Friday, October 29, 2010

Restaurant Week 2010

At the first mention of Richmond Restaurant Week, I start stalking any site that lists participating venues and what they're serving.  There's always a tough decision to be made between restaurants at which I've already eaten and loved, and restaurants I want to try.  The next step in the process involves getting expert advice and calling for a reservation.  

None of the restaurants that we haven't tried were really jumping out at us, so  Davy and I decided that Restaurant Week would be a good opportunity to go back to Acacia, where we had an amazing first meal over the summer.  When I spoke with someone on the phone about availability during the week, the times were either too early, very late, or not on a night we could go.  Our next choice was Helen's, which we'd also enjoyed once before, and we managed to get an 8:00 reservation for Tuesday night.

Naturally, I'd already memorized the menu and chosen both my and Davy's courses.  For our starters, I ordered the Arugula Salad (with toasted pistachios, coriander-lemon vinaigrette, shaved Romano) and he ordered the Braised Pork Belly (with seared Napa cabbage, cider jus, chicharones).  The salad was very fresh with above-average Romano, but overall it was a little too salty.  I had high expectations for the other starter because we had heavenly pork belly on our last visit to Helen's.  The Restaurant Week version was just as noteworthy: crisp on top, rich and meaty underneath, with delicious accompaniments.  

For the main course, Davy ordered fried chicken (with buttermilk & chive mashed potatoes, collard greens, black pepper gravy) which was tasty but not outrageous.  I had a tough time deciding between the macaroni and cheese with crab meat and bacon and the Vegetarian Risotto.  Ultimately I went with the risotto because the mac and cheese had smoked gouda in it, which I'll eat but don't really like, and the risotto had mushrooms and swiss chard.  I was pleased with my choice; the mushrooms were meaty and the chard was tender, and there was plenty of the greens throughout the rice.  Similar to the chicken, I wasn't really wowed by the risotto, but that could be because I enjoy making it at home so much.

There were just two dessert choices: "Granny smith apple cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream or Chocolate-pistachio torte with fresh fruit compote."  We each got one, and I ate nearly all of the torte.  It was deep without being too sweet, and the fruit compote (I don't usually like fruit with my chocolate) really brought out the chocolate flavor.  I have no complaints about the cobbler either, other than the fact that I was too full to finish it.  It was served warm with a generous scoop of ice cream, and it was everything an apple cobbler should be.

Helen's is a cool restaurant, not only because of the enticing menu choices, but because the interior is chic and has an antique, diner feel.  The bartender mixes solid drinks, and the service is gracious and consistent.

There are three days left to enjoy Restaurant Week, and while they may be the busiest three nights so far, it may be worth your money to check out a new spot, or just support an old favorite and a good cause.


Jon Deutsch said...

Always wanted to try Helen's. At a previous job I worked with a guy who was manager there for decades and told non-stop stories from 50-years ago about the place.

Madelaine said...

I bet he had some great stories!