The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Andrew Cole

Prime 109’s First New Menu Since James Beard Nod

For the first time since winning national acclaim, Prime 109 Executive Chef Ian Redshaw has a new menu. In February, Redshaw became the first Charlottesville chef to be named a James Beard semifinalist for best Rising Star chef in the country, an award previously won by the likes of Bobby Flay and Grant Achatz. Calls flooded in — from media, restaurants seeking collaborations, and even television shows.

“It meant the world,” said Redshaw. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would happen.” Now that it has, Redshaw calls it a “relief.” Hidden in a kitchen, chefs rarely receive feedback, which can lead to self-doubt. National recognition has alleviated much of that for Redshaw. “I put more pressure on myself before because I wasn’t as confident that I was doing the right things,” he said. “This was a boost that has allowed me to trust myself more as a chef.”

Even before the James Beard nod, Redshaw was already doing great things, like the 2015 and the 2016 Dishes of the Year, and being named 2018 Best Chef in C-VILLE Weekly Now with the confidence boost of national acclaim, he has released a new spring menu at Prime 109. I recently sampled the whole thing with a group of friends, and below are the highlights, with photos courtesy of Tom McGovern. Beverage Director Andrew Cole was excellent with wine pairings, as noted.

The Menu

Prime 109 has two menus: an a la carte steak menu and a regular menu. Perhaps because of the notoriety of the local, dry-aged steaks, some may overlook the regular menu. Don’t. With main dishes ranging from $14-$28, not only is it more affordable than many of the steaks, it is also outstanding. Even if Prime 109 served no steaks at all, its menu would rival almost any restaurant’s in town. Under Redshaw’s leadership, there is some serious cooking going on.

For the appetizers, Cole chose the 2017 Chateau Pradeaux Vesprée Rose, a barrel aged rose from Provence made from Mouvedre. While Cole says it could pair with almost any appetizer, he particularly likes it with the Vitello Tonato below. Spot on.

Crudo ($14) draws on Redshaw’s sushi apprenticeship many years ago at Roanoke’s Metro restaurant, now closed. Raw hamachi crowns a tiara of ginger, ikura, mustard seed, tatsoi, and hibiscus. “The hisbiscus is a sweet balancing factor, and a striking color,” said Redshaw.

crudo

Photo by Tom McGovern

Beet Salad ($9) is hay-smoked beets, with horseradish rose water cream, kefir, petit greens, puffed grain gremolata, pumpkin seeds and a citrus emulsion. Hay-smoking called to mind one of the most memorable dishes of my life: hay-smoked turbot, decades ago at Maestro, where Fabio Trabocchi first gained fame. Here, Redshaw first par-roasts beets and then smokes them, skin-on, in hay. “I have always wanted to do Daniel Patterson’s beet rose,” said Redshaw. “But it’s so tedious.” Instead, he and sous chef Scott Schuett took some of the flavors and made them their own. “The kefir and horseradish round out the smokey sweetness of the beets,” said Redshaw, “while a spritz of absinthe to finish adds the aromatic effect of anisette to the rose water and smoke, a favorite combination of mine.”

Beets

Photo by Tom McGovern

Vitello Tonato ($15) is Redshaw’s riff on the classic Italian combination of veal and tuna. Redshaw coats veal thymus glands in chickpea flour and then fries them to crisp. In the bowl, they join braised baby artichoke, beet mustard, parsley, lemon, and aioli spiked with sherry vinegar and cured tuna.

sweetbreads

Photo by Tom McGovern

For the entrées, Cole chose two different wines, a 2017 Vietti Arneis and a 2012 Paolo Bea San Valentino, depending on the entrées.

For Quail Saltimbocca ($24), Redshaw wraps quail pieces in prosciutto and lightly sautées them in butter and sage, before serving the quail with beluga lentils and spring vegetables en papillote. “Combining two of my favorites, this dish is a combination of my Italian and French roots,” said Redshaw. “En papillote is a classic French preparation that allows the simple nuances of items packed inside paper to be lightly steamed and poached to give subtle aromatics.” With this, Cole paired the Paolo Bea San Valentino, made by a cult producer from Umbria famous for for its Sagrantinos. A traditional
Montefalco Rosso blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and Sagrantino, Cole says it is versatile enough to pair with most entrées, but he especially likes it with the quail or dry-aged steak.

