Monday, March 10, 2014

Pure Flavor: Taste of India

We absolutely love Indian food. We love tons of heaping spoonfuls of spicy and flavorful sauces over rice and on top of wonderful naan bread. It is absolutely wonderful and I can serious gorge myself on Indian food as often as possible.

We were craving some Indian food but didn't want to travel out to some of our favorite Indian restaurants. Currently, our absolute favorite place to indulge is Anokha in the West End, but it serious feels like such an ordeal to do the trek out there. Yes, I know Richmond isn't that large and such a statement is wildly dramatic, but that's how we feel about it most of the time.

We decided to stay over in our side of town and go to Taste of India on Midlothian Turnpike. We have eaten at Taste of India several times, both at regular dinner and at the buffet. We generally much prefer buffets so we can really go to town on all types of Indian food. Taste of India has their buffets on Wednesday evenings and on the weekends.

It's Business Time

Taste of India is decorated nicely, better than many Indian restaurants. The bar is quite striking as well in terms of a suburban eatery. You are always greeted very warmly by staff. A nice bonus is you get pay at your table via their mini-iPad payment system. 

We ordered our two favorite dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala and Palak Paneer. Both were good, although the day we ordered off the menu the Tikka Masala was missing some umph. When we returned another night for the buffet, it was much tastier. 

If you are in need of Indian food on the Southside, I highly recommend Taste of India, even more so if you can hit up the buffet. 

Taste of India on Urbanspoon

A Fun Find: The Continental

The Continental is a fun place to go with a fairly diverse menu. It is located in Westhampton in the Near West End. When you go you find an energetic crowd of University of Richmond 20 somethings and older nearby residents. The bar itself is pretty fun--it has a nice retro vibe to it with 70's beer advertisements, globes, and disco balls. It is one of the places you can buy and drink your grandpa's Schlitz. This is great if you're too much of a hipster to drink PBR anymore but still need an ironic beer to drink.

The rest of the atmosphere is great if you are coming here with a partner or a group of friends. This is not a romantic spot, but more of a place to dig into a giant plate of brisket nachos and speak loudly over the din of other diners and the music (The Smiths was playing when I was there last). Even though they added some noise dampening materials to the ceiling this is still a loud place so if you are with someone who is hard of hearing, take this into consideration. 

Most recently we attended brunch and had a great time. I ordered the Pancho Villa Burrito and it was fantastic--eggs, black beans, cheese, pork belly, and chorizo all wrapped in a tortilla (I asked for the addition of chorizo). It was complimented well with my requested substitution for their yummy sweet potato fries rather than their breakfast home fries. 

I Usually Conquer Every Burrito But This One Proved Too Plentiful 

The Hubs got the Continental Benedict and absolutely raved about it. They had homemade brisket that was buttery and soft atop an unusual muffin-roll hybrid thing with hollandaise sauce poured on top. Of course an egg was perched on each as well. It was served with asparagus and home fries. He absolutely raved about it and said it was one of the best breakfasts he had in a very long time. 

The Hubs Nearly Wept From The Goodness

For dinner I like to get their spinach pie and I love a place you can get corndogs. I haven't ordered their  salads but they look wonderful. I've been very happy with everything there and there is likely something for everyone. One word of warning though. My friend once ordered the spaghetti and it was Greek style spaghetti. Unfortunately they had too much cinnamon or clove, which made the test very unsettling. I would recommend getting spaghetti elsewhere and eating one of their other wonderful dishes. 

Try out The Continental Westhampton--it's fun in both vibe and food. Oh, and by the way, don't get it mixed up with Phil's Continental Lounge, which is located a few doors down. 

Continental Westhampton on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Elegant Belgian Dining in Downtown: Max's on Broad

I had heard good things about Max's on Broad from some friends who had recently visited, so we decided to check it out after we attended the Home & Garden Show at the Richmond Convention Center (this show, by the way, sucked). The restaurant, which is affiliated with nearby Tarrant's Cafe, is located at the corner of Brook Road and Broad Street right downtown and adjacent to Jackson Ward. Luckily Max's has valet service, so if you feel uncomfortable parking your car far away and walking, especially at night, you have this safe and convenient option.

It has been a while since I have entered a restaurant and said "wow". The inside is a fine balance between funky (paneled walls, a vine twisting up the wall, exposed ceiling lumber, and exposed brick) and elegant (silver bar, framed art work). 

