Monday, July 24, 2006

Lacking Limani

Limani was one of Richmond's best restaurants, with the freshest fish I've had in an inland location, and a classy, elegant environment to highlight the cuisine. Everything there was good - the cocktails, the desserts, the side dishes, and especially the seafood, which was prepared with only lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper before it was placed on a wood-burning grill. I remember the actual moment that I discovered the end of Limani's existence. I was walking down Cary St., and instead of passing by the familiar cobalt blue doorway, I saw a new name and red paint on Limani's entrance. The familiar and enchanting smoky smell of grilled seafood was gone, with only the name "Duro" on each of the doors, and no further clues about the former venue.

I soon learned that Limani's owner decided to reopen his eatery as Duro, a pasta restaurant that isn't supposed to be Italian. Duro r
efers to "durham," or the type of flour used in the hand-made noodles. I had my doubts about a restaurant that claimed not to be Italian when it features pasta, but I felt obligated (and curious) since Limani was such an amazing dining experience.

My friend and I started with the "Stuffed Purses" appetizer ($8), which were pasta "purses" filled with fontina cheese, marscapone, and pear. They were sweet and light, with a certain richness from the marscapone and the shallow pool of parmesan cream sauce. Unfortunately the starter was the best part of the meal. My Bellini, which I settled for because Duro doesn't have Limani's fabulous cocktails, was made with peach schnapps and cheap sparkling wine. I know because the waitress said they were out of champagne, and that she was already sending someone to get diet coke so she would have them pick up something sparkling.

Limani's servers were always knowledgable and attentive, but I wasn't impressed by the waitresses at Duro. Similarly, the food was decent but not extraordinary. My entree, Sonoma Shrimp, consisted of four medium-sized "tiger shrimp" and hand made linguine. There were also fresh spinach leaves and some "oven-dried" tomatoes tossed with the pasta, and a fairly boring sauce that tasted like chicken stock. As my friend said, it was difficult to tell if the chef was trying to highlight the shellfish or the pasta, and neither was particularly inspiring.

The other dish I tried was supposed to be pulled chicken with eggplant gnocchi, but the meat came out as a whole half of a chicken. There was no information on the menu regarding the sauce, which tasted very strongly of onion, and the gnocchi was edible but not very flavorful. I had no desire to try dessert, even though the tartufo at Limani was exquisite. Duro has a long way to go before it can live up to the standards set by its predecessor. And I'm not rushing back for any non-Italian pasta.

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