Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Richmond, VA part 2

River City redux

Packed the kids off to an amusement park and spent the rest of our vacation exploring the city. In Shockoe Bottom (awesome name like a scandalous derriere) one of the city's oldest neighborhoods we found Main Street Station a 1901 Beaux Arts gem, arguably the most beautiful building in the city.

A few blocks nearby was the 17th St. Farmer's Market one of the prettier airiest markets I've ever seen, with high gabled roofs clean stalls and a taller-than-man-height lion bust (terracotta?) standing guard up front.

Along Main Street we found Crush basically a fresh-fruit smoothie cafe but with the added bonus of a small Mediterranean menu. 

We ordered a Baba Ghanouj--grilled eggplant with minced garlic tahini (a flavorful sesame paste) lemon juice and olive oil stirred in; like the more common hummus you dip your pita bread and enjoy. 

We also ordered the bright-pink Church Hill Smoothie (orange juice mango pineapple strawberry) and the cooler yellower Manchester Smoothie (coconut water orange juice mango banana)--fresh fruit mind you, no added sugar. Accompanied by a Black and White flatbread: Za'atar (thyme sesame seed olive oil) and cheese (fetta, mozzarella oregano). Simple and delicious. 

For dinner we went to Addis, an Ethiopian restaurant down 17th Street. Food was presented on a large wheel of injera bread (a soft tangy fermented pancake) which also served as utensils (you tear off a scrap and pick the food up with it) and plating (the bread soaks up all the meat and vegetable juices). 

In the photo below from 6:00 clockwise: Ayib Cheese (a tangy cross between ricotta and cottage) Gomen (sauteed cabbage) Ye Beg Derek Tibs (crisped lamb with onion tomatoes jalapenos) Yeabesha Gomen (steamed collard greens and onions) Kitfo Addis (minced raw beef mixed with mitmita a ground spice mix: chili cardamom cloves cinnamon cumin ginger). 

"Raw ground beef?" Think beef tartare, only safer what with the hot and aromatic spices; the ayib helps cool the tongue down, the vegetables stretch the flavor palette in different directions. 

Next day lunch was at Umi Sushi Bistro on Broad Street, in Short Pump. Dark space with dramatically spotlit tables. Green tea was served in a gorgeous cast-iron pot: 

Ms. Sue Wang told us that aside from the everyday menu there was a 'secret' menu with less common items. We started with two orders of Kumamoto oysters (small succulent mild) with I'm guessing a cilantro mignonette in a bowl of crushed ice.

Fish from right to left: Shima Aji (striped horse mackerel) is a firm fish with clean taste. The uni (middle) which Ms. Wang says was imported from Japan--apparently all the items are--is small firm (as opposed to the larger creamier Californian variety) and smooth. Rarest of all was the far left Ji-Kinmedai Chiba (she distinguished from 'kinmedai' and 'ji-kinmedai from Chiba prefecture') which was sweet and fatty--that one was a winner.

Sometime in the afternoon we stopped by Hogshead Cafe on a Broad Street strip mall

And considering we were going to try barbecue again that night (the city was peppered with such places) only ordered their best-known item the Hog Dog, basically an impressively endowed beef hotdog wrapped in bacon then deep-fried till crisp and scorched and topped with pulled pork and cole slaw:

The untouched version hardly gives you an idea of the layers of meat and flavor so I bit into it:

And above you can see (from left to right) the bacon the hotdog the pulled pork the cole slaw, bracketed by bun. 

Climax of the day: Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue. Comes up on quite a few lists of best barbecue in River City, we alas failed to go to the original establishment but instead went to their expansion on Broad Street (plenty of eats there not all of em expensive), a converted Fuddruckers. You don't recognize the original from the eatery's facade though:

And not sure any Fuddruckers would have three giant smokers with a skyline of chimneys puffing away to one side:

There's a Brobdingnagian hash kettle hanging from the ceiling appropriate for boiling stray Union soldiers:

And a vast helicopter fan that I swear if spun fast enough the whole ceiling would take off:

Below their Pulled Pork Sandwich--intensely smoky with a spiced crust stuffed into a soft bun, with deep-flavored Fresh Country Greens a creamy Mac and Three Cheeses and cole slaw:

 The glory of their smoker Pork Ribs--faintly sweet darkly smoked ribs with crust and a more toothsome texture from PG BBQ (both good in different ways). The grilled bread makes for a nice buttery mattress for the aromatic meats. Alas we'd been eating all day (all week!) and only had room for a half rack:

Finally cornbread and a pair of Flintstone-sized Beef Ribs--again the faintly sweet spice rub, this time on a big slab of beef on the bone. No sauce and it needed none.

Dessert was a little different from coconut cream pie or marble cake and far more refreshing: chilled Watermelon Spears, the better to wash away the meat juices. 


Next: meat coma.

Next day was Sunday, last day in Richmond and of course first thing to come to mind on waking was dim sum (Well not the first thing to most folks but that's what we ended up hankering for). 

Actually it is the first thing that comes to mind to folks on a Sunday morning, at least in Flushing Queens--drive the whole family to a Dim Sum place stuff yourselves snore the afternoon away prefect weekend. Happy to see the tradition pop up here.

So we ended up in Cheng Du Restaurant (right next to Hogshead Cafe which we noticed the day before in parking lot and marked for future exploration). From left to right: roast duck, pot of green tea, tofu skin roll stuffed with I think ground pork, rice and pork in lotus leaf and so on

After the tofu skin roll left to right in rough zigzag fashion: chicken feet in a sweet sauce, sesame seed balls stuffed with sweet mung bean, shrimp and chive dumpling, spare ribs

And that was Richmond--beautiful city more diverse and sophisticated than one might expect with something for every taste every budget every curious tongue. I'd recommend a visit or three--still need to visit King's Barbecue explore the menu of Hogshead Cafe and a few other cue places and Ms. Wang did promise Ankimo (steamed and saki-marinated monkfish liver) and live scallops if we can call ahead.

Food writers recently noted an issue with Virginia's self-image involving barbecue, despite the common assertion that the state originated the style of cooking; from the two or three places visited I noticed this constant nod to Texas and North Carolina 'cue (have to admit to being partial to the latter, a difficult-to-like yet admirable for its elemental stubbornness food). The cue was good though Virginians may need to assert their pride a little louder; oddly the soul and sea food (Mama J's, Croaker Spot) was wonderful and suffered no such identity crisis.   

Leaving the city I had this to say: as God is my witness I'll be back, if I have to lie cheat steal kill. As God is my witness I'll be visiting Richmond again.

No comments:

Post a Comment