With its concentration on the basics, Sunderland's Steak & Seafood is a welcome return to the past. 

Simply Sunderland's

Some of us were just getting used to a grilled tuna steak with a touch of pink, and pasta with strange shapes and names and sauces that hadn't been near a tomato. Others were taking eating even more seriously and fitting exotic grains and legumes into the food triangle and daily nutrition. Then suddenly, to a carnviore's delight, high-protein diets became the rage. For many, it's a jolt from the past.

Sunderland's Steak & Seafood is something of a jolt from the past, too, and fits right in with our new/old high-protein diet, or simply our craving for meat. Occupying quarters once held by the Parkview Cafe in the Innsbrook area, Sunderland's is casually at home as if it has been there for years rather than since last April. A meal at many of the chophouses of recent years can set you back for the amount of a mortgage payment. Sunderland's is more modestly an old-fashioned restaurant that specializes in beef and seafood. Which is not to say that you'll eat cheaply, but the prices are fair.

You can start with any of a half-dozen appetizers: sautéed mushrooms or fried zucchini ($4.95), warm crab dip ($6.95), jumbo shrimp cocktail ($10.95), shrimp in the shell ($9.95 for 1/2 pound) and Little Neck clams ($15.95 for two dozen). For the essential carnivore, beef tenderloin medallions ($8.95) can give a jump start.

A spinach salad ($7.95) is billed as wilted, but the hot bacon dressing, served on the side, doesn't wilt it. Still, the salad is good and copious — enough for two. Other salads ($5.95-$10.50) are light entrees. For soup fans, there are a good, thick clam chowder and a soup du jour by the cup or bowl. As Sunderland's name implies, the specialties are steak and seafood, but you'll also find a trio of pasta dishes ($9.95-$11.95) and a quartet of chicken entrees ($11.95-$13.95).

[image-1]Photo by Stacy Warner / richmond.comThe steaks ($13.95-$18.95) are basic: New York strip, top sirloin, rib-eye and filet mignon. Our rib-eye was perfectly cooked to medium-rare, as ordered, and was very good. A New York strip stayed over the fire a minute more and, as a result, may have been less interesting, though I'm inclined to think that a rib-eye is often more flavorful than a strip steak. At any rate, these are basic steaks, served without sauces. All are accompanied by either a baked potato (with the requisite sour cream or butter) or rice pilaf and the vegetable of the day, which for us was fresh string beans with a bit of crunch still left and a sprinkle of bacon and feta cheese to add a bit of zest.

The seafood entrees ($13.95-$17.95) are straightforward also. Only coconut fried shrimp in tempura batter moves beyond the usual. Baked sea scallops were tender and moist, enhanced only with a dollop of butter, and they were not overcooked, which is often the case with these delicate creatures. Crab cakes, fish and shrimp round out the seafood offerings.

For those who are ignoring whatever diet they've recently been flirting with, one of a half-dozen desserts ($3.95-$4.95) can prolong closure. A high wedge of mud-pie is enough to bring guilt to the svelte, and the tiramisu is deceptively light.

The wine list has well-priced choices to accompany the menu, from basic and suitable to the special -occasion bottles, which are not fine vintage wines but a cut above the average table wines.

Several of the dinner items appear on the lunch menu (at luncheon prices) along with an array of sandwiches and burgers.

The staff is personable and efficient, and made our visit to Sunderland's pleasant. The restaurant concentrates on the basics and delivers. It may be an old-fashioned notion but, like the high-protein diet, its time has come again.


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