In the Details 

Chef David Shannon has good taste and a professionalism that sets Dogwood Grille apart.

The corn I am fawning over functioned as the bed for the seared foie gras appetizer ($12). The pté was handled well, firm and earthy with a hint of smokiness. It was accented with a blackberry coulis, red onions and, yes, corn. Given that the attraction is the foie gras and the coulis, another chef might have considered the corn a throwaway — just some color and crispness. Shannon, however, chose to bed his superb fat bird’s liver on pale, sweet and supercrisp kernels of the Silver Queen variety of corn. Maybe this was just a bit of serendipity. Maybe he doesn’t know the difference between a Silver Queen and an Illini Chief. Maybe he didn’t consider that the generally plumper kernels of a yellow corn variety would have not imparted the pop and intensity of Silver Queen. If that is the case, he’s got good karma. If not, he’s got good taste. I’d bet on the latter. His menu suggests it over and over. The veal tenderloin and poached lobster with lobster bisque sauce ($22) was beautifully presented, subtly flavored and it worked on every level. The barbecued lamb chops ($22) were perfectly medium rare, had hints of Mongolian spices and were paired with wonderful sweet-potato cubes. There are so many nice little touches that you have to assume Chef Shannon leaves nothing to chance. Not even the corn he employs.

Shannon and Lord worked together at Helen’s before opening Dogwood Grille and Spirits. They have 40 years of restaurant experience between them, and have opened a crisp and comfortable eatery. Shannon has described the restaurant as a “contemporary American grill with continental influences and an easy Southern slant.” This could be said of 75 percent of the bistros in Richmond. What Dogwood offers that many don’t is an exceptional degree of professionalism with respect to service and selection. The waitresses seem to enjoy and respect what they are doing. They adjust their timing to your schedule. They know the food and are able and willing to give you more than just a restatement of the menu. This is key because one of the few downfalls I noticed was the overly cutesy menu. Many of the descriptions read more like riddles or limericks than descriptions of food. A little of this goes a long way, too far in this case. The only other annoyance was my personal aversion to Mr. Lord’s flip-flops. He was very pleasant and helpful when we were selecting from his wine list, which is both affordable and refreshing. He worked the room well as the evening wore on. And every time he walked by I got to stare at his bare feet. It’s a bad choice, particularly for an owner. It seems lax.

It truly is the little things that set a restaurant apart from the droning regularity of the pack. Corn can do it, believe it or not, if it is taken as seriously as the featured parts of a menu. Dogwood Grille and Spirits is the type of place where you can find these fine little touches. S

Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for seven years and has filled every job from dish washer to general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.

Dogwood Grille and Spirits ($$$$)

1731 W. Main St.


Dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.


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