Friday, March 29, 2013

Todd Jurich's Bistro

Another Friday, another great lunch with Alex and guest. Continuing our quest for a great meal, we headed to one of my personal favorites, Todd Jurich's Bistro. They did not disappoint! We had three wonderful entrees (pictured below): Cobb Salad, Calamari with sweet walnuts, apples, Bleu Cheese dressing and a special for the day Deviled Egg Sandwich. Service was professional and watchful. Overall, a fantastic dining experience!

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Cobb Salad

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish: Deviled Egg Sandwich

Todd Jurich's Bistro dish

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vintage Kitchen - Downtown Norfolk

After a number of big disappointments in downtown dining, I was ready for something different. It has been 2-3 years since we last visited Vintage Kitchen. We were under-impressed on our last visit. It wasn't bad, it just didn't wow us. We booked a reservation through Open Table for lunch today, requesting a window seat. We were promptly greeted and led to a sunny window table with a sweeping view of the Elizabeth River. It was so nice to feel the warmth of the sun after all the cold, clouds and rain from recent weeks.

They have a great lunch menu.The one online is a bit outdated, as the current one has more choices. For starters we decided to share the Black And White Mac’ and Cheese With Truffle, Nutmeg, And Marshall Farms Cheddar $9. There was no need to take a vote on this one. Hands down best Mac and Cheese ever. Truffle can be a powerful flavor and is frequently overdone, ruining many a great dish. Not so here. This was rich and creamy decadence.  We would go there again and just get that. My main dish was Grilled Portobello and Gruyere with pesto on Focaccia $8.95. It came with a dill pickle slice and a bag of Route 11 chips. Delicious!

I (Alex here) ordered the soup du jour, a Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda combination. It was the biggest bowl of soup I have ever seen but managed to polish it off. Creamy but not too heavy and the amount of Gouda was just right, not overpowering. For once in this day and age, bread was served at the table. Two heated rolls rolled in a dash of salt and oil, a really nice touch.

As if that wasn't enough food, we decided to top it all off with dessert. A bittersweet chocolate mousse topped with sea salt caramel and peanut brittle $7.95. It was served in the cutest cup with heart handles. This too was delicious. The bittersweet of the chocolate overpowered the caramel and peanut brittle a little but, but it was still amazing. We had a similar dessert recently at California Pizza Kitchen, that blended caramel, sea salt and chocolate. It's a good combination. Service throughout was top notch. The decor is a clean contemporary. A calm, quiet atmosphere that lends itself well to conversation. It is quiet, but not the kind of quiet where you feel like your neighbors are hearing your every word. It is the kind of quiet where you can relax a little and not have to shout over music or racket from the kitchen.

We rolled out of Vintage Kitchen well fed and happy.

_Laine & Alex


Vintage Kitchen (Inside Dominion Tower)
999 Waterside Dr, Norfolk, VA 23510

Vintage Kitchen dish: Black and White Mac and Cheese
Black And White Mac’ And Cheese

Vintage Kitchen dish: Grilled Portobello and Gruyere with Pesto on Focaccia

Vintage Kitchen dish: Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Soup

Vintage Kitchen dish: Warm Bread Rolls

Vintage Kitchen dish: Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse with Sea Salt Caramel and Peanut Brittle

Vintage Kitchen Dining Room View

Vintage Kitchen Dining Room Interior

Vintage Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bite Restaurant & Catering - Downtown Norfolk

Saturday night was another show at Chrysler for me and another attempt at downtown dining. I had been to Bite about a year ago for lunch with Alex and another buddy. I thought it was okay, but I wasn’t wowed. Alex was not impressed at all. The skimpy portion of a salad special did her in, and she hasn’t had the desire to return. I was a bit more curious and willing to give them another shot. The recommendation of another friend and the proximity to my venue pushed me over the edge and I booked a reservation for Saturday night.

I seem to recall that originally Bite advertised using fresh, local, organic ingredients, which I can appreciate. I don’t see any note of that on their website, so it could be that my memory is failing me. Regardless, the current dinner menu is slightly limited in choices and not for those seeking light fare. The 4 listed “Firsts” are either fried, or cheese. Three of the six entrees are pasta based, one is steak, one is chicken (with cheese) and one is seafood, the lightest option. I have to mention that the steak is a whooping 26 ounce rib eye. What? According to the American Heart Association individuals should not consume more than 6 ounces of meat a day. This seems a bit ridiculous to me. I can’t sit through Jersey Boys with 20 ounces of carryout steak in my lap.

We were running at tad late, so I called to say we were parking and would arrive in no more than 5 minutes. I was assured that our table was ready and waiting, and not to worry. Upon arriving we noted the restaurant was bustling and about 80% full. They did not have a host or greeter, but seeing our name on a two top right by the door, we walked up and started to remove our coats. A rather large server with a rather menacing expression asked me what I was doing. Stating the obvious, I pointed to the card and said, "That's us. I just called." He then told me that, "We usually like to seat our customers."

I sat down and looked across the table at my husband. He knows me too well, and was waiting patiently for the comments.  Barely in the door and this is already not going well. Fifteen minutes and two other tables being greeted later, another less menacing server approaches and asks if we have been helped. We receive menus. There is not an impressive assortment of wine. The choices are very limited. I select the only Pinot Grigio offered by the glass. They are out of it. At 6:15 on a Saturday night, they are out of it. I order the one Sauvignon Blanc, my husband orders the one Malbec. Another 15 minutes pass before the wine arrived. After sitting for 30 minutes waiting on this drink, our wine arrived in oversized stemless wineglasses that are filled about 1 inch. Things are rapidly deteriorating.

