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Food Review: Seafood Gets an Upgrade at East Coast Provisions 

click to enlarge East Coast Provisions emphasizes presentation, although this smoked salmon and deep-fried egg appetizer brings as much flavor to the plate as it does artfulness.

Scott Elmquist

East Coast Provisions emphasizes presentation, although this smoked salmon and deep-fried egg appetizer brings as much flavor to the plate as it does artfulness.

East Coast Provisions was renovated and re-branded this summer by the Richmond Restaurant Group — the owner of the Daily Kitchen & Bar, Hill Cafe, Pearl Raw Bar and the Hard Shell. And this place knows the well-educated Richmond eater is someone who appreciates local ingredients, good culinary skill and will pay for it — but doesn’t want to wear a coat and tie.

It’s a houselike space, with retro booths lining one room downstairs and the bar bustling in the other. During the unseasonably warm weather this fall, the patio in front was an excellent choice. Upstairs is quieter, with an elegant sunroom and lounge with old brick, patches of recycled wood or squares of kelly-green moss. Aesthetically, East Coast Provisions could find a place on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, but it also could work on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The feel is clean and cool. So is the menu.

The kitchen is headed by Trevor Knotts, who helped open the Daily — and you can tell. Dishes have the same brightness, but the mission is different: It’s less health-conscious and more centered on a delightful surf-and-turf selection.

Simple flavors sparkle, display is exquisite and there’s no wrong thing to order. Between lunch and dinner, the menu varies. Earlier in the day diners find more salads and sandwiches while evening offers plenty of selections from the grill. A sushi and raw bar menu is always available.

The octopus ($12) easily is my favorite. Raw, shaved into paper-thin slices, it arrives in dime-sized disks arranged on a dinner plate like coins in a mosaic, topped with parsley, slivers of garlic, rock salt and a glaze of olive oil. With a lemony spritz, the result is light, yet every bit as satisfying as a plate of seafood pasta — it’s a beautiful, chilled comfort food.

The smoked salmon ($10) is another inventive starter. The little nest of salmon on the plate is tasty, but the 5-minute egg is truly excellent — hard-boiled with a soft center and a quick dunk in the fryer.

For hearty lunch fare, try the seared tuna salad ($12). Five slices of rare ahi tuna rest atop a bed of mixed greens, drenched in ginger dressing and topped with edamame, beads of red caviar and thick avocado slices. Looking for a snack? The West Coast roll ($11) is stuffed with spicy tuna, smooth avocado, crunchy cucumber and cilantro, all topped with slices of yellowtail and jalapeño.

At dinner, crab cakes ($25) are near perfect — flaky with morsels seared lightly to a golden brown. The sides make this dish an autumn staple, with creamy corn, butternut squash and pearl onions. The 6-ounce filet ($22) isn’t the most tender I’ve ever tasted — beware of the dark char on the bottom — yet it’s saved by a buried spring of rosemary that effectively seasons the whole dish. The whipped mashed potatoes are loaded with butter and crispy-edged mushrooms.

You need to save room for dessert. The apple crepe cake ($8) might as well have come from the kitchen on “Chopped” and successfully marries half a dozen flavors, textures and temperatures. A towering triangle of layered crepes filled with cool apple spice and mascarpone anchor the plate and contrast with slim Granny Smith apple slices that are caramelized on top and still warm. Paired with blackberry compote and a scoop of ginger gelato on top of a nest of roasted walnuts, it’s not overly sweet and a treat to be savored.

The same can be said for the chocolate lava cake ($10), which is less of a decadent brownie and more of a melt-in-your-mouth undercooked muffin, with mint chip gelato, crunchy mint rock candy crystals and cocoa nibs to underscore the dish’s richness.

I find service top-notch. During one visit, the hostess calmly changes a light bulb above my head barely a minute after it burns out. And it’s also gratifying to see a staff that truly enjoys making recommendations.

East Coast Provisions is the ideal spot for a date you’re trying to impress, a coastal transplant — a bartender from the Florida Panhandle remarks the seafood is up to their standards — or a stylish happy hour. Someone searching for the next hip hangout will like it here. And everyone else will love the crab cakes. S

East Coast Provisions
3411 W. Cary St.
Mondays-Thursdays 11 a.m.-midnight; Fridays 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sundays 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-midnight
353-3411
eastcoastrva.com

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