Monday, April 28, 2008

Bacchus: Seafood Supper and Six Pounds of Satan

I don't usually revisit restaurants to amend my "reviews," but tonight was an exception. I've done it before with Cajun Bangkok, but I didn't think my Bacchus brunch experience needed updating (even after the 2nd visit). As a weekend treat, I made reservations at Bacchus for dinner, telling Karen, "let's order whatever we want and just enjoy the experience."

For the past three years, I've avoided dining at Bacchus because it seems too popular despite its high prices. Brandon at Style was puzzled by the place's success as well, and she's probably not as apt to make superficial judgments of clustering bourgeois bunches of bistro diners. But, the throngs turned me off, because I assumed that they were seeking status and lacked discriminating palates. On this night, I planned to shelve my predispositions and accompany my wife and child for a meal, regardless of the quality or value of the meal.

After a slew of preventative measures, we successfully pacified our three-week old Jasper and started pushing him down Meadow Street for our 6:30pm reservation. We passed a few cop cars pulled over with flashing lights and crossed busy streets with some trepidation. Once inside, we were seated by the window at a booth bathed in sunlight. The helpful server stowed our stroller with ease and we put Jasper's carseat up against the window with the hood up, so he could enjoy the relative darkness.

The meal started with a bang: Karen's first G&T in ten months and a rusty nail for me. She was loopy after two sips. We ordered the house-cured salmon gravlax to start and proceeded into an animated discussion of our past stresses that once caused us to seek out these very same beverages back in the pre-preganancy days. The drinks were strong, satisfying, and cathartic, and Jasper didn't stir once. A toast: To new stresses.

Somewhere in the middle of our emancipation celebration we were served a beautiful plate of salmon slivers, swimming in olive oil and herbs. It was terrific, if a bit salty. A pretty good $6 plate for nibbling along side our biscuits and olive oil. (this reminds me that I asked for butter with my rolls at my last brunch visit with Bookstore Piet. He mentioned this detail in his entry, but he didn't mention that olive oil is present on the table, typical of any Italian place. So, I don't mean to correct Piet's critique, because these seemingly home-baked rolls are crying out for butter - not olive oil. Add in the circumstance of brunch and you've got an airtight case for butter over olive oil. Anyhow, enough about that. Billy Bread would be an improvement, but then every customer would compare Bacchus to Edo's, and that's some stiff competition.)

The Edo's comparision continues because we ordered items that were similar to dishes we've had there. Also, the menu featured many of the same Mediterranean items found on the brunch menu, with a heavy focus on seafood. For entrees, Karen and I got the skate wing with Virginia morrells and cream sauce, as well as the rigatoni with stir-fried calamari and of course. At Edo's we always get the calamari and we've recently tried skate wing for the first time there as well.

Karen's skate wing was beautiful to look at, laid on top of a pile of flavorful mashed potatoes and perfect tender-crisp veggies. All around was a shallow moat of cream sauce made deep tan with several dark and sinister looking super-contoured morrell mushrooms. We both loved this dish. It was pricey at $24, but we ate up every bite and mopped up every drop of sauce. Where Edo's skate wing was oversalted, this one was right on, only slightly mushy in a few spots. We were both surprised at ourselves for discovering this new fish (new for us). We were first exposed to skate during a fantastic episode of Jamie Oliver's reality food show "Jamie's Kitchen" (one of my fave reality cooking shows) and now two successful face-to-face encounters. Please, no one tell me that the skate is a being that should inspire my empathy and not my appetite.

We wound up with the calamari pasta because we'd already chosen one creamy dish and everything else we wanted was creamy as well (and I have this OCD insistence on a variety of flavors and styles of dishes whenever). The dish was an enormous steaming pile of noodles, curlicue squid parts, and an inch deep pool of buttery sauce. The sea-creatures were tender and not rubbery. There were loads of purple tentacles on the plate, which would delight of my fellow foodies. The pasta was appropriately cooked and the sauce was light but briny. Nonetheless, it didn't really hold my attention. Karen skipped the solid ingredients and used a spoon to drain the sauce pool.

By the end, we both fessed up that we're not really squid people. Calamari is fun for us if there's a light and crunchy batter and even then, we'll focus on the sauce (marinera at Edo's, tangy Asian broth at Mom Siam, and Thai chili garlic at Cajun Bangkok). We wound up taking more than half of it home. At $16, it was kinda high for a bowl of noodles and squid, but on par with the range on the menu.

By this point, a group of dark gray clouds were gathering overhead, worrying Karen half to death (she'd only had one drink to my two). Jasper still slept soundly and I was 100% certain that we'd him the eight blocks home before the downpour began. The server, a total sweetheart, offered to drive us home. I paid the tab and we ducked out. Pleasant surprise: The drinks were under $7 each and they were strong. It all added up to an above average expenditure for us, but we found a dish we loved, singled out one that we don't need to try again, and I may have discovered my new walking distance watering hole of choice. By the way, a lot of people have told me in the past, that the prices at Bacchus can be moderated by ordering half-portions of pasta. I'd seen those on the menu in the window, but they weren't on there now. Hmmmm...

On the way back, we passed more cops pulling people over. We narrowly avoided the rain, but Jasper did start to wake up from the bumpy ride. Once inside, he started into his newfound shrieks at unholy decibels. Karen was biding her time on nursing him, waiting for the G&T to clear out of her system. As I bounced and shushed him, I got an idea to try a new calming experiment, even though Jasper was summoning demons from the depths with his ear-shattering siren sounds. I broke out a brand new pacifier and dropped it into the gapping hole in Jasper's beet red face. Wow, did that stun him. The audacity of a mere mortal to disturb baby Jasper's transformation from human larve into six pounds of satan. I can still feel the wrath coming out of those eyes as my ears recovered from the shock of his guttural screams. This was Jasper's first experience with a pacifier and it worked (for about 15 seconds).


  1. The meal sounds interesting. I had skate wing a while ago (when I ate sea creatures) and it was over cooked making it more like skate wing jerky. booo!
    How does Bacchus fare on the vegetarian selections?

    Nice post!

  2. In my own defense about the butter/olive oil debate, I didn't see the olive oil. But on that same note, they brought out jam for the bread and I can't quite see mixing jam and olive oil...

    I am glad the dinner was good. That skate sounds excellent.

  3. JW: There are lots of yummy veggie options on the starter and salad menus at Bacchus, but I saw zero among their entrees. Of course, there's the pastas, but I'm not sure the noodles will be the best value at Bacchus. Either cobble together a tapas-like array, or do the brunch considering that Bacchus' strength is seafood. Glad to have your two cents here! Keep commenting.

    BP: What, you don't like the jam and olive oil combo? I'd hate to go to judges' table after that faux pas.

    All: Sorry this post is so sloppy. Kinda on the run. Watch Jamie's Kitchen to witness the birth of "Fifteen" and you'll thank me. Idealistic cooking with a social mission and a healthy dose of reality.

  4. Ambivalent Richmonder12:38 AM

    I read an article a few years ago on how eating skate was GOOD for the environment as they've been taking over the Chesapeake Bay (since so few of us eat them). In fact, I think VA was paying to send chefs to Asia to promote skate as a food in order to create some markets and thin the skate population.

    I think. But I could be wrong and I'm too lazy to google it.


This site has moved to
Please comment there instead.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.