Quail

Photo by Tom McGovern

Crab Gnudi ($22), perhaps our favorite dish of the night, was inspired by one Redshaw created years ago while working at Mercato in Redhook. After his boss Fracesco Buitoni received a James Beard semifinalist nod, Buitoni was so impressed with Redshaw’s gnudi that he allowed him to serve it at a Mercado dinner at the James Beard House. The gnudi are pasta dumplings made of ricotta impastada, pecorino, house made fresh ricotta, parmesan and a touch of flower and egg. The dish’s other ingredients, Redshaw says, will change with the season. For Spring, they are crab, asparagus, beurre blanc, and nasturtium. With the gnudi, Cole likes the Vietti Arneis, a varietal native to Piemonte made by a preeminent Barolo producer.

Redshaw’s Support

Redshaw may have the most accomplished kitchen staff in town, with several cooks who have been head chef at other top restaurants. And, they’ve got some dishes on the new menu, too.

Beef Carpaccio ($16) is a creation of David Morgan, the original chef of Tavern & Grocery, who says the dish was a way to use up all of the short ribs left over after butchering steaks. “While braising some short ribs one day, I decided to just try a slice raw because it had such beautiful marbling,” Morgan said. Voila. Short rib carpaccio. For the dish, Morgan slices short ribs paper thin, and adds just olive oil, Maldon salt, and pepper. Atop the beef is a salad of arugula, pea shoots, mint, chervil, and parsley, tossed in a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon, and black truffle pieces. Garnishes are crisp frico of Cabot Clothbound cheddar and thin curls of toasted bread.

carpaccio

Photo by Tom McGovern

Utilizing several different preparations in one dish, Scallops ($28) are a creation of Chef de Cuisine Bill Scatena, former head chef of Pippin Hill. First is a yellow curry broth that starts with a paste made of fresh turmeric from Wayside Produce, galangal, Thai chilies, garlic, roasted shallot, a Malaysian shrimp paste called “Belacan,” whole coriander, cumin seeds, star anise, coconut sugar and salt. Scatena combines the paste with coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice to create a balanced broth that holds up well to the shellfish in the dish, without being overpowering. To order, the kitchen sears New England U10 scallops a la plancha while steaming PEI blue mussels in the curry broth. Atop the scallops and mussels in the bowl is a garnish of a crudo of New England razor clams, shucked while live, cleaned and dressed with kumquat kosho, olive oil, chili oil and Meyer lemon juice. Finishing garnishes are shaved scallions, shaved hakurei turnips and local redbuds. 

Razor clam

Photo by Tom McGovern

Scatena also is the source of one of the show-stopping ingredients of the night: XO sauce. Experiencing a bit of a moment right now, XO sauce is an umami-laden condiment said to have originated in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. The sauce takes days to make as Scatena gradually incorporates cured uni into it. Scatena first cures Hokkaido Uni for two days in kombu, sometimes called the “king of seaweeds.” Scatena then gently washes it and steeps it in black garlic shoyu for a day. For the sauce, Scatena gently fries an assortment of ingredients over very low heat for a long period of time: Chinese sausage, shallot, garlic, peanuts, dried shredded shrimp, ground chilis, coriander, scallion and salted anchovy. He then folds back in the steeped garlic shoyu from the uni, and once the sauce cools to room temperature, adds the uni itself, finely chopped. At the restaurant, the XO sauce garnishes hearth grilled asparagus which is set over sauce Beanaise with charred cipppolini onions. It also garnishes asparagus with the crab cake. But, our crew was so fond of it, we sampled a small ramekin of it, and found it so well balanced that it was delicious even by itself.

crabcake

Photo by Tom McGovern

XO XO, Prime 109.

