Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Miso Asian Grill & Sushi Bar

My recent visit to Miso Asian Grill & Sushi Bar with my dad and sister was a tale of two stories: very good sushi and very bad service.

First, the food:  We decided to start with the fried chicken dumplings.  The dumplings were  pretty average - nicely fried but very similar to the frozen dumplings Allie and I often buy at the grocery store.  After finishing the dumplings, we ended up waiting a really long time for our sushi to arrive.  When it finally did, though, it was worth the wait!  We ordered the Angry Lobster roll off of the regular sushi menu as well as 3 rolls off of the daily specials menu (Batman roll and 2 others whose names escape me right now).  The three special rolls were the first to arrive.  The presentation was excellent (as you can see below), and each of the rolls was very good.  The Batman roll - with snapper inside, then topped with tuna, avocado, and roe - was fresh and quite tasty.  The Superman roll had tempura shrimp wrapped in rice paper and topped with a honey wasabi sauce.  The third roll was filled with spicy tuna and then covered with a slightly spicy seaweed salad.  And then the Angry Lobster roll arrived.  The presentation was fantastic - with the roll presented as a lobster's body and capped off by a real lobster head and tail!  The roll itself was our favorite of the night.  It had crispy shrimp tempura, spicy crabmeat salad, and cucumber inside and then the roll was topped with sizeable chunks of sweet lobster meat.  Delicious! 

Now, the service:  The first problem with the service was that Miso apparently had only 2 servers working on what turned out to be a pretty busy Friday night.  Our server was inattentive and uninformed about the food.  Our drinks and dumplings were served relatively promptly (though the server did bring us 2 waters and a Sprite in lieu of the 3 waters we had requested...).  We ended up having to wait almost an hour between finishing our dumplings and receiving our first sushi rolls.  During this long wait, we saw our server only once, at which time he stated that there was a party of 12 that ordered ahead of us and the sushi chef was really behind (and he did not offer to refill our by-then empty water glasses).  We then watched as the sushi chef finished our dishes and placed them on the sushi bar.  He then apparently took a break, as he disappeared for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, our server spent a full 5-10 minutes studying the sushi rolls and a menu, trying to determine which roll was which.  He even called the other server over for help.  Finally, he presented the sushi to us.  Unfortunately, he still got the rolls completely mixed-up.  Overall, very very poor service. 

Daily Special Rolls

Angry Lobster Roll

Angry Lobster Roll again

Overall Impression:  Innovative, tasty sushi presented with a flair, though our experience was degraded by the terrible service. 

Food Rating:  

Contact Information:
          Miso Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
          3601A Cox Road, Henrico, VA 23233

Miso Asian Grill & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Virginia Wine Expo

Allie headed to Florida recently to participate in the Disney Princess Half Marathon (way to go Allie!).  So I went down to Richmond to spend some time with my old man and we decided to hit up the 2013 Virginia Wine Expo downtown.  Since we have both been to most (if not all) of the Charlottesville-area wineries, we decided to focus our Wine Expo experience on trying wineries that we had never tasted (and in some cases, never even heard of).  This had the added benefit of helping to pace us through the enormous tasting room.  Since there were so, so many wines at the expo, I decided that I would select my 5 favorite wines for this post.

And so, in no particular order, here were my 5 top wines from the 2013 Virginia Wine Expo:

- Holly Grove Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay - I don't normally like Chardonnay, but I must say I really enjoyed this one!  Holly Grove explains that the soil on the Eastern Shore of Virginia imparts a different minerality to the grapes than is normally found.  I have to agree with them!  This particular Chardonnay was crisper and less buttery than most, which I appreciated.

- Wisteria Farm and Vineyard Seyval - I haven't found a lot of Seyval Blancs in Virginia, but I have generally enjoyed the ones I have had.  I found Wisteria's Seyval to have subtle but enticing aromas and flavors of citrus, making for a semi-dry and easily drinkable white wine.

