by Eric Ginsburg
Landscape architect. Club owner. Glassblower. Le Cordon Bleu graduate.
At 38, Pablo del Valle’s resume could already fill a biopic miniseries. As he recounted a cross-country road trip hitting 48 states, described living in a cramped Parisian apartment or explained how he and his wife moved back to Winston-Salem, it sounded more like the plot for a fantasy film about the nine lives of a blue-collar cat.
But on a recent early evening, before the dinner rush arrived, del Valle offered another comparison while considering what to order at Pintxos Pour House.
“My life is kinda like this menu,” my friend said during our first time at the restaurant, as he read over options ranging from Jamaican jerk chicken to bacon-wrapped scallops in bourbon sauce with pineapple on a skewer.
Pintxos are small, Spanish plates — think tapas, but generally stabbed with a toothpick or skewer. But the Pintxos Pour House, which is on the western fringe of Winston-Salem, strays significantly from its namesake. There’s a whole section of the menu dedicated to pizza, and many of the items aren’t far off standard Southern fare.
It’s not truly international as much as there are pinches from various countries like South Korea, alongside a small chicken and waffles portioned to share or hamburgers and salads. And like del Valle, the drink menu is all over the place too, with cocktails like the Scatter Brained featuring four kinds of rum and even a shortlist of beer cocktails.
But the thing is, with the house-made hummus, Bullfighter pizza (hey look, Spain!) and the scallop skewers in front of us, del Valle and I are impressed.
Del Valle, the creative force behind Atelier on Trade, is the kind of person who listens earnestly, shares engrossing stories modestly and is quick to laugh. He’s the one you want to show up to your dinner party. That is unless you’re nervous about your cooking, because he is a first-rate chef, and won’t hesitate to tell you that something sucks.
That’s exactly what he did when our server — who seemed a little over-eager and shook my hand when I walked in the door despite never having met — read out one of the daily martini specials, which sounded far too syrupy and heavy on the liqueur side. I believe the word del Valle used was “awful.”
But he thought highly of the bacon-wrapped scallops, though he didn’t think the pineapple added anything and noted that my skewer came with a little too generous a portion of bourbon sauce. We both expected a more heavy-handed dining experience as we perused the menu, but were pleasantly surprised by our small plates and pizza.
I hate olives. They’re one of the only foods I avoid, but when del Valle ordered the Bullfighter pizza, I only noted that it came with two meats including Serrano ham and sounded like a nod to the nation where pintxos originated. But the green olives paired so well with the meats, pepper and cheeses that it left me reconsidering my vow against it. With fresh, house-made dough and American portions of the toppings, I found it hard not to love this pie.
And the hummus plate — with dollops of classic, pesto and Sriracha hummus and soft triangles of pita — as well as the bacon-wrapped scallops were also satisfying. Del Valle noted that the hummus and pita were subtly seasoned, a nice addition to the snack.
In other words, I enjoyed everything we ate.
While del Valle’s stories come across as a life well lived, complete with details about living in San Diego or his 5-year-old asking for Air Jordans, Pintxos Pour House appears to be trying to be something to everyone and losing something in the process. Maybe it’s that del Valle’s story has been an evolution rather than nine lives lived simultaneously, but it comes across as more coherent.
It’s very possible that Pintxos’ location demands that the restaurant be a study in versatility; our server, who was actually very helpful and attentive, did have to explain to a gray-haired couple near us what tapas are.
After a couple hours of fellowship and heavy snacking, I left the overbuilt shopping center thinking about how I am still searching for a tapas/pintxos restaurant that will more closely adhere to Spanish traditions and cuisine and for more venues to adopt an affordable, small-plates approach. Pintxos Pour House could be that place, given the quality of the food, or it could more fully embrace an international scope. The commercial area around it is on the rebound, and Pintxos has the seed for greatness. The potential exists.
But the question is whether it, and more importantly the clientele, share that vision.
Visit Pintxos Pour House at 5312 Robinhood Village Drive (W-S) or at pintxospourhouse.com. The online menu is not up to date.
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