RVA Eats: Dutch & Company
So, why are you going to Richmond?
To see the National.
Oh, cool venue–what band?
No…we’re seeing the National at the National.
Pretty much every conversation for the first week of June went something like that. Meta, right?
Pretty damn good show too. A little…more Pop music-ish than I expected (I guess I forgot that everyone and their mother–literally–loves the National now that their music has been in every chick flick TV show and movie the past year or two), but solid all the same. Plus, hello, The National at the National. The National^2. I don’t get tired of saying that!
But before the show, quite a few other things, including, but not limited to a very important pilgrimage to Pasture for Jason’s out-of-this-world pimento cheese. Don’t take my word for it, though, go get it yourself!
Leading up to the pimento (and kale salad–oh that was so good too), though, was a really great bike ride and pizza eating afternoon with my uncle who happens to live in RVA. I’m not sure when Richmond found itself blessed with a Mellow Mushroom, but I’m always happy to dig into a pie at this excellent chain. It’ll never be as the more original locations I frequented in Atlanta, but it’s perfectly charred crust with tangy sauce and classic (or not so classic–heck, they do have Daiya and other vegan specialties) toppings is always a good idea.
For the ride, we did a 17ish out-and-back along the James River (which happened to be crazy high and rapidy from a tropical storm) and, though I haven’t done much road riding this year, it was awesome to get out, work the legs, and remember what it’s like to ride on concrete for longer than a 2 mile commute. Plus, heeya, spandex, who doesn’t like that? Oh, and next time, I’ll have to remember to wipe the sweat off the lens before I take a photo…
But sweat and pizza and pimento, amazingly enough, (or The Nationalm for that matter), weren’t the highlight of the weekend for me. An epic meal with my uncle and his wife Priscilla at the newish Dutch & Company is what I’ll definitely remember a few years down the road.
I think the restaurant just opened a few months ago, and from the look of it, it’s here to stay for quite some time. The small space holds only a few tables, a short bar, and a room-length banquette, but what it lacks in space, it makes up for with style and taste. It’s intimate in a way that wants you settle in and have a long talk over a perfectly crafted cocktail or curated glass of wine. And if you’re into mixed drinks, be sure to order one of the specials or a classic off the menu–my old fashioned most definitely hit the spot after driving three hours through a tropical storm.
Amazingly, the restaurant offers (most likely) the best deal in dining in Richmond–the three course prix-fixe menu. Ringing up at just $28 per person for one appetizer, entree, and dessert per person when entrees run in the $21-25 range, it’s absurd. Absurdly delicious, that is. And, incredibly, though the entire table must order off the prix-fixe menu, everyone can choose their own dishes. Given that the three of us are food-obsessed and all about sharing plates, that arrangement worked out well and we left the restaurant more than sated.
The menu is rather fish heavy, but we bounced around as much as possible and were able to try quite a few dishes with the prix-fixe deal. A starter of Spanish Mackerel with Fresh rhubarb, white asparagus, gooseberries, spinach, and white asparagus vanilla sauce sounds like a bit much–too many flavors that would muddle together–but in reality featured a light, crisp skinned filet with bursts of different flavor from the vegetables and fruit. The sauce was mellow, but I think that’s a good thing since I didn’t quite want the entire dish to be enveloped in vanilla, and the tart pop of the rhubarb and sweetness of the gooseberry complimented the white fish perfectly.
Another starter was ordered from the specials board–Andouille stuffed dates in a tomato sauce. Having just flown back from Spain the week before, I was a little Spanish fooded out, but, wow, if I’d had these in Spain, I would have been a happier traveler. The sweet dates and spicy sausage were killer with the simple tomato sauce. Every ingredient stood on its own. But when combined? Let’s just say we had to ask for extra bread to sop the sauce with. So damn good.
But the star of the first course show, for me, was the Perfect Egg with rye crusted and cured salmon, herbs, sprouted quinoa, braised cabbage, and cumin yogurt. If you order one thing at Dutch & Company, order this dish. Even if you don’t like salmon. It will convert you. The salmon is sweet and flakes away at the mere poke of a fork tine, the sprouted quinoa a revelation in texture (I’m stealing that idea pronto). While I would have never paired cured salmon with cabbage, it somehow works, the salty-sweet salmon balancing the sweet, tangy German style braised cabbage. And a slow cooked egg, flash fried egg? You can’t beat it. It’s a thing of beauty.
Main courses felt a little less successful, but by no means inedible. The utterly creative combination of Sablefish with smoked bone marrow, radishes, bib lettuce, grilled ramps, harricot vert, and pickled mustard seed vinaigrette may wasn’t a favorite, but mostly because we all didn’t care for the sablefish itself–too oily and funky fishy. A highly sustainable aquaculture fish in the US and Canada, I’m excited to see more chefs use it, but, for now, I’m not terribly impressed. The salad, however, was beautiful and, frankly, I could eat that mustard vinaigrette on any vegetable any day of the week.
My uncle vied for the Skirt steak with asparagus, smoked oyster & maitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, watercress, pickled red onion, and gribiche sauce, and, while fairly standard, the steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the mushrooms, I felt, added another earthy layer that rounded out our largely sea-based meal.
I ordered the Risotto with andouille sausage, pufferfish, sunflower seed pesto, carrots, fennel, and smoked paprika vinaigrette. (Honestly, I mostly wanted it because the pufferfish are called ‘sugar toads’ colloquially–yes, sugar toads!) While I couldn’t detect the smoked paprika vinaigrette at all, the risotto was nice (maybe a hair too thick and dense) and I enjoyed trying something completely new–those sugar toads in their light, sweet, crab-like taste and texture. Definitely a fish I’m going to be on the lookout for in the Chesapeake area in the future!
And, finally, all meals must come to an end with dessert. With only three desserts on the menu, we were able to taste them all. Clockwise from the top: (1) Stroopwafel with caramel and vanilla bean ice cream, (2) Chocolate parfait of chocolate panna cotta, chocolate mousse, malted barley almond horchata, chocolate & mint pearls, with a chartreuse rinse, and (3) Spring’s Honey Pot featuring milk & honey puddin’, floral ice, macerated stone fruit, and honey brittle.
My uncle and Priscilla nominated the Stroopwafel for the favorite and I do think it was the most successful–in part, I think, because it kept things simpler. Nothing crazy, just a stroopwafel, ice cream, and caramel. The chocolate dish was the one I wanted the most to like, but, unfortunately, parts of it overpowered the pure chocolate decadence. The chartreuse rinse was a tad bitter, which might have worked, but I found that the mint pearls competed too much with it. The two accents kept trying to become the focal point when really I just wanted to enjoy the panna cotta, mousse, and horchata. As for the honey pot? Definitely honeyed. It’s just not my favorite flavor to build a dish off of–I’m more of a honey accent kind of girl.
And that wraps up the Richmond trip, in backwards order.
Except for the required shot of my standard breakfast at 821 Cafe–tofu scramble, potatoes, veggie sausage, fruit, a biscuit, and, duh, that mongo, perfect, ultra boozy with a touch of orange mimosa. You can’t go there on a weekend and not get one. Seriously.
An awesome, super-packed weekend of food, biking, music, and hanging out with family members that I don’t get to see enough of. I definitely need to think up an excuse to go back soon–if only to hit up Dutch & Company for another epically delicious meal!
Dutch & Company
400 N 27th St
Richmond, VA 23223