- Bluestone Vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white varietals, but I have had trouble finding versions of it from Virginia that I have enjoyed.  Bluestone Vineyards surprised me with their estate-grown 2011 Sauvignon, which I found crisp and refreshing with hints of pineapple and grapefruit.

- Williamsburg Winery 2009 Trianon - Cabernet Franc is one of the signature Virginia red wine grapes, and I generally enjoy it though I often find myself wishing that it had a touch less black pepper flavor and finish.  Williamsburg's Trianon is 75% Cab Franc (blended with some Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot) that has just the most subtle of peppery finishes while maintaining the bright, bold, and earthy flavors of the Cabernet Franc.

- Annefield Vineyards 2008 Annefield Red - Composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Merlot.  I found Annefield's 2008 Red blend to be full-bodied with well-rounded tannins and a bold flavor.  With hints of dark cherry and cocoa, it begs to be paired with a hearty steak (like C&O restaurant's Cuban ribeye). 

Finally, a few pictures from our visit to the Virginia Wine Expo...


Tasting Sampler from the Homestead Resort

Virginia Wine Expo
2014 Dates: February 18-23, 2014

C&O Restaurant

I am ashamed to say that, after 8+ years in Charlottesville, this was my first visit to the legendary C&O Restaurant.  Allie and I received a gift certificate to C&O, and because of that, finally made it out the restaurant!  We made a reservation at the last minute for a chilly Wednesday evening.  We were seated at a table on the main floor, just inside the entrance.  The room is very rustic, with original hardwood flooring and wall paneling.  There were several other tables seated in the small room, but it remained quiet and felt intimate nonetheless.  I will also mention that the service was outstanding throughout our meal.  (Side note: Please excuse my photography in this post - my camera flash decided not to work on this particular night.)

After spending some time with the wine list, we selected a bottle of Pinot Noir from one of our favorite Napa Valley wineries - Pine Ridge.  We then moved on to the dinner menus.  I must say that this was one of the few menus that I have seen off of which I would have ordered every single item!  Allie and I decided to order 2 appetizers and 2 entrees and share them all so we could try as many dishes as possible.  To start, Allie ordered the oyster stew and I selected the ricotta gnocchi.  The oyster stew was delicious - with a subtle smokey flavor imparted by the bacon and some of the biggest, most tender oysters I have had in Virginia!  We were also amazed by how well the oyster crackers in the stew held up - even by last few bites of the cup, the crackers still had a satisfying crunchy texture.  The ricotta gnocchi was equally as good.  The gnocchi themselves were delicate, pillow-like pouches of perfection.  The gnocchi were arranged carefully atop a bolognese-style sauce of local pork that was slightly sweet and salty making for a perfectly composed dish that I would have been happy to eat an entree-sized portion of! 

Oyster Stew

Ricotta Gnocchi

For dinner, both Allie and I selected steak options.  This, too, was a tough decision for both of us and had I not just ordered Rag Mountain Trout at another restaurant recently, I think I might have opted for that as well.  Anyhow, Allie ordered the Cuban ribeye steak and I ordered the Steak Chinoise.  The Cuban ribeye came cooked to a flawless medium.  The steak itself is modestly spicy - it is marinated in Tabasco and dijon mustard after all!  The spice is attenuated perfectly by the tangy buttermilk blue cheese and sweet red onion jam that top the steak.  If you like ribeye as much as I do, this dish is a must-try!  And if you don't think you like ribeye very much, just wait until you taste this one!  The Steak Chinoise was also delicious (though Allie and I both agreed that the Cuban ribeye was our favorite).  The flank steak was incredibly tender (which can be quite an accomplishment) and also cooked to a perfect medium.  The sauce is described as a "ginger, tamari, and scallion pan sauce" and had delicious umami qualities and invoked subtle flavors of peanut and soy. 