Our waiter asked if we were interested in starters. My husband said he wanted to try the She Crab soup, which was promoted on the table topper as being one of the best in town (with the typical appeal to “Vote for it in Best of Hampton Roads”). Well, we won’t be voting for it, because it was not on the menu that night, even though it was being promoted on the table. Instead, we order the Fontina appetizer ($9) at our server’s suggestion. It is melted Fontina, roasted garlic and oil, service with garlic toast points. We had to stir it a bit as the cheese was not fully melted when it arrived. If you love garlic, this is for you. We both liked it very much. For entrée’s I ordered the Osso bucco with parmesan leek risotto ($24). It is served with a Veal Shank. My husband ordered Cioppino ($19) which is served with the catch of the day (flounder) and mussels in a tomato broth. I was thoroughly disappointed in my meal. The risotto was beyond al dente, it was downright crunchy. The veal was overcooked and riddled with gristle. The Cioppino was okay, but nothing impressive. There was a healthy portion of mussels, but it was rather light on flounder. At some point during the meal, we ordered more wine, because an inch of wine lasts about 60 seconds with me. They ran out of Malbec. The server brought out a Merlot at no charge, which was very nice and not expected.

Throughout the meal we were plagued with long waits. I can’t say service was bad because I believe the servers were simply too busy. From what I could tell there were only two servers and one bartender. They really needed at least one more person help to run drinks, clear dishes….and seat people. As for the “no wine” situation, I can’t help but wonder if Bite might be struggling. If you have a monthly menu, I would think that you could stock your wine accordingly versus trying to prepare from week to week? As the hour approached for the show at the Chrysler, Bite emptied out.

As the Mister said, “Not in a hurry to go back there


Bite Restaurant & Catering
440 Monticello Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510

Bite Restaurant and Catering on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 11, 2013

Big Easy Grill & Oyster Bar - Norfolk, VA or The Best Restaurant I Will Never Go to Again

Big Easy Grill and Oyster Bar Exterior Sign
Being an oyster lover, I have wanted to try this place for a number of years. I walk past it about 8 times a week as I go to and from the gym. My husband and I had tickets to go see American Idiot back in late January, and I decided to seize the opportunity. I made early reservations, 5:30PM. This would give us plenty of time to have a cocktail, eat, get the car and park it closer to Chrysler Hall for the 8PM show time. I should also mention that this was during Norfolk Restaurant week.

Big Easy Grill and Oyster Bar dish: Oysters William
Oysters William

It has been a number of years since I have been inside the building that formerly housed "Club Soda". I can't say that it looks very different, which is fine. I always liked the rustic vibe fused with contemporary fixtures. We were promptly seated and then greeted by our friendly server. I let her know first thing that we were on a timeline for the show and she assured me that wouldn't be a problem. The Restaurant Week menu did not excite either one of us, but the regular menu had plenty that we wanted to try. We started out by ordering a couple of cocktails and an appetizer. My husband ordered Oysters William, lightly breaded oysters, pan fried in a white wine shallot sauce, 9.99. They arrived promptly and were delicious. For the main course I ordered New Orleans Crawfish Etouffee. Crawfish tail meat, seasoned vegetables and rice cooked together in our Cajun gravy, 17.99. I have been in love with Crawfish Efouffee since having it for the first time about 15 years ago in New Orleans. It was one of those rare dining experiences where the dish was so memorable, and I have never been able to duplicate it. My husband ordered the N.Y. Strip, "drizzled with red wine demi glace, served with one side item (he chose baked potato) for 21.99."

Big Easy Grill and Oyster Bar dish: Crawfish Etoufee
Crawfish Etouffee

By now, the restaurant is starting to fill up a bit, and tables next to us are seated. The table my left had a wobble issue. Ours did too, but we hadn’t bothered to mention it. The neighboring table complained right away. The maître d’ came out immediately and diligently adjusted all four legs for several minutes until it was stable. He was very apologetic and gracious. I was impressed with how he handled it, as the customers were a little huffy about it. Shortly after this our food arrives. The potato toppings had been overlooked, but were quickly brought out to the table. Everything looked great, and tasted wonderful.

Not one to miss many opportunities for dessert, I tried their pecan pie. It was quite excellent. I even ate the crust, which is often the downfall of many pies, but was not the case here. The server did an A plus job for us. As we were winding down she told us to relax, and finish our drinks. We got our check, paid and were finishing up our wine. The time was a few minutes past 7PM, right on schedule for getting to the show. It was at this moment that the entire restaurant experience was irrevocably destroyed. A young man, who was hosting I believe, came up to the table, squatted down next to me and said, “Would you mind hurrying up and leaving. We have a 7PM reservation waiting for this table.”

I have a couple of phrases that I overuse, one of which is, “There’s a lot of stupid out there," but I was so stunned that I couldn’t even pull this out of my hat. I stared blankly at Mr. Moron and said, “Okay.” I looked up at my husband who said, “They are dead to me.” If you read this blog at all, you know by now that Alex and I can be hammers. My husband on the other hand, is much more patient and understanding. He has traveled far and wide, experienced many different cultures and eaten a lot of crazy foods in foreign lands. Never, ever in all our years of dining out have either of us ever been asked to leave a restaurant. I have since polled many of my friends. I have yet to find one who has. So, that is that. I will never go there again. I will never recommend it to anyone. They are dead to me too.


Big Easy Grill and Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon