Restaurant Week 2010

It’s Restaurant Week in Richmond, VA!  For those of you who have never experienced a Restaurant Week here’s how it works.  Participating restaurants around town offer 3 course meals for $25.10.  For each meal purchased $2.10 goes to the Central Virginia Food Bank and to help support the Meals on Wheels program.  It’s a terrific opportunity to try some places you’ve never been.  It’s also a great opportunity to go to places you love and order something other than your old standby.  No matter which restaurants you choose you’ll be supporting a local small business.

This is not a week to be dieting.  You absolutely can make healthy choices, but since it’s a three course dinner you’re looking at an appetizer/soup/salad course, entree course and a dessert.  Most of the restaurants scale back their portions.  I’m grateful for that until I taste something that I really, really like.

It looks like I’ll be heading out three nights this week.  This year I’m going to places I’ve been, but two of them I haven’t visited since Restaurant Week last year.  I’ve been reviewing the menus so I’ll know what I’m going to order well in advance.  If you’re headed out to Julep’s, La Grotta or Zeus Gallery Cafe I might see you there.  Or perhaps you’d prefer one or two of the other 25+ participating restaurants.  Check the whole list, including menus here.

If you haven’t made your reservations yet, get on it!  This is an opportunity to eat well and do good.  Can’t beat that.

Monday:

Thumbs up from the whole table.  The food was good and the portions were the right size.  I had the soup, the bacon-wrapped filet and the chocolate raspberry tart.  The soup was supposed to be crab bisque, but they ran out so I had butternut squash, fig and ginger soup.  The flavors were very good, but it would have benefited from either a dollop of sour cream or some crumbled bacon.  It was a touch on the sweet side.  Still, very good.  The filet was perfectly done to the rare I ordered and the accompanying sauce was a terrific combination of heat and sugar.  The chocolate was dense and rich.  I appreciated that the raspberry part of the tart was a raspberry compote spooned onto the top of the chocolate and not a syrup on the plate or worse, actually baked into the chocolate.  Some other things I tried from the plates of friends:  fried green tomato beignets and macaroni and cheese with butternut squash, spinach, Gruyere and truffle oil.  The tomatoes were fantastic.  Very thick cut and yummy.  The macaroni was much loved by the person who ordered it, slightly less so by me.  I thought the cheese sauce wasn’t salty enough to balance the sweet butternut squash.  I will say that the addition of the squash and spinach did prevent the dish from feeling too heavy.  The only thing the table didn’t tried was the salmon so if you head to Julep’s this week let me know how it was!

Wednesday:

 The biggest complaint tonight is that there was too much food!  La Grotta is one of the few places that doesn’t adjust their portions for Restaurant Week.  It was also pretty weird that they were out of the Chardonnay by the glass and the Chianti by the glass.  Really?  Who runs out of by the glass wine standards in the middle of the week?  But the food was really good.  I had the carpaccio; the sole with tomatoes, pine nuts and basil; and the tiramisu.  There aren’t many places in Richmond to get beef carpaccio so I always order it at La Grotta.  It comes with fontina, capers and lemon.  Just perfect.  The fish was light and lovely – and huge.  I ate slightly more than half.  The tiramisu is the best in town and I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Tonight I also tried the yellow squash and prosciutto soup.  I’m not normally a fan of squash soup unless it’s a winter squash, but this was excellent.  The prosciutto was pureed into the squash instead of a garnish.  That gave the soup a lovely saltiness.  I tasted the beef tenderloin ravioli.  Good, but heavy, as you might expect.  Then came the coconut cake.  Now that was something.  I love a good coconut cake.  Sadly it can be difficult to find a good coconut cake outside of a Southern potluck dinner.  This was a good coconut cake.  Moist, but not dense.  Sweet, but not sugary.  Yum.  Two down, one to go.  Hope you’re enjoying the week as well!

Thursday:

My last night out for Restaurant Week 2010 was spent at Zeus Gallery Cafe.  It’s just a lovely little place.  The menu had a fair amount of variety.  Among the six of us we tried all three starters (sweet potato soup, arugula salad with pears and blue cheese, risotto with duck confit); three of the entrees (shrimp and grits, rockfish, beef tenderloin meatloaf); and all three desserts (key lime pie, Belgian chocolate pate, tiramisu).  We only missed the duck ragout from the menu this year.  I enjoyed the risotto, but it was a tiny bit soupier than I like.  The meatloaf was wonderful.  It’s the reason I went.  It’s the only meatloaf I’ve had that rivals my own.  The tiramisu was completely different than last night’s and still very good.  Zeus serves their tiramisu in a martini glass to everything mixes together in a really lovely way.  The chocolate pate was good, as rich as it sounds.  The key lime lacked the tartness most of us were looking for, but it was very creamy and the crust was very nice.

All in all a successful Restaurant Week.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

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