A Lot of Little 

Food gets an extra flourish at the Empress.

click to enlarge food33_empress_300.jpg

Let's talk details — those itty bitty minutiae that add up creating a whole, the teensy weensy pixels comprising a big picture. The addition of pillows to a refurbished church pew provides that bit of back relief much needed after a tough day. Bone china, dainty in decoration yet sturdy, adds class to a burgeoning area of Broad Street. Perhaps the difference is amenities provided in the restroom that aren't your usual rough paper towel and clinical-smelling soap. One of these details alone would be considered a bonus, but when each component is strung together, it's a ground score.

The Empress isn't a looker. White tile flooring curiously devoid of rugs, combined with brick walls and black tables, produces a clean environment. Cafe accoutrements grace the front entrance for those on the run, people who want to pick up a hot coffee and the epic sharable portions of a savory scone or sweet. But you aren't there to look at the walls or scrutinize floor coverings. Warmth and welcome emanate from the owners and translate directly into their food; simplicity in dAccor fades, well, into the background.

Dinner service is intricate yet inexpensive. Recent nighttime meals of succulent and sweet duck medallions ($12) and grilled lamb chops ($12) are served with fiery sesame Brussels sprouts and a pancakelike horseradish polenta. An exceptional beef carpaccio is eye-popping affordable ($10) and splendid in its cracked pepper, black sea-salt dusting and partner of fine baby greens. Dinner is finely tuned with an amuse bouche of hummus and arugula, a plate painted with house-made sriracha hot sauce, or perhaps a surprise small taste of dessert wine to pair with a miniature dessert.

You would be remiss not to stop in for lunch or brunch (served till an admirable 5 p.m.). For the hour you have to yourself weekly, try the occasionally served special grilled cheese. Settle in for a relaxing moment with a light, crunchy house-made sourdough and fontina cheese masterpiece. If your palate leans toward something meatier, order one of the chicken panini ($8). Delicately sliced white-meat chicken and mozzarella make a happy couple when served on the same addicting sourdough.

On Saturday or Sunday, take advantage of an entirely different side of the Empress, when an easy-like-Sunday-morning vibe takes over. A breakfast crepe ($7) filled with asparagus, bacon, eggs, cheese and roasted red pepper matches a little sweet with a smidge salty. Green eggs and lamb, a whimsical combination of derby sage scrambled eggs and gamey lamb, are an innovative take on your average steak and egg ($12). You may miss a side dish (potatoes, maybe?), but the longing subsides as you wash down these brunch options with freshly macerated blueberry lemonade.

Dessert is a must-have, so save room or locate an extra stomach. Technically dead-on, the crA"me brA¯lAce ($4) is a favorite, the flavor changing daily. Salted caramel apple and Mexican dark chocolate have been recent options, both inducing swoons.

Expect the royal treatment at a place aptly named on all occasions, small things considered. 

The Empress
2043 W. Broad St.
Monday-Wednesday: 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Thursday-Friday: 6:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Comments (33)

Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

  • Re: Bella's Restaurant Owner Remarks Cause Uproar

    • Wes Bellemy should be removed from office plain and simple. With his terrible past and…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The Old Village Cafe Building Is Up for Sale

    • Great artical, thanks. Lots of character building experiences and lessons on life were dished out…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: Bella's Restaurant Owner Remarks Cause Uproar

    • wow Conscious in America - that is some twisted logic you have there. So because…

    • on October 14, 2016
  • More »
  • More by Robey Martin

    • 2015 State of the Plate

      Favorite dishes, unsung heroes and the rise of hospitality in Richmond. Plus, why our Restaurant of the Year is Metzger Bar & Butchery.
      • Mar 10, 2015
    • Single-Minded Focus

      The old Phil's Continental Lounge will transform into Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint in March.
      • Feb 20, 2015
    • Noodles Galore

      Spiral Noodle is slated for opening this spring in the old Yapple spot.
      • Feb 19, 2015
    • More »

    Copyright © 2016 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation