I love to cook. But what I really love, is to eat food prepared by people who have dedicated their lives to culinary artistry. Cooking really is an art and when done well it’s the ultimate feast for ALL the senses. I should also add that I really appreciate a man, or indeed anyone, who understands that about me and researches and makes reservations in advance, at a place they think I’d enjoy. Andy did just that last night, picking Dutch & Company in Church Hill for a early dinner. My first visit and definitely not my last.
While I sipped on a glass of Rose at our corner table by the window, I perused the menu and knew we were in for a treat. When visiting a restaurant for the first time, I like to try and eat a variety of small plates so that I can get a feel for what the place does well and what style of food they are presenting. I rarely eat meat now so I was happy to see a number of vegetarian and seafood options here. We made our selections and so began our little culinary journey…
The presentation of the bread was a great start, delicious grainy wholewheat bread wrapped like a parcel in a linen napkin held together with a clothes peg. Gorgeous!
Next up were half a dozen Ruby Salts, already dressed with a dot of mignonette and a tiny slice of chive. I love it when a chef is essentially telling you how to eat your oysters, as creatures of habit, people tend to eat them the same way each time. Here, you are eating them in the way the kitchen wants you to experience them. Briny, plump oysters with the slight sharpness of the dot of mignonette and a cool chive. Just lovely.
Our excellent server suggested enjoying the small plates two at a time. She was right, the flavors might have been too overwhelming otherwise. The Smoked Salmon Rillette was served with warm Salmon Skin Blinis and the saltiness of the fish was perfectly cut by the cool Chive Yoghurt served with it.
I eat a lot of Almond butter these days so the next dish caught my attention right away. Figs with Marcona Almond, Chili Threads, Lemon Curd, Smoked Almond Butter and Smoked Salt. It was fascinating. It was, in my opinion, essentially figs with a deconstructed Peanut Sauce. I loved it and I particularly loved the presentation. The chili threads were a beautiful touch in both taste and looks.
Our next duo included what I believe is a signature dish here, “The Perfect Egg”. Rye Crusted Cured Salmon, Herbs, Sprouted Quinoa, Braised Cabbage, Cumin Yogurt. So much texture, color and flavor in one dish. It was beautiful. The egg was encased in breading which, when punctured, caused the yolk to pour out onto the plate. They’re right, it is the perfect egg.
Our other plate consisted of Fried Cauliflour with Chili Sauce, Cucumber, Sesame, Basil and Scallions. Yet another lovely combination of color, texture and flavor. I was delighted.
I don’t always order dessert but this is the kind of place that you really have to, and I’m glad we did! Chocolate Semifreddo with balsamic soaked blackberries, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Heavenly. The richness didn’t come from the flavor of chocolate but more from the creamy texture and the addition of olive oil. It was a spectacular marriage of flavors.
This is not the kind of place for people who must have ice in their water, request endless substitutions or insist on food being prepared in a particular way. It’s a place to challenge your tastebuds and enjoy a mini-adventure, throw caution to the wind and trust that you will be well fed. Definitely my kind of place.
Next time I go, I’ll likely take others and enjoy their $29 three-course prix-fixe dinner. It would be fun for everyone to order different dishes to allow more opportunity for tasting. It looks like they have great craft cocktails too. The decor has a very RVA vibe to it, being located in a historic neighborhood. It’s comfortable, not pretentious but at the same time possesses a subtley high level of sophistication. The service was flawless, as was every bite. There is some serious artistry going on in that kitchen and I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy such a fabulous experience there. I’m ready to go back anytime!