Thursday, October 26, 2006

Restaurant Week '06

Last year my Richmond Restaurant Week experience was outstanding. My
boyfriend and I went to Comfort, which serves Southern style cuisine
in a casual (but not too casual) environment. I've only been once,
but I'm just waiting to go back for macaroni and cheese, fried
chicken, and bread pudding.

The basic Restaurant Week meal is three courses - an appetizer, entree
and dessert - for around $20. I'm not sure if all of the restaurants
have to coordinate the price, but they give a tenth or so of it to
local food banks, so it's almost silly to not eat at one of the twenty
or so participating locations.

This year we went to Rowland Fine Dining, a small Fan eatery that has
always seemed a bit fancier than the others. I'd seen some excellent
reviews about it and some that weren't as interesting, but Restaurant
Week seemed like a good excuse to try a place like Rowland. Wednesday
also happens to be half price wine night, which I absolutely did not
plan on, but it was a lovely perk. Most of the wines on the list
were around or under $30, and we had a nice bottle of Italian Barbera.

My first impression was that it's not much different from any other
Fan venue - a small, narrow room with booths and cozy tables on one
side and a bar on the other. The decor was a little more polished
than some of the neighboring bars and restaurants, and the food,
though not overly exciting, was also slightly upscale from other Fan
cuisine I've sampled.

I had the most trouble choosing a Starter, and I'm still not sure that
I made the right decision. I chose the "Creamy Cremini Soup," which
was quite tasty, and it was garnished with two strips of roasted duck.
While I enjoyed the soup, I was also deciding between "Sweet Scallops
with Corn Pudding and Leek Butter," and "Butterbean Cake with
Cucumber, Tomato and Avocado Salsa." My boyfriend had the Butterbean
Cake, and it was delicious, and the perfect starter size.

There were three entree selections: Cinnamon Pork Tenderloin with a
Granny Smith Cider Sauce, Iron Steak with some variety of mashed
potatoes in a generic brown mushroom sauce, and the Fish of the Day,
which was blackened with Crawfish Etouffee. If I hadn't eaten pork
tenderloin last night, I probably would have gone with the first
choice (I can never resist cinnamon). However, considering last
night's meal, I had pretty much settled on the Fish, and was even more
pleased when I found out it would be rockfish. The Etouffee, a New
Orleans "stew" usually made with vegetables and seafood, was
spectacular with the Cajun flavors of the blackened rockfish. I
haven't eaten okra since I was pretty young, but I have a newfound
appreciation for it after the etouffee. My dish was garnished with a
whole crawfish, which I was happy to break apart when I finished.

Dessert was the most disappointing point of the meal, though it may
also be the part I scrutinize the most. The special was a "chocolate
torte," which was more like a 2" square of light chocolate cake with
chocolate glaze in the middle and whipped cream on top. There was a
pear and apple cobbler for dessert, which was decent but didn't
compare to the apple pie I made recently. It wasn't even warm.

I'm glad that I can cross Rowland Fine Dining off my list of places to
try; without Restaurant Week I probably would have been wondering
about it for quite some time. Comfort may now be sooner on my dining
rotation than I would have expected.

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