Sunday, October 29, 2006

Redemption at Restaurant Week, pt. 2

For me, last year's Restaurant Week was marked by my mother's blossoming relationship with the City of Richmond. Residents of Fairfax County, my parents had just purchased a museum district house to eventually retire to and my mother was down here frequently as she finalized the rental agreement with her first tenants. During her trips to River City, she ate at several of the participating restaurants. A year later, we were celebrating getting a new set of tenants in the house, seamlessly continuing the previous lease, this time with me acting as amateur property manager.

Although I've been telling my parents for years about the fantastic brunch offered at Millies Diner, neither of us had been for dinner. Karen ate there once several years ago, but not since identifying as a foodie. So, considering that Rowland's was slammed shortly after we arrived at 6pm, we decided to get to Millies at 5:30. And wouldn't you know it, people were lined up outside. Damn. However, just as we walked up, the hostess opened the door, invited everyone in and turned the sign from closed to open. So, we were right on time and got a great booth in the far room, away from the soon to be busy door-way.

As I write this, a bad memory came back to me… one time when Karen and I got brunch at Millies, we were seated in the lone two-top next to the swinging kitchen door, just feet from the bar. Every inch of floor-space behind me (as Karen had the safer seat gainst the wall) was filled with shuffling people waiting for tables. For the duration of my meal, I was bumped by every customer at least once as they ordered bloody mary's, and every server at least three times on their way to and from the kitchen. It was misery. I will never sit in that seat at Millies again. Even the outstanding jazzed up breakfast food hardly cheered me up.

Well, this recent visit bore no relation to the one I just described. We were safely tucked away in a booth and our server was attentive to our needs (even answering my mother's audiophile questions about the music playing) rather than bumping into me. Since I don't have a copy of the menu from our dinner, I'll do my best to recollect it. Karen had a really tasty shrimp bisque that was a little too salty. I had a butternut squash risotto that made that slop at Cabo's seem like a TV dinner. My mom had a fantastic salad that included cheese, nuts and apples, but just a little too much dressing - but otherwise, really yummy.

The entrees really made our day. My mother's scallops and citrus butter were perfect, especially with the figs and jicama. My Thai shrimp and linguine had all sorts of veggies and just the right amount of savory spices and hot peppers to leave a lasting impression. Karen ordered a flat iron steak that she wasn't wild about. It came with nicely cooked, but underseasoned veggies. But the meat wa served on a surprisingly tangy pile of fried-lemon mashed potatoes that none of us could stop tasting and pondering. So, two outta three ain't bad. By this point in the meal, I was saying the same thing about Restaurant Week. TJ's went down in flames, but Millies and Rowland had redeemed Richmonds' eateries for us (not that we were going to give up and only eat in or leave town).

Dessert really sent us home floating. First, the bad news. I got a ginger spice cake that was dried out. Luckily, I had coffee to wash it down and it came with pumpkin gelato. My mother and my wife both ordered a dark chocolate pate with espresso cream. If I haven't said this before, I should just point out two things about me. First of all, I love the combination of coffee and chocolate. It's the perfect erogenous experience that I look forward to come dessert time. Secondly, I can't stand it when everyone in a group orders the same thing. So, betting that I would get to sample either or both of the mocha-flavored plates, I ordered against one instinct and with another. Lesson learned.

The chocolate that was laid out on the two plates looked like a Power Bar, which is probably one of the least appetizing substances approved by the FDA. On top was drizzled some kind of light colored cream in a zig-zag that ran the length of the pate. While I was struggling to get my dry spice cake down the hatch, the ladies in my booth were making moaning sounds and exclamations of religious zeal a la "oh my god." Anxious and jealous, I joined in and agreed 100%. It was like a big ol' Godiva truffle. But it wasn't candy. The stuff had substance and body to it, so you had to work it a bit in your mouth and take your time enjoying the intensity of the dark chocolate and the rush of caffeine and sugar. All agreed, this was a great way to end the meal and Restaurant Week. For our money, we enjoyed the Rowland experience better. But I get the impression that Millies is gonna be right on the money nine times out of ten.

Anywho, how about that Top Chef, huh? Otto got shafted and Marisa shoulda been sent home for her divisive scapegoating behavior and hocky-puck pannacotta. What do you think? Stay tuned for more commentary.


  1. Hi Jason G.! pjpink here. Thanks for your post at River City Food & Wine. We were only able to eat at two of the Restaurant Week places - Amici's and Cafe Lafayette. Amici's had a delightful sausage stuffed quail. Cafe Lafayette had a roasted red bell pepper soup with lump crab meat. I'll add your site to my list of places to check out. I hope you will consider adding my site to your blog. Bon Appetit!

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