The downstairs has several tables in a wood paneled area, but the main attraction on the first floor is the bar. It was lively for a Saturday afternoon and the bar itself was beautiful with a metal counter. There were hooks for purses (yeah) and the seats were comfortable. French music played over the air and black clad waitstaff/bartenders scurried about completing orders and stocking the restaurant with provisions taken up from the basement stairs at the bar. Our bartender was gracious and other waitstaff were accommodating as we asked random questions about what type of drink they were carrying or whether they like their FitBit (my husband is very inquisitive). 

Our bartender was appropriately attentive but did not have a full understanding of the beer options. However, I had to give him some slack since the beer list is very extensive and the place is fairly new. There are several taps and even more options available in standard and large bottles. The beer list is unfortunately dominated by Belgian Beers--I personally prefer German and English beers as Belgians tend to present as too sour. However, I settled on the Belgian Brown Ale "Woodbooger" by Richmond's very own Strangeway's Brewery. I was very pleasantly surprised--it had only the faintest hint of the Belgian sourness that normally turns me off, but more importantly it had strong malt and caramel notes with a clean finish. I look forward to visiting the brewery in the future and blogging about it. 

Since we were going to attend a party in a few hours, we decided to share an appetizer. The one we chose was absolutely wonderful: grilled calamari over arugula and white beans. There were lots of calamari and they were grilled, seasoned, and cooked to perfection. They were not rubbery or overly chewy, and it was a nice departure from the standard breaded and deep-friend option. The beans, salad, and dressing tied it all together into a splendid dish. I would definitely order again either to share or as a main meal. A couple next to us ordered a salad, and it appeared quite large. The menu itself was fairly extensive with appetizers, salads, seafood section, entree, sandwich, and dessert options. The prices of the entrees were a little steep, but if the calamari dish is any indication of their cooking we will return for dinner and splurge. 

After our snack we briefly explored the upstairs. The stairs up to second floor were beautiful with interesting art and a real vine growing (well, tied) up the wall. The upstairs eating area looked very romantic and the large expansive walls made good viewing of Broad Street. 

We will definitely return to Max's on Broad for dinner and/or brunch. The food and service were fantastic, the ambiance was great, and the drink list was extensive, It reminded me of a younger, hipper version of Can Can in Carytown. 

Max's on Broad on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Poor Service, Good Filet: Firebird's

We are trying to live a lower carb lifestyle so we decided to hit a steakhouse for dinner Friday night. We wanted a little nicer experience and vibe than the average Texas Roadhouse or Outback Steakhouse, but didn't want to break the bank at Hondo's or Morton's. So we settled on Firebird's as a mid-range establishment. We went to the one on the South side.

Nice Outdoor Patio with Fire-pit

The bar at Firebird's is very impressive with their Wall-o-Booze. The beer selection, however, is pretty sad with the standard chain restaurant choices of Bud Light and Coors Light. The wine selection is pretty extensive, and their house Red Blend is very tasty but will cost you about $11 for an 8 oz pour. The lighting was dark and romantic and the decor comfortable but not quirky.  The music did not fit with the ambiance and it was played way too loud for dinner conversation. The place was packed and it took about 10 minutes to be seated, which isn't a big deal on a Friday night.


So when you drop about $30 on a steak, you expect to be paying for an experience. Unfortunately our server didn't get the memo. He greeted us and asked for our drink order. We told him we were going to order a glass of wine but wanted water first. He eventually returned with the water but before we could give our drink order he fled. We sat there for about 15 minutes before he returned to even ask for our wine order.  All night long the service was spotty and slow and definitely did not live up to the expectation of what we should have at a restaurant at that price point. 

Bacon Wrapped Loveliness with a Side of Blood

I ordered the bacon-wrapped filet and asked for a Caesar salad as a substitute for the potato it came with--that was a $1 upgrade which doesn't make much sense but I went with it. My husband ordered the Sirloin. Our salads came out before our steaks, although we thought when we substituted it for the potato that it would come out with our entree. The filet cost $25 and was very buttery and tender cooked to medium; it was wonderful. My husband's sirloin at $20 was fairly tough and chewy. It was definitely worth spending the $5 extra to have a piece of meat that you didn't get a jaw cramp from eating. 

