Parallel 38: First Impressions
Few Charlottesville restaurants have a room with as much energy as Parallel 38’s sleek, loud, sprawling space. Co-owner Justin Ross, who once managed Jose Andres’ Zaytinya in Washington D.C., has lured chef Alfredo Malinis to head the kitchen, whom he met while working together at Level, in Annapolis, MD. As Level’s Executive Chef, Malinis improbably helped the restaurant earn a spot on the prestigious Washingtonian 100 less than a year after it opened. Ross describes Malinis as the type of chef who, as soon as you meet him, you know he is something special.
If our first dinner at Parallel 38 is any indication, Ross may be right. The opening menu (here!) features mezze, small plates drawing on the cuisines of Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon. Food intended for sharing and our dinner guests’ conservative palates conspired to prevent us from trying the lamb tartare with red onion, maldon, and lime ($9) or the veal sweetbreads with fennel and butternut squash ($12). But, we did manage to finagle excellent goat meatballs, in a sauce of tomato and oregano ($8), as well as a plate of three cubes of pork belly with cipolini and roasted garlic ($10) that rivaled any pork belly dish in town. As good as those were, they may have been outdone by the lightly grilled kalamari alongside a salad boldly flavored with warm,briny capers, fennel, lemon juice, and fresh herbs ($10). Another table favorite was labneh ($6), a spread of strained yogurt, olive oil, and zatar that was far more flavorful and addictive than its milky appearance might suggest. We ended up slathering it on everything in sight. It didn’t hurt that the enthusiastic servers kept replenishing the plates of pleasantly charred flat bread, “fired” to order.
Of course, struggles with ABC mean we may be burying the lede here. While ABC licensing delays left only a few wines available, at full strength the restaurant will be wine-focused, with a menu of 100+ wines, all available by the glass, thanks to a technology that allows wine to be removed from a bottle without compromising the remaining wine. Ross has spent much of his career in wine, and has also shaken his share of cocktails in his day. We enjoyed a “Greek Sidecar,” a clever riff using the Greek spirit Metaxa in the place of cognac. And, we can’t wait to explore the wine.
We’ll be back soon.