Thursday, February 27, 2014

Black Sheep + Perly’s

Chef Kevin Roberts takes over a downtown landmark.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:20 PM

In a combination that is setting food-lovers’ hearts aflutter, chef Kevin Roberts is expanding his reach by reviving Perly’s downtown. He expects to reopen the restaurant at 111 E. Grace St. by late spring.

The building was purchased this month by restaurateur Johnny Giavos and developer Scott Coleman, and Roberts signed a long-term lease to run the deli. Perly’s closed abruptly in September after fifty-plus years in business, causing a bit of an uproar among its devotees and staff.

Roberts is on his honeymoon this week, just as word of his new venture is getting out to news outlets and through social media. “The way Kevin works,” Giavos says of his longtime friend and colleague, “it’s good spirit, good karma – he’s going to go in there and work hard to support his family,” while keeping a typically low profile. “And he can have as many years as he wants,” Giavos says of the lease terms.

Roberts opened The Black Sheep in Carver six years ago with co-owner Amy Hess, amassing an ardent following for the kitschy, filling and creative meals shown nationally on television’s Travel Channel. For the new venture, Roberts will keep the Perly’s name and diner-style approach, some of the Deco-era interior details, and breakfast and lunchtime hours. Dinner service may come later, and customers can expect twists on tradition with Roberts’ distinctive use of ingredients and combinations.

The Black Sheep at 901 W. Marshall St. has been one of Style Weekly’s food writers’ favorites since its opening, and stays busy with a diverse crowd lapping up its moderately-priced food. Several Washington Redskins players dined there while in Richmond for training camp last summer, raving over the hearty and humongous battleship sandwiches.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Continental Divide Coming to RVA

Mint Gastropub is moving to the Canalwalk.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Two Charlottesville restaurants are opening Richmond versions this spring. Continental Divide, a popular cantina known for a mash-up of Latin and American flavors and margaritas, is about to announce it is moving into the former Mint Gastropub at 2501 W. Main St.

Christian’s Pizza, another Charlottesville favorite, comes to the Village Shopping Center this spring. Another well-known Charlottesville restaurant is expected to join the eastward movement but has not finalized a Richmond deal.

In a move announced today, chef Malcolm Mitchell, a former competitor on the Food Network, takes his Mint Gastropub concept to the CanalWalk, partnering with the F.W. Sullivan’s group to relocate the restaurant. He’ll take over the private party space, which seats about 60, beside Sully’s on the Canal at 1001 Haxall Point.

“This is an interesting partnership,” Sullivan’s co-owner Jake Crocker says of the combined restaurants. “I just told my staff today. Malcolm and I have been hanging out ever since he came to town. We talk food until the wee hours, so it was kind of inevitable that we’d work together. We’ll have two strong concepts side by side, two separate businesses sharing resources.”

Mint is expected to close in the Fan in mid-March and reopen at the end of March in the downtown location. The branding, menu and approach will remain in place. Crocker says they’ll divide the kitchen, and customers will use separate entrances for the two businesses. While Sully’s will focus on lunch, happy hour and group business and larger parties, Mint will offer dinner and bar hours in a smaller, more upscale setting. The partners hope to extend the Mint Gastropub brand to a future location in the Fan at a later date.

Short Order

RVA Food News: New Tarrant's, Chefs Making Moves, Burger Euphoria + More

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Western Empire

Construction starts at the former Grandpa Eddie's at Cox and Three Chopt roads this week, with restaurateur Ted Santarella opening a second location of his downtown eatery Tarrant's. He says the 6,700-square-foot space is being gutted to install "a hybrid of Tarrant's and Max's on Broad — the chandeliers and subway tiles, reclaimed woods and tile floors" of the downtown spots. A large patio will have its own bar. The project is expected to take six months to complete, bringing the Tarrant's menu — soups, comfort food entrees, pastas and pizzas — to the Innsbrook and Short Pump area with the style of a downtown establishment.

One of the city's top chefs, Carlos Silva, has joined the team as partner and corporate chef to help run all three businesses. Silva left his across-the-street restaurant, Bistro 27, last week to take the new position. Chef Paul Wielt from Hondos also has joined the team. "I try to hire people who are better than me," Santarella says, "and unless I show growth, I couldn't attract people like Carlos, who is a very dynamic personality and great chef. People like him and he can get things done."

With two restaurants now feeding 5,000 guests a week, Santarella says it's clear that dining out is a way of life, and that while Richmond has always been a food town, now there are far more choices. tarrantscaferva.com.

Promotion: Chef Cory Chaney is new executive chef at Bistro 27, moving up from sous chef there. He's worked at The Blue Goat, Helen's, Sushi-O and Dudley's Bistro in Williamsburg, and says duck is among his favorite ingredients. Chaney is introducing a new menu of modern takes on Mediterranean flavors at the downtown dining room, where live music on First Fridays is also part of the line-up.

