click to enlarge Chef Kevin LaCivita opened the second version of his Pomegranate restaurant in Carytown last week to strong response. Here he’s in the kitchen with Jonathan Wheelock at left.

Ash Daniel

Chef Kevin LaCivita opened the second version of his Pomegranate restaurant in Carytown last week to strong response. Here he’s in the kitchen with Jonathan Wheelock at left.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Pomegranate Preview, Empire's Revamp, Acacia Anniversary + More

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Repeat Performance

Chef Kevin LaCivita pulled in his chef brother, Liam, to open the new Carytown restaurant Pomegranate, which debuted Feb. 4 following a redesign of the former Moshi Moshi. Liam LaCivita is known among Northern Virginia diners for his restaurants with the Liberty Tavern group, but he's now a free agent who's considering a new spot in Fredericksburg.

But this is Kevin's space, with his Euro-inflected trademarks — a chef's table, simple furnishings and upscale ingredients, but a more casual approach to fine dining. Pomegranate has a patio, fireplace and tableside service for nightly ice cream selections. Traditional kitchen techniques enhance the meaty menu — rack of lamb, pork Bolognese, pork cheeks over spaetzle, pork sausage on polenta, Arctic char, mushroom ragout, rabbit pâté, foie gras and other classics.

Entrees cost $17-$27, and wines are a mix of domestic, European and Virginia vintages. LaCivita says the menu will evolve as he sorts out what works in the new setting. His former Pomegranate in Shockoe Slip was a critical and popular success.

Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m., and the bar stays open until midnight on weekends. 3321 W. Cary St., 447-4365. pomegranaterva.com.

New Empire: During the last six months, longtime Richmond restaurant worker Thor LeVesque has been transforming the Empire at 727 W. Broad St. into a cleaner, more professional version of itself while retaining the historic character and blue-collar appeal. LeVesque worked the kitchens at Fleming's, Havana '59, Buckhead's and other fine-dining spots, and bought the Empire business in July. It was where he saw his first show as a teenager, and his memories and appreciation for the space propelled him to "return it to its former luster."

With new vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, fresh paint and flooring, new kitchen equipment and other features, "people don't recognize it," LeVesque says of the interior. He's equally proud of the food and prices. "We're doing a steak sandwich I'd put up against anybody's," he says, with burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, a meatless sloppy joe and other items all cheaper than $12 and geared to faculty, students and nearby workers.

Empire is open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, will deliver food and offer ABC off-premises. Plans call for a return to the upstairs venue for music and performances. 562-4171.

Men named sous: Acacia celebrates its 15th anniversary with a reunion dinner that features its long line of distinguished sous chefs. The Feb. 23 event brings back T.J. Enderele (now with Sharper Palate), Bill Foster (SausageCraft), Kevin Roberts (Black Sheep), Lee Gregory (the Roosevelt), Phillip Perrow (Dutch & Co.), Andy Hannas (Potters Craft Cider), and Paul Winston and Christopher Collins of Acacia. Tickets are $95, plus beverages, tax and tip, and include a champagne reception and appetizers at 6 p.m., and a five-course dinner at 7. Acacia is at 2601 W. Main St., 562-0138. acaciarestaurant.com.

Rocketts red glare: Chef Michael Hall closed his business, M Bistro, in Rocketts Landing on Feb. 1 after a three-year run. While there's no word on Hall's plans, another project is about to be announced in the riverfront neighborhood east of downtown.

Round two: In a city where doughnut news is never stale, here's a reminder that Dixie Donuts has added to its repertoire and now makes cake and raised doughnuts, fritters, long johns and other specialties, and has added a second location at 10260 W. Broad St.

Both locations, including the Carytown original at 2901 W. Cary St., operate weekdays from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., and on weekends 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Theme doughnuts include Valentine's versions, as well as creative takes on recent exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts such as Dale Chihuly and Hollywood costumes. 359-1119.

Tasting and tapas: Patina in Short Pump joins Enate Winery in presenting an evening of small plates and sipping Feb. 20. Chef Kyle Cox will pair tapas with five wines, and a separate three-course wine dinner follows. Details at patinarva.com. 3416 Lauderdale Drive, 360-8500.

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