Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stronghill Dining Co.

Stronghill has been open a year and I've finally managed to try it. That is my typical MO for sure, to wait until a restaurant has settled into it's paces before I give it a whirl. So, Balliceaux- see you in 6 months or so!

I'd seen mixed reviews on SH lately, so had some apprehensions last evening about how the meal would turn out. It was all for naught b/c the meal and the service were equally lovely. The menu is straighforward, simple and southern tinged. Cashew encrusted shrimp, a sampler platter including fried goat cheese and a classic salad wedge w/smoked onion dressing top out the appetizer menu. Entrees showcase a nice variety of proteins from duck to rabbit to ribs.

For some reason, this restaurant evokes thoughts of Savannah for me. And I certainly felt plucked out my average Richmond and into the cozy bosom of all that is good about restaurants. The interior is warm and the booths and woodwork surrounding the bar appear to be hand done(reminded me of the interior of Kitchen Table, may she rest in peace). This restaurant also boasts a hand painted mural on the wall. I had a wonderful time casually observing and absorbing their warm interior while sipping on the Charlie martini- def. give this one a try! (Firefly, mango vodka, grapefruit juice, splash of ginger ale and a twist of orange)

Beyond the inviting exterior and the charming interior, the food is worth mention. I started w/the wedge salad that had a smoky onion dressing. Definitely a palate zinger and certainly the danger would be to overdo the smoke, but this was a perfectly balanced, craving inducing salad. Followed by the rabbit over celery root w/apple puree and a side of broccolini. Rabbit, perfectly seasoned and prepared. The succulent meat fell off of the bone. I'm a big fan of of celery root and this did not disappoint as well as the perfectly seasoned and steamed broccolini.

The rest of the table had the ribs, steak and risotto. I was informed that the risotto was bland and tasteless. And after trying a bite I have to concur. It was certainly al dente, but lacked the creaminess you want in a hearty, soul warming risotto. The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and melted like butter. I don't know what kind of grill you guys have going on, but it's working!

The piece de resistance for the evening was the basil creme brulee. Now, this girl has tried her fair share of creme brulees in this life, including ones she makes at home. And I have to tell you, hands down, the BEST creme brulee I've ever had. The basil adds a certain sweetness, a lovely depth of flavor without being overpowering or even coming through in a hearty basil way. (which was my fear) Just wonderful.

The service could not have been more kind or have made the experience more enjoyable. During the course of the evening, met Gwen, the lovely & engaging day chef(hope your toe feels better!). During our brief conversation, I learned that locally sourced free range chickens have been a challenge lately b/c while the price doesn't change, the chickens have been getting smaller. Thus, they are buying less and they will run out of the chicken entree early in the evening. I was also informed that they are about to switch to their fall menu. Very excited to see what they will do next!

Reservations on the weekend, partic. Sat. nite are recommended.

Stronghill Dining Company
1200 N Boulevard
Richmond, VA
(804) 359-0202