 

Introducing Prime 109

Prime109Logo

When five partners opened a tiny Belmont restaurant in late 2014, skeptics scratched their heads. Sure, it was a talented team. Loren Mendosa had run the kitchen at Tavola and also cooked at MAS. Ian Redshaw had cooked at Tavola and been head chef of L’Etoile. Mitchell Beerens had cooked at Tavola and MAS, and had also helped launch several restaurants for Virginia Restaurant Company. Shelly Robb was longtime GM of Bizou and also assistant manager at Tavola. And, Andrew Cole had directed Tavola’s award-winning beverage program.

But, five working partners and just twenty-one seats? Restaurants’ tight margins often fail to support just one partner, let alone five. And besides, food is an ego-laden business. With so many cooks in the kitchen, egos seemed bound to collide.

And yet, Lampo has thrived. Four years after opening, lines still form outside the restaurant every day for dinner. Since 2014, no restaurant has made more appearances in Five Finds on Friday or Chefs’ “Best Thing I Ate All Year.” And, in both 2017 and 2018, Lampo won Best Restaurant in C-VILLE Weekly’s annual Best of C-VILLE.

For their next trick, the team is going to the opposite extreme: from a tiny pizzeria off-the-beaten-path to a colossal steakhouse in the former Bank of America building at the heart of the downtown mall – Prime 109. While Lampo is one of Charlottesville’s smallest restaurants, the multi-story, 10,000 square-foot Prime 109 might be the downtown mall’s biggest. Ever. Lampo’s entire restaurant could fit in Prime 109’s kitchen. Three times.

And so, again there are skeptics. In a restaurant market that many call over-saturated, Prime 109 is adding more than 150 seats. And, while the steady trend in restaurants is smaller and more casual, Prime 109 is a throwback to grand and opulent.

Prime space

Photo by Signe Clayton.

How does the team plan to overcome a new set of doubts?

The same way they did at Lampo: relationships.

Good People Make Good Restaurants

The relationships most vital to the Lampo team’s success are those they share with each other. At the risk of sounding sappy: good people make good restaurants. And, by good, I mean decent, kind, and caring. Sure, it helps to have talent, passion, and business aptitude. But, what stands out most about great restaurant successes is that they are usually run by good people.

The Lampo team is good people. Tight margins have not sunk them because they care more about each other than squeezing out the last dollar. “We understand that, at the end of the day, best quality products are more important that someone being upset,” says Redshaw. Egos remain intact because no one worries who receives “credit.” When Mendosa was named C-VILLE’s Best Chef in 2015, there was no one happier than his partners. When Redhsaw won the same award this year, it was again his partners who celebrated most. “We were thrilled for Ian,” said Mendosa. “It was great to see the greater public recognize what all of us have known for a long time.”

On a recent national food podcast, Beerens explained what’s behind the team’s success:

We all loved each other. We were real, true friends. And, we trusted each other . . . because these people don’t have a bad bone in their body. It’s not just because we are business partners and we can all gain something off of each other. These are just genuinely good people.

The Team

The Lampo team’s close relationships were never more needed than after a tragic accident Redshaw’s wife Allie suffered in March 2017. Former chef of Timbercreek Market and sous chef of Pippin Hill, Allie’s hand became stuck in a meat grinder at Lampo, eventually requiring amputation. In the wake of Allie’s accident, the Lampo team and food community rallied behind her, and with their support, she channeled her passion from cooking to wine. Now equipped with a prosthetic hand and a certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers, Allie is Prime 109’s Associate Wine Director, assisting Cole as Wine Director.

The kitchen roster, meanwhile, reads like the Golden State Warriors of Charlottesville cooking. At Executive Chef is Redshaw. Chef de Cuisine is Bill Scatena, former head chef of Pippin Hill. Pastry Chef is Beerens, good news to anyone who has had Lampo’s bread or crostatas. And Sauté Cook is Mendosa, who will also serve as the restaurant’s de facto CEO. Got that? No bruised egos here: the restaurant’s CEO and winner of 2015 C-VILLE Best Chef is Sauté Cook. Happily.

