Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kabuto Sushi and Teppanyaki

You know when that craving for sushi sets in and you just can't shake it until you get some good sushi?  Well luckily for Allie and I, Kabuto Sushi came to town a few months ago.  And when the craving hit the other night, we knew that's where we had to go.

When we pulled up in front of Kabuto on Pantops, I was rather surprised to see that they still had their "Now Open" banner hanging, considering that they have been for several months.  Anyway, we headed inside to the rather small restaurant.  Kabuto has about 10 tables total, though it has not been full either time we have been.  We ordered a couple bowls of miso soup right away.  Kabuto's miso soup is quite good - it is thicker than some of the miso soup you find at other places in town (which is often a thin, clear broth).  Kabuto seems to blend some tofu into the broth itself in addition to the tofu and seaweed pieces in the soup.


Miso Soup

We spent some time looking over the sushi menu, but Allie is kind of stuck in her ways and we ended up deciding to order the same sushi rolls we had ordered the first time we visited Kabuto.  First was the caterpillar roll.  The caterpillar roll is essentially a spicy tuna roll with tempura flakes inside and sliced avocado draped over the top.  The caterpillar roll was very good, but not great.  The tuna was not as spicy as I would prefer in a spicy tuna roll, though the tempura flakes inside the roll do add a very nice, subtle crunch to the roll.  Next came the Philadelphia roll.  A traditional roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado, it too was very fresh and well-made.  Finally, we had the butterfly roll.  My favorite roll of the night, the butterfly is a shrimp tempura roll with avocado inside and a spicy snow crab salad on top.  The tempura shrimp was crispy and the spicy snow crab was actually spicy and added a nice kick to the classic shrimp tempura.  The butterfly roll was also topped with a "special sauce" which was quite tasty, though I'm not sure exactly what it was.

Caterpillar Roll

Caterpillar Roll

Butterfly and Philadelphia Rolls
Overall, Kabuto is my new #1 choice for sushi that is fresher and more inventive than many of the other places in C-Ville.  While it is certainly not the best sushi I've ever had, it is the best sushi I've found in Charlottesville (unless you want to pay an arm and a leg to eat at Ten).  Kabuto also has hibachi dishes (which I haven't tried) and a number of lunch specials, making it the perfect place to grab sushi to eat-in, carry-out, or have delivered.  Allie and I will definitely be returning to Kabuto next time the sushi craving hits!

Overall Impression:  Fresh, reasonably-priced, made-to-order sushi that is as good as sushi gets in Charlottesville.  

Food Rating:  

Contact Information:
          Kabuto Sushi and Teppanyaki
          1836 Abbey Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911
                 (between Christian's and Sticks in the Giant shopping center)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ace Biscuit and Barbecue

So when I heard there was a new restaurant in town specializing in biscuits and barbecue, I couldn't wait to go!  Unfortunately, it took me until now to actually make it over to Ace - the new culinary outlet of former Zocalo sous chef Brian Ashworth.  And even now, I only made it for breakfast, but man was it worth it!

This past Saturday was actually the very first day that Ace had ever been open on the weekend, so Allie and I decided we had to head over and give it a try.  We were worried it might get crowded and had heard it was a small place, so we went right when it opened at 9am.  Pulling up outside of Ace, you can get a feeling for just how small the restaurant is inside.  It is situated in a small brick building a few blocks off of Preston Avenue and has a small parking lot right outside the door.  We knew we were in the right place when we saw the large pig mural on the side of the building!

When we got inside, we were the second couple to have arrived for breakfast.  The restaurant itself is, as I mentioned, quite small, with one 6-person table in the middle and bar-style seating for about 8 more guests along 2 walls.  By the time we had ordered and taken a seat at the table, the place was starting to fill up and before we left, it was standing-room only.  Ace also seemed to do a robust carry-out business just during the short time we were there.  We took a moment to examine the large chalkboard menu on one wall, but we had already studied the menu on the way over (oh the beauty of iphones!).  We headed up to the pig-inspired kitchen mixer to order our breakfast.

Okay, so first let me say that this place makes almost everything in-house, including much of their meat - from the breakfast sausage, to mexican chorizo, oak-smoked pulled pork, slow-cooked turkey breast, and pit beef.  Biscuits are made fresh daily and eggs are cooked to order. 

