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Hondo's brings the haute chop-house concept to Goochland. 

Doing the Duke Proud

Hondo's Prime Restaurant
12012 Plaza Drive
Sunday-Thursday 4:30-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 4:30-11 p.m.
784-4323

Just as we'd gotten used to the enormous changes in Chesterfield and Henrico, sprawl has spread to Hanover, New Kent, Goochland and Powhatan with family farms and undeveloped woodland becoming upscale "neighborhoods." With this development comes new shopping centers and more restaurants, usually of the franchise variety. But sometimes it's more interesting.

You can not only go out to dinner in Goochland County; you can go haute. The Fox Head Inn is an institution and in recent years has become one of the area's best restaurants. Not far away, Enzo's offers a fine Italian experience and the Red Oak Cafe offers good bistro fare that's much better than ordinary. Now just down the road, Hondo's offers a traditional chop house.

Many of us knew Brenda's, which featured a country-style menu of old-fashioned favorites. Now in her place is Hondo's, which may be closer to Goochland's new suburban sensibility. The space has been refurbished into a cozy, gentrified restaurant. Forest green walls and blinds, coupled with good, soft lighting make for a sense of well-being. Butcher paper covers the table linen, bistro style, adding a casual touch. Interesting images of Richmond's past add unobtrusively to the atmosphere. It's comfortable without being pretentious.

Those familiar with the chop-house formula know basically what to expect. And you'll probably be pleased with the results. While you decide, there's an irresistible loaf of warm bread to devour.

For most, Hondo's is a place we'll go for special occasions. The final tab is not what most of us would spend on a little Tuesday night supper when nobody wants to cook. Nor is the wine list conducive to a wanton whim for some wine. I consider it an occasion when I spend more than $30 for some wine with dinner. Hondo's list will rise to the special occasion.

Starters, $3.75-$8.95, are popular favorites — shrimp cocktail, calamari, crab cakes, a vegetable Napoleon, baby-back ribs, onion soup or lobster bisque. Fried calamari with a zesty Arabiatta sauce were tender without a crunchy exterior, but the ribs in a good bourbon sauce were superb — meaty, tender, and moist — and enough for two or more to share. For rib fans, they also appear as an entrée.

Most of the entrees — $15.95-$54.95 — are steaks and chops except for a grilled chicken breast, African lobster tails and salmon. For the essential carnivore, there's a 32-ounce Porterhouse steak; for more modest appetites, an 8-ounce filet mignon. And in between there's a rib-eye, a New York strip, surf and turf, lamb, veal and pork chops, along with those succulent ribs.

All entrees are served with a good mixed salad or a Caesar, a choice of several potato dishes, and often a vegetable — we had a good spinach gratin — but there are several side dishes for special whims.

A small filet mignon was perfectly cooked, flavorful and succulent. Lamb chops — three 6-ounce double-cut rib-chops — were quite delicious with a finish of portobello mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. I ordered "chef's choice" for doneness and they suited my rarer tastes. Being of the clean-plate school, I rarely take home food from a restaurant, but in this case, I went home with a lamb chop and some good Lyonnaise potatoes, both of which were delicious the next night after a brief turn in the microwave.

We had to turn down dessert though the half-dozen choices were very tempting. There's also a list of after-dinner libations, including several single-malt scotches and, for those inclined, cigars — in the smoking room.

Hondo's, the name of an old John Wayne flick, would probably make the Duke proud. City types who want a breath of country air and a good cut of prime beef should head west on I-64 to the Manakin-Rockville exit, less than 20 non-rush-hour minutes from central
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