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RESTAURANT REVIEW: West Coast Provisions emulates Carytown original with Pacific influences 

click to enlarge The yellowtail crudo small plate features mango, chilies, Thai basil, kaffir lime oil and pine nuts.

Scott Elmquist

The yellowtail crudo small plate features mango, chilies, Thai basil, kaffir lime oil and pine nuts. 

With eight restaurants including the Daily, Pearl and the Hard Shell, the folks at Richmond Restaurant Group have developed a recognizable formula for attracting diners. The company's latest, West Coast Provisions, checks all the boxes.

The airy dining room glows with natural light. Tasteful decorations include soft, beachy colors and ice-blue banquette seating. The wide-ranging menu features artfully arranged fresh ingredients. You will feel posh just walking in the door.

The name West Coast was designed to be a clever play on words. Not only is it a West End version of the group's Carytown restaurant, East Coast Provisions, but West Coast also offers significant Pacific seafood options.

I recommend starting with an assortment from the raw bar, particularly the Cedar Pointe oysters, and especially if Brian Enroughty is shucking and serving them. They aren't Pacific, but Enroughty's wife, Michelle Williams, co-owns the group with Jared Golden, and Enroughty grows these custom oysters exclusively for their restaurants. They rival the Chesapeake Bay's finest, and Enroughty will tell you all about how he raises them.

I like to pair them with something light from the creative cocktail menu, like the Pacific Rim, lemon-grass-infused gin muddled with cucumber and ginger, and garnished with a cute little edible sea bean. The Bubbly Fizz blends prosecco, elderflower liqueur and lemon for a fresh seafood-friendly starter.

The raw bar also offers Manila clams, a Pacific coast specialty accidentally seeded by clam shipments arriving from Japan. The tiny, sweet clams thrive in the cold Northwest waters, and you may be tempted to save their strikingly pretty gray and white striped shells.

If you feel like splurging, the pricey Dungeness crab is a Pacific treat rarely encountered back East. However loyal you may be to our hometown blues, the Dungeness is a rich, fat, easy-to-crack improvement on steamed crab eating. West Coast serves the sweet claws and bodies properly simple, with drawn butter and a wet nap. Or, you can eliminate the decision-making and go for both the clams and crab in the fennel-spiked, brothy cioppino — a classic fish and shellfish stew that hails from San Francisco.

The uni with polenta and poached egg is a flavor explosion, although I would argue that a dish called uni merits more than one tiny piece of the delicately sweet sea urchin perched atop the creamy, truffle-oil-spiked polenta. You can order optional shaved black truffles, which are delicious, but then it's a truffle-polenta dish, not uni.

The tuna carpaccio sounds crazy, mixing foie gras with raw fish, but it totally works. The fresh tuna complements the rich pâté flavor without backing down, brightened by pickled apricots.  

Yellowtail hamachi is another Pacific fish that migrated from Japan. West Coast serves it raw, in an Asian-influenced crudo including mango, coconut juice, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. It's a balance of sweet and tangy, soft and chewy, ocean and citrus, oranges and yellows, sparked by bits of green.

At lunch, you can also order the yellowtail in a poke bowl with green papaya, sweet mango, cilantro, scallion, pickled chilies and yuzu aioli. The small bed of rice and scattered garnishes make this more of a take on poke than the traditional robust Hawaiian rice bowl of raw fish and vegetables.

Corporate chef Trevor Knotts understands how to mix flavors and textures. He also has an artist's eye for plating, creating bright geometric installations that beg to be photographed before you dive in. If you love pretty food, follow him on Instagram.

His deconstructed olive oil cake is right on trend — cooking it in the microwave renders it a piece of art — airy and light but richly flavored. Butterscotch pudding gets its name from the butter melted with sugar, but West Coast spikes it with a 10-year-old Macallan whiskey, which makes you wonder why everyone doesn't do the same.

West Coast is also a safe spot for nonseafood lovers. For main courses there are burgers and truffle fries, five steak options, lamb, roast chicken and vegetarian quinoa. Our rib-eye was flavorful and perfectly cooked to our requested medium rare, but ask for the topping of rosemary glacé on the side so it won't goop up the meat's grilled crust. The accompanying cauliflower gratin was spectacular, with thick cheesy richness and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

The West Coast menu is flat-out overwhelming: I can only imagine the kitchen crew's daily prep list. There's also a raw bar menu and a happy hour menu. After half a dozen lunch and dinner visits, all with other guests, I haven't worked my way through half of it — and that's counting the duplicate dishes I've had during the past two years at East Coast.

Over the years, Richmond Restaurant Group has developed a clear brand: The dining room is beautifully upscale. The service is attentive and professional. The menu has something for everyone, and the dishes are photo-friendly. West Coast may be the ultimate expression of a carefully crafted formula, but the formula works. S

West Coast Provisions
301-A Maltby Blvd., Henrico
360-1090
Mondays-Thursdays 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fridays 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. - 11 p.m.  
Sundays 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

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