish on an amazing dish. It was my wife's favorite!

Wine pairing was a Talmard Macon Uchizy White Burgandy. What an unexpected pleasure!

Our third course was Crispy Octopus. This was served on a bed of pea purée with black garlic, pickled watermelon rind, pluot jam and topped with a toile of squid ink. It was one of our favorite plates. The Octopus was tender and very flavorful. Wine pairing was a Field Recordings Skins Orange Wine Wonderfully refreshing.

Our fourth course was Lobster Ravioli with Squid Ink Pasta. This was made with a corn butter, Calabrian chili, Maitake mushrooms, brown butter sauce with crushed almonds. OMG!!! is all I can say. This dish was outstanding. The different sauces and accompaniments added to the complexity of the plate. Wine pairing was a La Kiuva Rouge Nebbiolo Red with excellent flavor and finish.

Our fifth course was 2 different types of Duck. One was a coffee rub with a plum sauce and the other a mixed bird pate including pheasant, quail, and duck. This was also served with corn butter, corn, chanterelle mushroom and squid ink mole. Everything played off each other so well, textures and flavors, that is really was incredible. Wine pairing was a Tornatore Etna Rosso Red. Wonderful wine with a great body.

Our sixth course was a Smoked Blue Fish. On the bone, the fish was moist and had bold flavor. With the addition of the sauce vierge, creme fraiche, trout roe and Aleppo pepper, the plate was simply delicious. Wine pairing was a Costadure Mandrarossa Frappato Red. This was a great wine!

Our seventh course was Duck Fat Beignets. This dish included either duck heart or liver, Humboldt fog cheese, and a green tomato jam. Another plate with bold flavors that was fantastic!!! Wine pairing was a Domaine Paul Cherrier Sancerre Sauvignon or Costadure Mandrarossa Frappato Red. It was light, crisp, and delicious.

Our eighth course was an Ice Cream Torte. This had a chocolate cup filled with a lavender ice cream garnished with lavender flowers and a mint leaf. Eating this was like heaven on a plate.

Wine pairing was a special Vintage Port. I LOVE a great port, and this was magnificent.

Our ninth and final course was a 4-pack of custom ice creams. The flavors were Mango Sorbet, Mocha, Coffee, and the "take a guess" was Black Garlic. Every one of these were simply delicious. There was no pairing for this course as the Vintage Port served as the pairing for both dishes.

After dinner, I asked for a photo of the team with my wife and I, which they gladly accommodated. Afterward, we were given a tour of their waterfront outdoor seating. It is truly a magnificent and serene setting. The lighting is beautiful, peaceful, and enchanting. I would say that sums up our entire evening. It was a truly magical experience from the time Tony greeted us upon us entering.

Chef Paul Callahan and Sous Chef Jonathan Parsons were engaging with us and having a great time themselves. Casey was a constant in our dining experience. She consistently checked in with us on how we were liking our food, wine, etc., while engaging us in conversation She is simply outstanding!!! What we also picked up on was the familiarity the other dinner guests had with the entire staff. It was like a family atmosphere of regulars who are there weekly or a few times a month. Truly special indeed. I would encourage anyone who is looking for a true culinary experience, I cannot recommend Vino e Vivo highly enough. It is a "Bucket List" destination. Dine on!

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We dined at Vino e Vivo tonight wtih my daugher and son-in-law. Exquisite experience. We have dined at over half the restaurants in the US with 5 diamonds and 5 stars as well as several Michelin starred restaurants. This eclipsed most of those. Fantastic evening. We had Tony select wines and orderd all but 5 items on the menu. All were fantastic. Can't describe in words the superlative dining experience. We wish we could get Tony and Paul to move to SC.

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