J Wine Bistro in the Village of Oak Creek

There’s something about an open kitchen that gives a restaurant a modern vibe, almost as if you’re ignoring the “employees only” sign and peeking into the window of a secret world. Place an inviting bar in front of that open kitchen and put the entire package into a space shaped like a kiva fireplace, and you have J Wine Bistro, the Village of Oak Creek’s new hot spot. The restaurant is owned by John and Nikki Ramagli, who also own The Village Grind. Nikki was born and raised in Sedona, and John, the eatery’s chef, spent 20 years training in Italian wine and cuisine. His love of wine shows in the restaurant’s small but worldly wine list. We enjoyed a glass of a red blend from the Côtes de Roussillon in France while nibbling on grilled bread smeared with a savory olive and piquillo-pepper tapenade.

The menu at J Wine Bistro focuses on seasonal ingredients. If you’re sick of the same old calamari appetizer, try the squash blossoms, delicate tempura-battered flowers filled with fragrant lemon-scented ricotta and served with a mild beet dip. The entrées are billed as “petite,” but we found the portions to be satisfying. We opted for the Portabella and Polenta along with the Filet Mignon. The portabella dish was a vegetarian’s dream: a thick slab of polenta stacked with a toothy portabella mushroom, roasted tomato and sautéed spinach. It was all served over butternut-squash puree topped with melted mozzarella and a tomato béchamel. The 6-ounce steak was cooked perfectly medium rare at our request and was served over a sweet-potato purée with a mélange of green lentils, charred broccolini and shiitake mushrooms that had been drizzled with a red-wine and truffle-oil reduction. These classic-meets-creative dishes make leaving the house on a cold winter’s night absolutely worth it.

Desserts are homemade at J Wine, and there was only one option during our visit, a chocolate lava cake. As it turned out, one option was all we needed. The rich, gooey cake arrived with two flaming cubes of sugar resting in dollops of whipped cream. It’s unexpected details like that that make J Wine Bistro one of the more exciting new restaurants in the Sedona dining scene. Erika Ayn Finch. Photo courtesy J Wine Bistro.

J Wine Bistro, 7000 AZ-179 at The Collective Sedona in the Village of Oak Creek. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 5-9 p.m., for dinner. Visa, MC, AmEx, Disc, DC (928-641-6587) (Moderate to Expensive)

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