The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: David Morgan

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.

 

2017 Best New Restaurant: Tavern & Grocery

Tavern

With Citizen Burger BarThe Virginian, and The Biltmore all to his name, there is no doubting restaurateur Andy McClure’s knack for running successful restaurants. But, until Tavern & Grocery opened last year, one may have wondered whether that knack extends beyond traditional bar fare.

Wonder no more. Tavern & Grocery, McClure’s first foray into more sophisticated cuisine, is Charlottesville’s Best New Restaurant.

While the reasons are many, the biggest is the kitchen. David Morgan, a talented young chef, has been sous chef at acclaimed restaurants like Clifton Inn and Ian Boden’s Staunton Grocery (now closed). In his first stint as head chef, he has nailed it. His food is just familiar enough to appeal to the masses, while also showing the attention to detail to excite those of us with a passion for food. Case in point is the steak & fromage sandwich. If you’re inclined, scarf it down mindlessly, and it will hit the spot. But, it’s so well executed that it will also repay close scrutiny. After dry aging grass-fed rib-eye for four weeks, Morgan cold-smokes it, and then heaps seared thin slices onto a buttered Albemarle Baking Company baguette with brie, caramelized red onion, and garlic aioli.  Other highlights are a dish of braised  baby squid with a runny 62-degree duck egg, a burger that may be the best in town, and almost any special, where Morgan showcases his creativity.

But, don’t worry. This isn’t a froufrou place. It’s a tavern, warm and welcoming. The cozy space of brick and wood may inspire you to break out your phone and take a picture – just as alluring for an intimate drink as for a raucous meal with friends.

tavern

In fact, as others have observed, the setting and varied menu allow guests to make what they want of a visit to Tavern & Grocery. There are snacks for a light bite or sharing, sandwiches, and full entrees for those seeking a proper meal.

In addition to dinner seven nights was week, Sunday Brunch is already one of the area’s best, with the potential to bring back the party brunch. And, there is a serious beverage program, too, thanks to McClure’s brother Patrick, who also runs the downstairs speakeasy-style bar Lost Saint.

Service has the polish you’d expect from a place run by a serial restaurateur. Knowledgeable servers are passionate about the enterprise and seem genuinely to care about their guests’ experience.

Tavern & Grocery occupies a tricky location on West Main that was once home to McClure’s restaurant West Main. On neither the mall nor The Corner, it has always been a tough nut to crack. Here’s hoping that others agree Tavern & Grocery warrants breaking old habits and starting new ones. While the other finalists are worthy, Tavern & Grocery is 2017’s Best New Restaurant.

Introducing Tavern & Grocery

Tavern

At 5 pm today,  Tavern & Grocery will open its doors in the former home of West Main Restaurant.  It is the latest project of restaurateur Andy McClure, who also owns Citizen Burger Bar, The Biltmore, and The Virginian.  At Tavern & Grocery, McClure says to expect “classic tavern dishes” in a comfortable setting – the type of food you’d want “when you return home from a long trip.”

A sneak peek at the menu reveals familiar favorites, gussied up, like a crispy chicken sandwich with Swiss, bacon, and sriracha mayo, and a “steak and fromage” sandwich, with cold smoked grass-fed rib-eye, sliced thin to order, creamy brie, caramelized red onion, on crusty bread.  But, there’s more adventurous stuff too, like veal sweetbreads with dill sauce, and a banh mi sandwich, with smoked pork belly and house pork pate, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapeno, and miso mayo.  As for the “grocery,” a section of the menu called “The Store” offers house-made items to-go like cured ham and smoked sausage.

Running the kitchen is David Morgan, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has been sous chef to Tucker Yoder at Clifton Inn and Ian Boden at Staunton Grocery, and also worked for Reed Anderson at Blue Light Grill during what he calls its “glory days.”  The dish that Morgan lights up about is “Squid and Eggs.” Baby squid, braised in red wine and smoked pork stock, is topped with a 62 degree egg.  “When broke and stirred in,” says Morgan,  “it becomes something magical. Perfect to mop up with a hand-torn chunk of bread.”

Downstairs is a bar called Lost Saint, a promising addition to our cocktail scene, which McClure describes as a “modern cocktail lab in a historic setting.”  Managing and co-owning Lost Saint is McClure’s brother Patrick, a Certified Cicerone who has worked at and even managed some great Washington D.C. bars like Birch & Barley, Eat the Rich, and Barrel. Patrick plans “modern classics” using house-made tinctures, bitters, shrubs, and infusions. “Our guests can expect a classic cocktail customized to their preferences or a new flavor combination from our house cocktail menu,” says Patrick.  For food, there will even be some Lost Saint-only items from the Tavern & Grocery kitchen.

Lost Saint