So, for breakfast Allie chose to create a biscuit sandwich with southern breakfast sausage, a fried egg, and cheddar cheese and added some hash browns.  I opted for an order of 2 sausage gravy biscuits.   Speaking of biscuits, I think if a place is going to put them in their name, they better make some darn good biscuits.  Luckily, Ace's biscuits do not disappoint.  The biscuits are not your typical flaky, buttery biscuits, but they were deliciously soft and melt-in-your-mouth good!  Allie's egg was cooked to a perfect over-medium and the sandwich covered in melty, gooey cheddar cheese.  The hash browns were also crispy (clearly made-to-order) and very flavorful, exactly what you would want to accompany your breakfast sandwich.  Allie didn't even ask for ketchup for the potatoes, which is a huge compliment to the chef.  Allie and I both agreed that it was the southern breakfast sausage that really stole the show, though.   The sausage had the perfect texture and the right amount of spice and sage flavor to keep me wanting more.  It was delicious both in patty form on Allie's sandwich and crumbled in the creamy, spicy sausage gravy that smothered by 2 biscuits.

I will definitely be going back to Ace Biscuit & Barbecue in the near future - the only question is whether I go back and try some of the other breakfast options, or head over for lunch and try the barbecue first.  Heck, maybe one day I'll even be able to convince Allie that we need to hire Ace for a whole hog pig roast!

Overall Impression:  Sausage = the breakfast of champions and Ace = Charlottesville's king of sausage!

Food Rating: 

Contact Information:
          Ace Biscuit and Barbecue
          711 Henry Avenue, Charlottesville, VA
          (434) 202-1403

Ace Biscuit and Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 28, 2013

Old Mill Room at Boar's Head Inn

It's Restaurant Week (1 of 2 - more on that in a minute) in Charlottesville!  That fabulous time of year when you can eat a 3 course meal at some of the best restaurants in town for a super reasonable price (and support a local charity at the same time)!  And this year, C-Ville  somehow ended up with 2 separate Restaurant Weeks right in a row.  The first is the "original" Restaurant Week from January 21st-27th put together by the Hook, which you can find at  The second is the new-this-year "official" Restaurant Week (January 28th-February 3rd) organized by VMVBrands and found at  There has been lots of hoopla and jawing about the addition of the this second restaurant week, but I for one say "the more the merrier!"  If the powers that be want to offer two consecutive restaurant weeks, well then by golly I'll just have to try them both! 

So, for the first of our Restaurant Week meals, Allie and I selected the Old Mill Room at the Boar's Head Inn.  We'd both eaten the "world-famous" brunch here before, but had never been for dinner.  We made our reservations well in advance (as one must during Restaurant Week) and, on a blisteringly cold Thursday night, headed out to the Boar's Head.  When we arrived, we were surprised to see only about 4 other tables seated in the dining room, though this changed quickly and every seat was taken within the next 30 minutes.  Our waiter presented us with the Restaurant Week menus and the extensive wine list.  After consideration of the wintry weather outside, we both decided it would be best to have just one glass of wine each with dinner.  I was pleased to see that they had a good variety of wines by the glass.  Allie ordered a glass of the Barboursville Viognier, while I opted for the Sensual Malbec (which I later learned had been replaced with the Catena Malbec, though I was charged the lower price for the Sensual!).

Boar's Head Restaurant Week Menu (click to see full-size)

After taking our time perusing the menu and enjoying the first sips of our wine, we set about ordering our three courses each.  Allie started with the braised veal cheek.  Neither of us had tried veal cheek before, but we are certainly glad we did!  The cheek was braised to extreme eat-it-with-your-spoon tenderness and served atop super creamy Wade's Mill grits.  Also on the dish were some cajun-seared shrimp, which were tender and tasty but rather puny (I'm talking shrimp fried rice tiny).  We are both fans of braised beef short ribs, and now we know we're fans of braised veal cheek too!  For my first course, I opted for the salmon tartare, which was very fresh and delicious.  The salmon was clean and fresh and smothered with a mildly-spicy roasted shallot vinaigrette and then topped off with pickled fennel, radish, and frisee.  The first courses certainly did not disappoint - though if I went back again, I would definitely order Allie's braised veal cheek over my salmon tartare.