  • Scott Elmquist
  • Michael Hall

Club Czar

Chef Michael Hall takes the culinary reins of the 2300 Club in Church Hill this week, bringing longtime experience working with members. He was general manager of downtown's Bull & Bear Club as it went through membership drives and recruiting efforts. That background, along with his award-winning reputation cooking for the Berkeley Hotel and at M Bistro in Rocketts Landing — which he closed Feb. 1 — sealed the deal for the 2300 Club's board president, Tom Yeaman.

A meet-and-greet event this week introduces Hall to the club's members. "We know that many of his dedicated clients will want to follow chef Hall and experience some of the best cuisine in Richmond in our small private club setting in historic Church Hill," Yeaman says. The 50-year-old organization started as a bottle club in a Civil War-era row house. Renovations to the interior and back terrace and garden are in progress, along with membership recruiting efforts. the2300club.org.

Rare independent: A breakfast and lunch spot, TNT Diner Myte, has opened at 802 W. Broad St., offering soups, sandwiches and food "not from a chain" weekdays 7 a.m.-3 p.m. 775-0005.

End of run: Eurasia at 1308 Gaskins Road announced it will close March 1.

Second act: Chef Carly Herring has returned to the Shockoe Bottom wine bar C'est Le Vin. Her new tapas menu includes a dozen vegetarian items and a dozen meat and seafood choices, including Spanish meatballs, lamb skewers, chicken empanadas, and stir-fried quinoa and seared polenta with tomatoes. All come in small and larger portions ($4-$20), as well as charcuterie and cheese plates and an array of imported and domestic wines. 15 N. 17th St. 649-9463. cestlevinrva.com.

Honor bound: Chef Lee Gregory was named a semi-finalist for the second time in the James Beard Foundation awards for best regional chef. His run at the Roosevelt in Church Hill has earned praise, awards and guest chef gigs in other places. He'll be cooking in New York for a Southern foods event in March. Gregory says he was watching season two of The Following when "my phone exploded with the news. I still don't really know how to react to it," Gregory says. "Last year it felt like a mistake, but getting it two years in a row makes it a little more real. Never in my wildest dreams did I think The Roosevelt would have all of this recognition – it's awesome for the city. We're so lucky." rooseveltrva.com.

Closing ceremonies: Some workers held a uniform-burning party after the closing of Champps sports bar in Stony Point Fashion Park last week.

Burger euphoria: A sold-out event Friday to kick off the week's Virginia Wine Expo, Burger Blast, drew 1000 guests and a smart line-up of vendors offering craft beer and sliders. An unofficial winner among local food writers in attendance was The Savory Grain's entry from chef Sean Murphy, for a House blend patty of angus, short rib, brisket and bacon topped with goat cheese, micro greens, pickled onions, chocolate cherry stout-glazed bacon and pinot noir aioli on Lucille's Bakery mini challah rolls.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tarrant's West Coming to Henrico

Chef Carlos Silva joins Tarrant's team

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Competition is great, restaurant owner Ted Santarella says of Richmond’s dining scene, and now there will be more of it. He’s opening Tarrant’s West in the former Grandpa Eddie’s space at Cox and Three Chopt Road. Construction starts Monday.

The behemoth dining room and patio will be gutted, and the result will be “a hybrid of Tarrant’s and Max’s on Broad, with chandeliers and subway tiles, reclaimed wood and tile floors, the best elements of both” businesses, Santarella says. The menu will be familiar to those who’ve visited Tarrant’s – she-crab soup, pizzas, pasta, buttered rolls and hearty entrees in a casual setting.

Another significant change is Santarella’s recent hire of chef Carlos Silva, who left Bistro 27 downtown to become corporate chef and partner. Chef Paul Wielt from Hondos has also joined the team. “I try to hire people who are better than me,” Santarella says, “and unless I show growth I couldn’t attract people like Carlos, who is a very dynamic personality and great chef. People like him and he can get things done,” and he will help run the businesses.

With two restaurants now feeding 5,000 guests a week, Santarella says it’s clear that dining out has become a way of life and Richmond has always been a food town, but now has more choices. Tarrant’s West is expected to open in six months. Silva took on his new role this week.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Pane e Vino preview, Virginia Wine Expo + more.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Italian Familiar

In the old days, it was Julian’s, a place that rewarded the post-cotillion set with pizza, and where families gathered for decades to scarf down the red-sauce Italian that was Richmond’s most ethnic dining spot for too many years.

Then it threatened to become one of strip-club owner Sam Moore’s new places, which might have been an act of revenge after his other spot, Velvet, closed down. That deal didn’t happen, Moore went to prison, and the big building at 2617 W. Broad St. stayed vacant and partially vandalized for a few years.