Heading the bar is Abraham Hawkins, a 2016 transplant from the Big Apple, who boasts more than a decade of experience in some of New York’s most acclaimed cocktail bars, including the worldrenowned Dutch Kills, which he helped launch in 2009.

Reinventing Local Sourcing

As with Lampo, the idea behind Prime 109 is to fill a void. In the case of Lampo, it was good Neapolitan pizza. With Prime 109, it is a showcase for local meat. Sure, Charlottesville has steakhouses. But none that puts our region’s bounty front and center.

This is where another key set of relationships come in – those with the local food community. As devotees of local sourcing, the Lampo team has built connections with some of our area’s best. With a fondness for meat, Redshaw has led the way on that front through a steak program at Lampo featuring local meat that he dry-ages himself to enhance flavor and tenderness. The steak program became so popular that Prime 109 was a natural outgrowth, drawing on a trio of key partners: Seven Hills, Sherwood Farm, and Highland Orchard Farm.

Prime steak

Dry-aged steak program at Lampo.

An abbatoir and meat wholesaler, Seven Hills has changed the landscape of Virginia beef, Redshaw says. “Their facilities are the most humane I’ve seen,” says Redshaw. “And they focus on the same key tenets we do.” Sherwood Farm and Highland Orchard, meanwhile, are two area farms that Redshaw says raise cattle the right way. “Happier cows make better meat,” proclaims Sherwood Farm.

A key concept behind Prime 109 is that the restaurant’s size will enable it to transform conventional restaurant-farm relationships into true partnerships, with the end result being better products at better prices.

A key concept behind Prime 109 is that the restaurant’s size will enable it to transform conventional restaurant-farm relationships into true partnerships, with the end result being better products at better prices. “I’m most excited about the opportunity to grow and support local farmers in a new way,” says Mendosa, “going beyond just utlilizing their ingredients, to helping streamline their businesses so they’re more profitable and better able to focus on producing the best products.” How? Meat’s typical path from farm-to-table is laden with middle men and inefficiencies: processing, packaging individual cuts, and distribution. The sheer scale of Prime 109 will allow it to cut out many of these inefficiencies by buying whole animals directly from farms and having them processed by Seven Hills specifically for the restaurant. This is a win-win-win. For farms, better profits and more time for other tasks. For Prime 109 and guests, quality products without exorbitant prices.

To help cook this well-sourced meat, the team called on another local connection: acclaimed cookware artisan Blanc Creatives, whose Founder Corry Blanc built Prime 109’s massive wood-fire cooking system. Drawing inspiration from Grillworks and Grills by Demant, Blanc designed the system with grills that can easily be raised and lowered above the fire, to control temperature while achieving the sear that steak-lovers seek. Above each grill is also a vertical rotisserie to hang items for slow cooking, like ducks and prime ribs. “The guys gave me a great opportunity on this one,” says Blanc, “–design, engineer and fabricate a concept that’s been in my head for a while.”

Grill

primesoft3

Photo by Signe Clayton.

The Customer Experience

A spectacular space. A loaded roster. Quality products. What will it all add up to?

The Food

The approach, Redshaw says, is the same as Lampo: technique-driven, flavor-focused food, lacking in ego. Humility aside, Prime 109 will showcase Redshaw’s passion and talent like no restaurant has before. Having seen glimpses of what he can do at Lampo and L’Etoile, Redshaw’s fans in Charlottesville have long awaited a chance like this for him to let loose. And, it’s not just customers who are excited. “We’ve consistently said throughout our partnership that Ian is the most talented in the kitchen,” says Mendosa.

prime ian

Prime 109 Executive Chef Ian Redshaw. Photo by Signe Clayton.

One menu section is a la carte, like a traditional steakhouse. Choose a cut of dry-aged steak, priced per ounce, and pair it with your choice of toppers and sides. Toppers include options like foie gras, bordelaise, and barolo compound butter. Your side might be thrice cooked fries; smoked fingerling potatoes with ramp aioli, smoked salt and chives; or Charleston Ice Cream, Carolina gold Rice, Maine uni, chervil, and puffed wild rice. Plus, Parker House rolls, made to order.