Braised Veal Cheek with Cajun Seared Shrimp and Wade's Mill Grits

For her main course, Allie ordered the chorizo-crusted atlantic flounder.  The flounder was perfectly cooked - warm, flaky, and still juicy.  The chorizo crust added a nice amount of spice and grease to the fish, and the butternut squash puree under the fish was smooth and slightly sweet, to perfectly complement the chorizo's spice.  The plate also included a very tasty chopped brussel sprout and bacon accompaniment.  For my own main course, I chose the grilled flat iron steak, which I ordered medium.  The steak arrived a perfect medium (which can be rather hard to find these days!) and covered in a deliciously sweet and tangy madeira mustard jus.  The celery root potato puree was smooth and creamy, though I had a hard time finding the celery root flavor in it, and the sauteed kale was a nice addition to the dish.  Finally, for dessert Allie had the apple spice cake with candied pecans and salted caramel ice cream.  The spice cake was tasty, but might have been better if it had been served warm instead of room temperature.  The ice cream was perfectly salty and the candied pecans gave a nice bit of crunchy texture to the dessert.  I went with the chocolate creme brulee served with a sweet potato cookie.  This too was tasty, though felt a bit pedestrian for such a nice restaurant (and compared to the other 5 dishes we'd had already). 

In the end, this was one of our favorite restaurant week meals ever in Charlottesville.  I felt like the portion sizes were more than adequate for the price and the fact that everyone was eating 3 courses.  The food was overall delicious and every dish was perfectly prepared (which cannot be easy to do when the dining room is packed all-night every-night for the whole week).  The service was excellent, the wine selection was great (as were our personal wine choices), and the price was very nice!  We will certainly be returning to the Boar's Head for restaurant week in the future (July 8th-14th is the next one!), and maybe even sooner!

Overall Impression: Delicious Virginia-style food in a vintage setting at an unbelievable price - the Old Mill Room definitely earns its Four Diamonds in my book!

Food Rating:

Wine Rating:

Contact Information:
           The Old Mill Room at the Boar's Head Inn
           200 Ednam Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22903
          (434) 296-2181

Old Mill Room on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Revolutionary Soup

Since Allie had to work this weekend and I didn't, I decided to bring her lunch at work today.  I went to one of my old stand-by's - Revolutionary Soup.  For those of you who have not been, Rev Soup is a Charlottesville staple that specializes in homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps, and salads utilizing the freshest ingredients sourced from local farms.  You can also pick up a variety of local (and not-so-local) wine and beer at reasonable prices.  They have 2 locations in town - the original on the Downtown Mall and a newer space on the UVA Corner.
I ordered Allie her favorite combination - Spicy Senegalese Peanut Tofu soup with an Adam's Apple sandwich.  The peanut tofu soup is a thick, creamy soup made out of - you guessed it - peanuts and tofu.  It is spiced with jalapenos giving it a not-so-subtle but not-mouth-on-fire heat and then topped off with crisp scallions and cilantro.  For a vegan and gluten-free dish, its pretty darn tasty!  The Adam's Apple, meanwhile, is a Charlottesville legend.  Start with a pile of smoky sliced turkey, cover that with creamy chevre cheese, and add tangy garlic aioli and you have the start of a good sandwich.  But Rev Soup doesn't stop there - they add salty bacon and fresh arugula to the mix.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well we're not done yet.  Top all that off with crisp, thinly-sliced granny smith apples and house-made apple butter and put it all on toasted sunflower wheat bread.  Okay, now I'm done.  It might sound like a lot to put on one sandwich, but believe me (and everyone else I know who's tried it), it definitely works!

For my own lunch, I opted for the Garlic Garden wrap paired with beef chili.  Let me first say that I am a carnivore at heart and very rarely choose a vegetarian option when faced with choices that include meat.  But the garlic garden wrap is on exception to this.  Imagine roasted red peppers, melted red onions, creamy avocado, lettuce and tomato smothered with melted cheese and topped off with smooth, garlic-infused cream cheese.  Rev Soup prepares the garlic garden 2 ways: wrapped in a flower tortilla or piled on sunflower wheat bread.  I generally prefer the wrap, as it makes for a somewhat healthier and easier to eat sandwich.  As for the beef chili, Rev Soup uses local Timberwood Creek beef combined with hearty chunks of green & red pepper, onion, and beans in a smoky, spicy, and subtly sweet base - making for a warm-your-soul-on-a-cold-day kind of chili that perfectly "meats-up" the vegetarian wrap. 

Overall Impression: Fresh, flavorful, and locally-sourced soup and sandwiches that are simply revolutionary!