Now it’s the scene of a complete transformation, Pane e Vino Wine Bar & Trattoria. It has a flashy new dining room centered by a U-shaped, granite bar. With seating for 152, and a private party room for three-dozen more and another 42 seats at the bar, not to mention a large back parking lot, this is one of the area’s most spacious new restaurants, with a full-service format that begins at 10 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

General manager Kasey LoPresti married into the longtime restaurant family — owner Joe LoPresti also owns Mediterraneo in Chesterfield County, and relatives operate Maldini’s, Mary Angela’s and others.

“We wanted to create a family-friendly atmosphere,” Kasey LoPresti says — “to have people sit down and feel like they’re right at home, like in Italy, relaxed and enjoying a meal or a glass of wine.”

Besides pizza and subs, they highlight a lengthy wine list of European and Californian vintages, most priced below $30, and a dozen pastas ($11-$18). Unique to the scene is a choose-your-own meat and cheese board. A case by the bar holds the options, which are sliced to order and sell for $1.50 an ounce. Seafood, fowl and veal entrees come in familiar versions, and a happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m. daily.

The business opened Jan. 22 during a snowstorm and didn’t get much attention for the first couple of weeks because weather kept diners away. LoPresti hopes for a change any time now. 257-9930. paneevinowinebar.com.


Bigger and smaller: Patrick Harris continues to parlay his Boka Tako empire into new areas. He’s just signed a deal to take over the former Racine (later a short-lived pizza place) at 304 N. Robinson St. to make a smaller version of his Boka Kantina cafe in the West End. He’s targeting an April opening, serving the fusion tacos, empanadas and seasonal specials that define his business. Since starting here in 2010, Boka has grown from one truck to two full-size trucks, two carts and now two restaurants. “It’s a cool, fun concept that fills a niche,” Harris says, also crediting the craft beer culture that supports the approach. Bokatruck.com.

Breakfast in Carytown: Organic eggs and granola, oatmeal and tofu scramble are on the new breakfast menu at The Daily Kitchen & Bar, now serving at 2934 W. Cary St. Breakfast hours are 7-11 a.m., Monday-Saturday, and until 10 a.m. on Sunday, when the brunch menu takes over until 4. thedailykitchenandbar.com.

Chefs share the billing: One of the city’s most generous chefs, Joe Sparatta at Heritage, opens his kitchen to colleagues hoping to start their own places in a dinner series called Guest Chef Takeover. Each meal is $45 for four courses, and the chefs will collaborate for all six events. The featured players are Randall Doetzer (Julep’s), Feb. 24; Bryan McClure (Pasture), March 24; Bill Foster (SausageCraft), May 9; Mike Braune (Secco), April 28; Mike Yager, (formerly of Charlottesville’s Glass Haus and others), June 23; and Tim Bereika (Mosaic, formerly Secco), July 14. “These chefs aim to have their own restaurants, so we’re giving them an arena to show their true style outside the confines of their current jobs,” Heritage co-owner Emilia Sparatta says. Reservations can be made at 353-4060. heritagerva.com.

Drink up: Some three-dozen events surround the bigger-and-better Virginia Wine Expo, coming back to town Feb. 18-23 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and various wine-focused venues around town. Among them is an event presented by Style Weekly, the Best of Virginia & France Premiere Tasting at the convention center Friday, Feb. 21, from 7-10 p.m. It’s intended to be a more intimate, mellow tasting session, “comparing Old World style wines from France with the New World wines of Virginia.” Wines will be featured here that won’t be available during the Walk-Around Grand Tastings on Saturday and Sunday. See details on the event and a weeks’ worth of opportunities to explore the grape — even run a 10k — at virginiawineexpo.com.

Michael Hall Named Chef at Church Hill Club

Private 2300 Club gets a food-focused revamp.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Chef Michael Hall, who closed his M Bistro in Rocketts Landing Feb. 1, has sealed a deal to lead the kitchen at the 2300 Club in Church Hill. The 50 year old private club, recently at risk of closing, has a new board president, Tom Yeaman, and a renewed focus on fine dining.

Interior renovations of the Civil War era brick rowhouse at 23rd and E. Grace streets are in progress, with additional garden landscaping planned for spring.

Hall begins his duties next week, offering his signature French-meets-Southern cuisine for lunch, dinner and private events, including wine dinners and tasting menus. He was previously general manager of the Bull & Bear Club downtown and was executive chef at the Berkeley Hotel. A meet-and-greet event is planned for next week to introduce Hall to members and guests.

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.