Primesoft5

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Lampo regulars will recognize the attention to detail. For potato pave, a traditional gratin of thinly sliced potatoes is first pressed, and then square portions are deep-fried in tallow, and topped with creme fraiche and chives. For a creamed spinach riff, spinach is sautéed with shallot, garlic and olive oil. Then, rather than folding in bechamel, the spinach is topped with a fonduta out of an iSi and crisped shallot. “It’s all the flavors you think of nostalgically with creamed spinach, while enjoying something a bit lighter,” says Redshaw.

Among dry-aged steaks, the signature is the restaurant’s namesake, Prime 109: Sherwood Farm bone-in rib-eye, dry-aged for 109 days. Redshaw recommends it with a loaded baked potato, rapini, and “Oscar” topping, which is Dungeness crab in a sauce of demi glacé, foie gras, and shaved truffles. “Takes me back to the Steak Diane I had as a child at the Walnut Room in Chicago’s Marshall Field’s,” Redshaw says.

Much of the rest of the menu is refinements of steakhouse classics – dishes the team has been fine-tuning on the side, even running as occasional Lampo specials. Beef tartare is hand cut local beef with mustard seed, anchovy, caper, radish, shallot, parsley, quail egg, and aioli. French onion soup is house bone broth with candy onion and brandy, topped with raclette and sourdough. And, in a dish Lampo regulars might recall as a special, fire roasted lobster is served in uni butter atop spaghetti a la chittara, with calabrian chili, oregano, and tomato.

Another former Lampo special, chicken liver pâté, became so popular that they decided to “retire” it and save it for Prime 109. Chicken liver mousse comes dressed with cherry mostarda, smoked hazelnuts, parsleyed parmesan, frico, and Earl Grey golden raisins.

Keeping with the theme, desserts are updated classics. The Ice Cream Sundae includes Splendora’s cardamom gelato and brown butter gelato, topped with hot fudge, miso caramel, salty peanut brittle, cookies, whipped cream, and, of course, a cherry on top. And, Lemon Meringue Pie builds atop a shortbread crust, with lemon, brûléed meringue, huckleberry sorbet, blueberry, and key lime.

The Wine

The wine list belongs to Wine Director Cole and Associate Wine Director Allie Redshaw. “Tasting with her is remarkable,” Cole says of Allie. “The way she has honed her palate in the kitchen over the last few years allows her to key in on the specific aromas and flavors in a wine.” While Cole’s and Redhsaw’s tastes both lean towards the esoteric, their aim at Prime 109 is to have something for everyone. “Our goal,” says Allie, “is finding a balance between approachability and refined eccentricity.” And so, while there will be plenty of the hard-to-find pét-nats and orange wines that Cole and Redshaw enjoy, there will also be Napa Valley Cabernets for steakhouse traditionalists and lots of Virginia wines to match the local cuisine. Having overseen an exclusively Italian selection at Lampo for the past four years, Cole feels reinvigorated to be able to draw from wines from all over.

PrimeAllie

Prime 109 Associate Wine Director Allie Redshaw. Photo by Signe Clayton.

The Chef’s Counter

The Blanc Creatives custom wood-burning over and grill sit open to the restaurant, bordered on two sides by a marble counter, where guests can enjoy their meal while watching Redshaw and Scatena man the grill. Eventually, Redshaw plans to offer guests at the chef’s counter an omakase-style meal. Tell him how much you’d like to spend and some of your likes and dislikes, and he will take it from there. Or, just order a la carte and watch the show.

Primejv

The chef’s counter. Photo by Signe Clayton.

The Bar

While a chef’s counter “omakase” experience might be a special occasion treat, the team wants Prime 109 to be somewhere you can go often. And so, Prime 109 eventually plans to add a bar menu with affordable sandwiches of dry-aged roast beef, house pastrami, and the Prime Burger – aged beef, American cheese, pickles, onions, and “Primal sauce,” on a sesame seed bun.