Cuban Ribeye Steak

Steak Chinoise

By the time we had finished devouring all that beef, we were both really too full for dessert.  But we looked at the menu anyway.  And then we ordered dessert anyway.  The warm cinnamon bun with homemade espresso chip ice cream was just irresistible.  And it did not disappoint!  The bun was gooey and delicious and the ice cream complemented it perfectly.

Warm Cinnamon Bun

Overall Impression:  This was the best meal Allie and I have had in Charlottesville in years!  Incredible food, great service, and a marvelous atmosphere!  Get yourself to C&O as soon as possible!

Food Rating:  

Contact Information:
          C&O Restaurant
          515 East Water Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (on the Downtown Mall)

C & O Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wine Review: Seven by King Family Vineyards

Let me preface this review by telling you that I have never been a huge fan of after-dinner wines.  That being said, King Family has definitely won me over with their Seven.  As they will always mention at the tasting room, the wine is named after the "Seventh Chukker" in polo - which apparently is like the "19th hole" in golf - a very appropriate name for an after-dinner wine.  Seven is made from 100% Merlot, which is fortified with brandy and aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for two years.  The result is a complex and luscious port-style wine.  Seven has hints of oak and smoke on the nose.  The flavors of the Merlot fruit can be identified in the wine, which then finishes with touches of caramel and vanilla imparted by the bourbon barrels.  A word of caution - Seven clocks in at 18% alcohol by volume, so be careful!

Now, this is not a review of King Family Vineyards themselves, but I will mention one of the most unique aspects of King Family.  The winery has a polo field located just outside the tasting room, where they host the extremely popular summertime Roseland Polo events and the annual Pink Ribbon Polo Classic.  Polo kicks off May 26th this year with the Pink Ribbon Classic on June 16th.

Overall Impression: Slightly sweet, subtly smokey, and dangerously smooth - Seven is the perfect finish to just about any meal! 

Wine Rating:  

Contact Information:
          King Family Vineyards
          6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet, VA 22932


Eppie's is a Charlottesville legend that serves classic, down-home comfort food on the Downtown Mall.  Allie's mother wanted to take us to lunch recently, and we picked Eppie's.  I ordered the jerk chicken, which I had never had before, with mac-and-cheese and coleslaw.  The chicken was less spicy than I would have preferred for something labeled "jerk."  Even so, it was flavorful and the meat was tender and juicy.  The coleslaw was vinegar-based and easily made up for the lack of spice on my chicken.  The mac-and-cheese was a cup of gooey, cheesy deliciousness.  All of the chicken plates are also served with a piece of cornbread.  Eppie's cornbread is among the best I've had in Charlottesville - with pieces of real corn baked right in and served warm.

My mother-in-law opted for the lemon pepper chicken plate.  She liked the flavor on her chicken, but unlike mine, felt that the meat was too dry.  She chose a sweet potato and collard greens as her sides.  She raved about the sweet potato - saying that it was so sweet and juicy that she didn't even need to put butter on it (which is definitely saying something!).  She also really enjoyed the collards.

Allie ordered her favorite item from the Eppie's menu - the Santa Monica salad.  The salad is definitely big enough to make a meal out of and filled with fresh veggies.  Eppie's starts with crisp spinach and tops that with tomatoes, freshly sliced-off-the-cob yellow corn, goat cheese, and dates.  The salad comes with a side of champagne vinaigrette, which Allie says compliments the fresh veggies with the perfect amount of sweetness and acidity.  The salads at Eppie's are served with one of their famous pumpkin bread muffins. (Side note: If you haven't had it before, you should definitely try Eppie's ham biscuits - Kite's "pink salt" country ham layered on pumpkin bread - delicious!)

Overall Impression:  Eppie's is the place to go for good ole' down-home country food!  Though the chicken was cooked somewhat inconsistently at this visit, all of the flavors were spot-on! 

Food Rating:  

Contact Information:
          412 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (on the Downtown Mall)

Eppie's on Urbanspoon