Sweet Diplomacy

Local chocolatier Gearharts creates confections for French president's visit.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 1:00 AM

French President Hollande and President Obama in the Hall of Monticello. - ©THOMAS JEFFERSON FOUNDATION, PHOTOGRAPH BY JACK LOONEY
  • ©Thomas Jefferson Foundation, photograph by Jack Looney
  • French President Hollande and President Obama in the Hall of Monticello.

Chocolatier Tim Gearhart and some of his team are in Washington, DC today to present custom chocolates to French President Francois Hollande. At a State Department luncheon hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, the Gearharts chocolates are a featured element of dessert.

The sweets are a blend of Valrhona chocolate from France, fig jam from Virginia and Bourdeaux wine from Chateau Carbonnieux, a winery Thomas Jefferson visited in 1787 while serving as Minister to France. Hollande toured Monticello yesterday with President Obama.

Gearharts produced a limited quantity of the ceremonial chocolates, but sells a similar version using wines from Barboursville Vineyards at its shops in Charlottesville and Richmond.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Isabella Tweets Fake

Top Chef Trying to Remove RVA Parody Account

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

No sooner does celebrity chef Mike Isabella announce he’s opening round two of his DC restaurant Graffiato here, than a parody Twitter account with his photo starts making the rounds. “We’re trying to get it removed,” his publicist says. “It’s a fairly innocuous situation, and Mike doesn’t want to comment on it.”

Isabella joins Rappahannock owner Travis Croxton in the new venture, set to open in the Popkin Tavern space at 123 W. Broad St. this spring.

Popkin Tavern owner Steve Soble of Chicago says they made the deal Monday, and it was announced Tuesday because “they wanted to hit the ground running. It was an incredible opportunity for us and will be a great thing for this area.”

Soble and his father remain owners of the building, which has apartments upstairs and opened in October 2006. “I take pride in the fact that we built a great space,” Soble says. It will get a decorative redesign and wood-fired oven once Popkin closes on Feb. 15. “We wanted to give our employees two weeks’ notice and to celebrate a great run,” Soble says.

As for the fake Tweets, "this isn't even fun anymore," a last blast sighs.

Top Chef Mike Isabella Brings D.C. Touch to RVA

Style restaurant critics digest Graffiato.

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

Red hot dining news in Richmond today shows how quickly heads can turn. Top Chef competitor Mike Isabella is ready to pounce in a crowded market here, with co-owner Travis Croxton of Rappahannock helping bring a second version of Isabella’s DC restaurant Graffiato to downtown Richmond in the Popkin Tavern space.

Style Weekly food writers who’ve dined there tell what to expect:

From writer Karen Newton’s blog post in December:

Today began with another meal, this one at Graffiato, TV chef Mike Isabella's Italian and Jersey-inspired joint.

Going at lunch was inspired so we didn't have to deal with crowds, instead taking bar seats right in front of the wood-burning oven and ordering Prosecco on tap to start the meal.

An appetizer of broccolini with red peppers, feta and walnuts was a beautiful marriage of flavors served at room temperature, a surefire way to start the day feeling somewhat virtuous.

While we listened to a soundtrack of Passion Pit, Two Door Cinema Club and Phoenix (and agreed that the kitchen staff looked like mechanics in their grey shirts), we watched our two pizzas being exactingly placed in the carefully-tended oven.

Porky's Revenge (soppressata, pepperoni, sausage) spoke to my morning-after need for pig while the White House (Tallegio, prosciutto, ricotta and black pepper honey) had a delicate sweetness that was habit-forming after one bite.

Newton continues: Rappahannock is already doing prosecco on tap, so that's not a big deal. The pizzas were more creatively topped than anything I can think of here with a worthy crust. Assuming the Italian-meets-Jersey vibe in D.C. transfers well to the Popkin space, and it should even though it's a much larger room, it's going to be a new kind of dining experience for Richmond. Nothing southern or genteel about it, but killer food and a knowledgeable, casual vibe.

Matthew Freeman agrees:

The vibe is more casual than I think Richmond is used to for a restaurant turning out the quality of food that Graffiato is. Everything coming from the wood-fired oven was amazing. Charred octopus that struck the elusive perfect balance between tender and chewy, pizza with a nice, lightly charred and smoky crust.

The pizza toppings are inventive -- I had the countryman which is fontina, black truffle, and a soft egg that was broken table-side by the server and spread over the pizza. The combination of ever-so-slightly funky cheese, earthy truffle, and rich and creamy egg yolk creates over-the top richness with a subtle complexity. Even a throwaway dish like a plate of olives was done well, with a selection that had me calling the server back over to tell me again the names of each type.

From Robey Martin:

I have been several times. The space is beautiful -- obscenely cool bar scene. Pizzas are playful and texturally exceptional.

Graffiato is slated to open this spring at 123 W. Broad St. Popkin Tavern is closing Feb. 15.

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