Haven’t done a local food musing in a while. Yes, we still eat out but there hasn’t been much to write about regarding the food scene in RVA from our point of view (I missed all the hype when Balliceaux opened.)
If the “Hungry” Hubby and I would like to go out for a date night, our choice would be Can Can, Sensi or Cafe Rustica – it’s hard to be adventurous and go to a new place when you want sure-fire value for your dollar. Acacia has fallen out of favor when they moved to their new location – we’ve been there once but our soft-shell crab had been lackluster, however, we’re willing to go back, just haven’t gone around to it yet.
Now Richmond Magazine has released their 25 best Restaurants. Most of them have already proven their worth in my book like Can Can, Sensi, Cafe Rustica, Umi (forget about the sushi, I love their sashimi) and Full Kee (I’m Chinese and this is the closest I can get to my grandma’s cooking).
There were several on the list that I have not tried yet, and with one week to go before I leave for the Philippines, I wanted to knock down at least two from the list. So we finally went to Balliceaux – an underwhelming experience despite our initial excitement upon seeing the bourride on their menu. Since the restaurant received much praise both online and in print, I’ll reserve judgement until I could pay them another visit as it does show some promise.
I had high hopes for Bouchon bistro whose food is touted as “decidedly French” in the Richmag article. And guess what, it did not disappoint!
HH’s appetizer of seared foie gras was expertly cooked, having that melting center which the cranberry compote and dried orange peel complemented by cutting its richness with the tart and bitter. My own plate of country paté was a revelation – I made this at the CIA bootcamp, so I respect the effort taken to turn out such an interesting texture and flavor. Partnered with the adorable cornichons and mustard, I also enjoyed the extras like the olive tapenade, olives and pickled onions.
The knockout dish of the evening was HH’s red wine marinated beef stew. Do not miss this if it is on the menu.The beef is succulent and fall apart tender. This even initiated a conversation at what temperature should meat cook so the tendons and ligaments dissolve so as not to squeeze the moisture out from the meat – I said 300F from a Cook’s Illustrated test. Anyway, back to the dish, the sauce was definitely rich with the flavor of the wine, rosemary and walnut so well blended I wonder how long it took to cook this. I ordered the roast chicken breast, I know so tame and so unlike me but I was curious about the tarragon and pink peppercorn sauce and ever since my trip to Paris, I’ve seen this so much on restaurants’ menu over there, I wanted to compare. I enjoyed my dish, but HH’s definitely eclipsed mine.
Now the beef stew, as a whole, was not perfect in every way. The truffled mac and cheese, besides being so out of place in the center of the dish, did not taste of truffle at all. I am a firm believer that truffle flavor and aroma should punch you in the face and if you have to search your palate to find that taste, then it is best to leave truffle out.
Dessert was uneven, I’d hate to give it a fail. HH’s chocolate marquise was quite enjoyable, better than most desserts in other RVA restaurants and my elderflower creme brulee had a good overall taste but it was the texture I had an issue with. It was grainy and bordering on eggy. However, I overheard a diner in the table behind us declare (okay, gush) to the hostess “ Your creme brulee is out of this world.”
I looked at HH and said, “If the price of the creme brulee is over $7.00 then I have an issue with it, otherwise …” I shrugged.
When we got our check, the price of my custard dessert WAS $7.00.
I am very pleased to have this little French Bistro make a splash on the Richmond food scene. The dinner was a bit pricey. Our bill for 2 appetizers, 2 glasses of wine, 2 dinners, 2 desserts, coffee and espresso was $137.00. This wouldn’t be a spur of the moment place to go to. They also have a prix-fixe menu on Tuesday nights for $50/pp that includes a bottle of wine. I would have loved to have gone this Thursday to their "all about birds" night featuring quail, squab and pigeon, but oh well maybe next time because we’re definitely going back.
Oh, and check out RVAfoodie’ s opinion on the 25 best restaurants. He makes a good point, besides it’s a compelling read (whine?)