As for Hawkins’ cocktail program, this is next level stuff.  An early disciple of the cocktail renaissance of the past two decades, Hawkins sees both positives and negatives in what it has wrought. One positive is obvious: better cocktails more widely available than ever before. A negative, however, he says, is the flood of opportunists to the industry who mask incompetence by elevating style over substance. Hawkins is all about attention-to-detail, but each detail, he says, must have a substantive purpose to enhance the guest’s experience. It’s not just for show. The term “ice program,” for example, may sound pretentious, but Hawkins says there are good reasons he devotes such an enormous amount of time to cutting and perfecting the size and shape of ice for each drink. Proper temperature, dilution rate, etcVisit here for more details on Hawkins’ ambitious cocktail program.

The Extras

In converting the space from bank to restaurant, with help from JAID + Figure and architect Stephanie Williams, the Prime 109 team was determined to preserve the natural elegance and nuances of the historic building. “The sheer scale and decadence of the existing elements of the space lended themselves to our take-off on a bank heist complete with a steak dinner,” says Amy Morris of JAID + Figure. “We played with scale large and small, from column treatments to glints of brass slicing through floors and climbing up vertical surfaces.” Morris credits Sanger Carpentry (banquettes and back bar), U-Fab (banquette fabric) and Lucent Lampworks (custom lighting) as vital to the result.

prime clock

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Prime column details

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Prime lighting

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Primesoft1

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Primesoft2

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Prime vault

Photo by Signe Clayton.

Using existing features of the bank, bells and whistles abound. The restrooms’ working fireplaces remain. A coat-check revives a dying courtesy. The bank’s former drive-thru is now valet parking. Two second-floor rooms for private events offer dramatic views of the restaurant below. And soon, basement vaults will host events as well.

When Bank of America announced in 2016 that it was leaving the building, exactly 100 years after it was built, Tim Hulbert, executive director of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, told C-VILLE Weekly: “It’s a pretty dramatic space. I suspect some smart entrepreneur will see the opportunity and seize it.”

Prime 109 is now open.

Five Finds on Friday: Liberty Kalergis

Liberty

On Fridays, we feature five food finds from local chefs and personalities.  Now that a drink she makes has been named after her, today’s picks come from Liberty Kalergis, longtime manager at MAS Tapas.  Kalergis’ picks:

1) Nachos at Beer Run. “Piled so high you never need an entree. Run by a family so near and dear to my own, we can’t wait to see what they bring to the table at Kardinal Hall, aiming to open their doors this October.”

2) Any Seasonal Vegetable at MAS Tapas.  “Whether it’s padron peppers, cauliflower, artichokes, Brussels, broccolini, or chanterelles, you can’t go wrong with a simple olive oil and sea salt sauté. Good enough to make me go vegetarian . . . almost.”

3) Austin Morning at Brazos Tacos.  “Three of my favorite words = breakfast all day. Egg, brisket and mashed potato paired with Hunter’s Shower Beer from Champion = perfection. Bring the dog or the kid to explore IX Park while Peter and his hard working crew whip you up a little taste of Texas. Who knows, you could even run into a traveling petting zoo.”

4) The Natural at Mono Loco and Nelson County Gentleman at The Alley Light. “My liquor of choice varies by season, so for now it’s tequila all the way in The Natural margarita on the invariably entertaining Mono Loco patio. But when the leaves start falling I crave a couch and a Nelson County Gentleman at Alley Light. Named after one of the bearded mix-maestros behind the bar, you can only find this carbonated, small-batch rye, birch, root and peppermint medley in the cooler months.  Fingers crossed he’ll be making a reappearance this year.”

5)  Carbonara Pizza at Lampo.  “It’s too hard to pick the best dish from their regular menu, so I won’t! Peppery porchetta and cracked eggs made their debut on a white pizza at the pop-up brunch last week and did not disappoint. Neither did Eames’ aptly-named Retox Jus. Stay tuned for the next pop-up dates throughout the winter to catch this beauty before she makes a regular appearance on the brunch menu next Spring. Oh, and always listen to Andrew and Rowe behind the bar.”