Food Rating:

Contact Information:
           Revolutionary Soup
           Corner Location:
                      104 14th Street Northwest
                      Charlottesville, VA 22903
                      (434) 979-9988
           Downtown Location:
                      108 2nd Street SW
                      Charlottesville, VA 22902
                      (434) 296-SOUP (7687)

Revolutionary Soup on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early Mountain Vineyards

On a sunny and unseasonably warm Saturday in January, we decided to make the long trek out to one of the few area wineries that we hadn't visited - Early Mountain Vineyards.  I was a little hesitant to make our way out to Early Mountain, knowing that it had only recently been reopened in the old Sweely Estate Winery location and was the latest example of a local wine-making operation being taken over by big money (think also Trump Winery).  Early Mountain is owned by Steve Case, former co-founder and CEO of AOL, and his wife Jean.  I also knew that Early Mountain had very few wines of its own, and was instead touting its "Best of Virginia" wine tasting program.  For all of these reasons, we set out with cautious optimism.

It took about 50 minutes to get from our home near downtown C-Ville to Early Mountain (which is located in Madison County, about 17 miles near of the Charlottesville-Albemarle airport).  On our arrival, we were met by the elegant stone facade of the winery building.  The winery itself is situated within a valley, so the views are not as fantastic as some other area wineries, but there are still mountain views nonetheless.  Inside, the tasting room is warm and inviting, with exposed wooden beams, chandeliers, and a cozy fireplace, which was lit the day we visited.  There is plenty of seating with a wide variety of tables (of varying size) and couches. 

The Tasting Room, Image courtesy

Early Mountain offers a variety of wine tasting flights, which each cost $12.  The day we visited, they had a red flight, a white flight, a red/white flight, and a cider flight.  We ordered one each of the red/white flight and the red flight - for a total of 8 2-oz tastings - and were told to have a seat and make ourselves comfortable and the wine would be delivered to us.  We picked out a nice table near the fireplace and about 5 minutes later received our 8 glasses of wine.  Out of our 8 varietals, we had 3 which were actually Early Mountain's own - Pinot Gris, Handshake Red, and Merlot. The pinot gris was light and flavorful, and certainly among the best Virginia pinot gris I have tasted.  The Handshake Red, described as a Bordeaux-style blend, was somewhat disappointing.  It was very light and fruity with little of the deep flavors expected in a Bordeaux blend.  The merlot was silky and flavorful, but again lacked the depth of the best merlots.  Overall, Early Mountain's wines were good, but not great, though I certainly see potential for them as they move beyond their first vintages.  In addition to the Early Mountain wines, our flights included wines from King Family, Barboursville, and Breaux Vineyards, all of which were very nice selections that showcased some of the best Virginia varietals.

Early Mountain Wine, Image courtesy

In addition to our wine, we ordered several dishes from the food menu.  The food, like the wine, is brought right to your table, making for a very relaxed and self-paced tasting experience.  We started with the Chef's Selection cheese platter, which was delicious.  The platter included a variety of cheeses, from the wine-soaked Pride of Bacchus sheep's cheese to the soft, tangy Skyline blue cheese.  The platter's accompaniments, including dried fruits and an incredible creamed honey, paired perfectly with the cheeses, as did the prosciutto which we added to the platter.  Next we ordered the spinach and artichoke dip, which we found to be warm and hearty, though nothing special compared to the many other spinach and artichoke dips I have had before.  Finally, we added the Smithfield pulled pork sliders to our order.  The sliders were the perfect size and the cole slaw was very crisp and flavorful.  The pork itself was slightly on the dry side, but when smothered with the incredible Setter Mountain Bourbon BBQ sauce, I barely even noticed.

Now, it was time for dessert and we simply couldn't resist the warm Carpe Donut with Homestead Creamery ice cream.  The donut was warm and, as always, delicious (if you have never tried a Carpe Donut you really should!) and the ice cream was great, especially when topped with caramel sauce.  To accompany our dessert, we decided to order a cider tasting as well.  We promptly received a tasting of five Virginia ciders, ranging from the very dry and champagne-like Albemarle Ciderworks Jupiter's Legacy to the sweeter, off-dry Foggy Ridge's First Fruit.  My personal favorite was the Potter's Craft Cider Farmhouse Dry, which was a perfect balance between dry and sweet with just the right amount of bubbles. 

Overall Impression:  Boasting good wine, great food, and an awesome atmosphere, Early Mountain is certainly worth the drive!

Food Rating:

Wine Rating:

Contact Information:
           Early Mountain Vineyards
           6109 Wolftown-Hood Road, Madison VA 22727

Early Mountain Vineyards on Urbanspoon