Favorite

Richly Deserved 

Bank gets its share of attention downtown.

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The bistro-style menu is similar to that of other local restaurants, with entrées in the $15-$29 range. Bank is unique, however, for reasons that become evident the moment you enter.

Inside, Bank offers a see-and-be-seen opportunity that few other Richmond spaces allow. Colorful fabric banners hang between columns stretching from the high ceiling to the spacious main floor, where the marble-topped bar seems to boast a constant and hopping crowd.

The dining area is in the back, divided between a cozy ground-floor section and the balcony. The views from the latter make it one of the best spots in town to linger over dessert and coffee. An eclectic mix of classic jazz and world-beat music enlivens the former bank while mirroring the menu's influences.

Appetizers are European in size, the idea being to whet the appetite, not satiate it. The pork Cubano featured "four-hour" roasted pork loin topped with black beans, plantain, goat cheese and a banana-chili jam balanced on a thin, crispy tortilla triangle — excellent in its classic combination of flavors and textures. By contrast, the stuffed pequillo peppers (those little Spanish peppers that provide more smoke than fire when roasted) were a daring complement to their goat-cheese stuffing. A smoked tomato vinaigrette and fennel confit rounded out the plate. This is the kind of dining that allows you to wax rhapsodic as you savor the individual flavors, and separate and combine them on your palate.

Our appetites sufficiently teased, the entrées were welcome arrivals. I ordered the panko-encrusted rockfish with sticky rice cake and sautéed spinach. It came with a scantily peppered coconut crème and a slightly burned crust, which diminished the effect of the subtle flavors. The fish itself was fresh and delicious, but I wound up wishing I'd ordered a little more boldly, as my wife had done.

Her pan-seared duck breast with a black-fig and orange compote served atop garam-masala-accented sweet potato puree with sautéed broccolini turned out to be a heavenly blend of influence and execution. My usually generous wife taunted me; even though I was working, her dish was too good to share. She eventually relented, but it took some actual begging on my part.

At midday, Bank can serve a power lunch or a sublime getaway. The efficiency and professionalism of the wait staff sped some tables through sandwiches and burgers (each high quality with bistro accents such as the bleu bacon burger or the tuna salad made with ahi-grade yellowfin) while allowing others to relax through a three-course indulgence. I chose the latter.

How often does a simple green salad catch your attention? Bank's baby greens were paired with a clean citrus vinaigrette and a pistachio-encrusted chevre fritter that arrived still warm from the sauté pan, anything but an ordinary noontime snack. The shrimp and grits sealed the deal. Nicely sautéed shrimp nestled in a sherry cream sauce atop fontina-whipped grits, accented with roasted tomatoes and fresh basil, made another delicate and satisfying experience. The layering of flavors came through in Turner's cooking all the way down to this Low-Country tradition.

The dessert menu was mostly dull though delicious: crème brûlée, tiramisu, chocolate torte. But Bank offered a notable signature: the mango-passion fruit bombe, house-made sorbet encased in a white chocolate shell with dark chocolate piping, a shockingly refreshing summer coda to a wonderful meal.

In the restaurant industry, a server who "made bank" heads home with a pocket bulging with great tips. If Richmond's newest hot spot can keep up its initial momentum, Bank's lucky wait staff will leave each shift tired and very happy. S



Bank ($$)
1005 E. Main St.
648-3070
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.;
Saturday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.
Closed Sunday.


www.bankandvault.com



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