Hunk of Meat on a Plate

With a different server this would have been a much better experience. And take it from me, upgrade on the cut of meat as it is a huge difference. All-in-all the location and the steaks were fine, but the presentation of the meals and the service were lacking.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Unique and Delicious Meals on the Hill: Dutch & Company

Dutch & Company is nestled in a wonderful block in Church Hill. Church Hill is by far my favorite neighborhood in Richmond--it has the best view of the James River and the city; is full of eccentric individuals; the homes are absolutely beautiful; the brick sidewalks are charming; and the gas lamps are magical. There are some down sides to Church Hill, mostly some robberies that occur, but if you can look past that and embrace the wonderful community, it is hard to beat. 

There are many pockets that are absolutely lovely within a few block's radius; however, just beyond those areas, maybe just a few 100 yards away, there can be some serious sketchiness. The block of E. Marshall St. and N. 27th Street is on the edge of the "okay" part of Church Hill. The people I know who live on that block are some of the most charming, beautiful, and wonderful people I know (shout-out to Kristen, Mike, Kelly, Jim, and Eric). My friends have a lot of pride in their little part of Church Hill and it shows in how they support their "Dutch".

Dutch & Company is located at the corner of E. Marshall and N. 27th St. On the 27th St. side there is a long expanse of windows, with the busy galley kitchen visible for passersbys  Inside, the decor is perfect Richmond--dark bluish-grey walls, antique mirrors and frames holding drawings, and industrial lighting with Edison Bulbs. The bar is small yet unique with reclaimed wood, the cork floors cushion your steps, and the daily food and drink specials are written large on a giant chalkboard wall. You instantly feel cozy.

My friends frequent the restaurant, well, quite frequently. They enter into the place and the servers, bartenders, and owners know them by name and often have their favorite cocktail of choice ready within seconds of them crossing threshold. This is the kind of true neighborhood place that really sees itself as a fellow neighbor rather than a face-less business. Heck, one of them once brought a little dessert to Mike as he saw him toil in the front yard!

Dutch & Company recently won the 2014 Elby's Award for "Best Beverage Program" and you can see why once you get there. They have an innovative cocktail list that is small yet very focused. The chalkboard sign also has at least two special cocktails you can order, in addition to anything else your mind can conjure. When I was there most recently, there was a cocktail that involved burning some type of garnish--the embers jumped from the leaves and the room smelled like incense. Very nifty. 

Many of the dishes are fairly unique with unusual ingredient combinations. Their current menu can be found here. Dutch has one of the better deals around--their $28 prix-fixe menu. For that price you get any appetizer, any entree, and any dessert. When you look at it, for only a couple of more bucks than you would pay for an entree alone, you get a lot of bang for your buck. The only draw-back is that if you choose the prix-fixe menu, everyone at your table most utilize that option. 

When it comes to appetizers my friends are huge fans of the Cheese plate. Dutch rotates out several artisan cheese combinations a year. This week my friends had the cheese plate and absolutely loved it. I don't personally care for bleu cheeses so I abstained. 

 The rolled up things were figs turned into Fruit Roll-Ups and filled with cheese

I ordered the steak. It came perfectly cooked, well seasoned and tender. It was seriously one of the best steaks I have had in a while. It was served with spinach and sweet potatoes. The flavors went together perfectly and it was a very enjoyable meal. 

Although a decent portion, it was so good I could have eaten two

Since I am trying to lose weight I didn't partake of any of the apps or the desserts this time around. I appreciate how stupid this is for someone who is just starting up a food and drink blog. Kristen ordered a duck breast and she said it was fabulous. 


In addition to their wonderful dinner menu, it is my understanding that they have other events going on like wine events and random Saturday morning/afternoon events.

I highly recommend Dutch & Company and hope that you will check it out. 

Dutch & Company on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mixed-Vote Italian in Huguenot: La Cucina

I could eat Italian food almost every night. As I mentioned in an earlier post, comfort for me comes in the form of a giant plate of pasta. Craving another Italian food experience, this time in Southwest Richmond (Huguenot area), we returned to La Cucina. We ate there one time before and I cannot really recall what I ate--that is never a good sign. However, my husband remembers enjoying his dish so we decided to give it another go.

La Cucina is located in a strip mall and not in a funky enclave of a thriving neighborhood. But lots of good restaurants have been tucked away in these suburban outposts. This particular restaurant is conveniently located next to a Weight Watchers so you can eat there and then share with all the other dieters how many points you consumed. 

Oh, this eggplant parm is only 142 Points!

So the decor is 'Ross Dress-for Less Generic'--lots of metal motifs nailed to the wall that you would see at your local Marshall's or Holiday Inn that hasn't been renovated yet. There is no one here under 30 unless they are serving or a child dragged here by a parent. So if you like to hang out with older white people, this is the place for you. 

Wednesday Just Got Wild

The menu has lots of choices and good mix of traditional fare (spaghetti with meatballs, lasagna, eggplant parm) and nice specials such as lobster ravioli. The by-the-glass wine selection is fairly limited but that is to be expected in a small establishment such as this. Our server was appropriately attentive.

I was craving spaghetti--I know it is not the most exciting dish so I guess I should write this with the caveat that if I had tried a more traditionally flavorful dish I might have had a better experience. The spaghetti and meatballs was not very good. Not bad, but not good either. The marinara was basic and lacked any depth of seasoning. I have made better sauces at home with Rao's pasta sauce. The dish came with 3-4 meatballs about the size of a giant gum ball. These were not anything special either. Altogether a fairly mediocre dish.

Sad spaghetti but the parsley makes it festive

My husband ordered the Mimosa pasta dish which is cream sauce, prosciuitto, and peas. He said it was a very good cream sauce, but thought it would greatly benefit from the addition of gorgonzola. Alan really likes La Cucina and enjoyed his meal last time and this time. He proclaimed this the best Italian food on the South side, although he qualified his statement by saying, "That's not saying much."

Mimosa Pasta

When Alan finished all of his pasta our the server engaged in one of my pet peeves: commenting on how much we ate. I absolutely loathe it when a server says, "Wow, I guess you didn't like that, right?" in a jovial sarcastic tone as they gather our empty plates. Or my other hated saying, "I guess you really liked it, there is nothing left!" Yes, bitch, we ate the food. That's why we came to a restaurant because we are hungry. 

Although I was far from satisfied with this meal, I'm sure we will return since it has become one of my husband's acceptable places to eat Italian in this area. I am willing to try another dish as well as their pizza. If it is a better experience I will update this post. 

La Cucina on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recipe: Lazy, Puerto Rican Style Arroz con Pollo

My father is half Puerto-Rican and half Greek. The Greek side is actually Sephardic Jew. So, between all that I have been gifted with frizzy hair and an ample tush. Unfortunately both grandparents passed away long before I was born so I never learned any of their recipes.

My father cooks a really good Puerto-Rican style Arroz con Pollo (ACP as we call it), but it involves dark meat, carefully tending a pot, and using lots of oil. That is the correct way to cook this dish according to Dad. But my way of cooking is more easy than "right" but the result is still tasty.

Lazy, Puerto Rican Style Arroz con Pollo (The comma is essential to denote that this is a lazy recipe and I'm not calling Puerto Ricans lazy)

Olive oil
Bag of frozen precooked diced chicken breasts
Bag of frozen onions, red peppers, and green peppers
2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 jar of Sofrito (it is a Goya product and you can find it in the "Hispanic" food section of grocery stores)
Diced garlic out of a jar
1  14 oz can of diced tomatoes with tomato juice
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 jar pitted Spanish Olives and pimentos
1 tiny jar of pimentos
1/2 jar of capers

1. Again, this is a lazy version. Pour about 1 Tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a rice cooker.
2. Throw in bag of frozen chicken breast
3. Spoon in Sofrito. Once empty, fill half way with water, close up, and shake. Pour this into the rice cooker to add some fluid and clean out all the sofrito into your dish.
4. Pour/spoon in half the jar of the jar of Spanish olives with pimentos. Make sure you pour in the juice.
5. Spoon in the capers. Do not pour in the fluid.
6. Throw in everything else.
7. Set rice cooker

And that's it! See, I said it was lazy. It has a lot of flavor from the olives.

Downsides to this method: you don't get the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot which is really good.

So, if you're craving some ACP but need a quick and easy alternative give it a try!

The Final Product. I forgot to take a picture while it was pretty on a plate. Instead, here is a picture of it cold in a pot we used to store it in the fridge.