I was recently asked to help out at Richmond Magazine with their Top 25 Restaurants issue that just hit the stands a few days ago. Tina E did a great job as my editor, taking my rather lengthy thoughts and condensing them down to a more reasonable length for the feature. You should rush out a get a copy and read it – if that leaves you wanting a bit more then here is the full piece on Coast……
It’s always sad to see a favorite restaurant close. Especially when one closes abruptly, like Enoteca Sogna did on November 28th, not due to a lack of business but over landlord issues and an overly boisterous new neighbor. The good news is that owner/chef Gary York has a new restaurant over on Grove & Libbie in the old Du Jour space called Coast. The question is, does Coast live up to the high expectations one would have after dining at Enoteca? In a word, yes.
At first glance the restaurant feels familiar. Muted wall colors and sparse décor, much like Enoteca. The food, however, is completely different. Instead of Italian classics the emphasis is on seafood. Starters for dinner include such inventive dishes as Fried Oysters with a Tarragon Remoulade or my personal favorite, Seared Sea Scallops in Chive Butter with Serrano Ham. The perfectly crusted scallops remain moist in the center while the richness of the chive butter and the saltiness of the ham make every bite enjoyable.
Two of the entrées are real standouts. Normally, I am not a fan of grits (Why, yes, I am not from the South). The Shrimp and Grits, however, may make me re-think that stance. Stone-ground, the grits add texture and become the perfect vehicle for enjoying the rich sherry and garlic cream sauce with the tasty shrimp. The signature dish for Coast is their Crab Cakes. Made with Jumbo Lump Crab, no fillers and just enough binder to hold it together the taste and textures of the crab shine through. The sauce the last time I was in sounded a bit pedestrian at first, tartar sauce, but the homemade taste with just enough sweetness was memorable enough for me to turn my noise up at any jar tartar sauce that I may be offered in the future.
Lunch tends successfully towards the decadent. Kobe Burger with White Vermont Cheddar and Caramelized Onions? Got it. How about a BLT with locally made bacon and topped with a fried egg? Even a simple Ham & Cheese gets stepped up a notch when served with Fontina cheese and on brioche. If it’s cold, or just because they are good, don’t skip the soups. Seasonal favorites like Butternut Squash are full of creamy goodness can be had for the soup du jour or you can go a little spicier with the Roasted Red Pepper with Jumbo Lump Crab. There are even lunch portions of the Shrimp & Grits or the Crab Cake as a sandwich – a nice way to sample before taking the big plunge for dinner.
Like Enoteca, it’s all about the food. Since they use only the freshest ingredients the menu is short to avoid items sitting too long or needing to be frozen. The restaurant is also small so get there early or make a reservation to ensure you can get seated. Applications are in to cover the patio so it can be used year round – assuming the city cooperates. And if you are missing Enoteca, never fear, they are close to signing a lease on a new space and hope to be re-opened sometime in the first half of 2010. Here’s to hoping Gary is successful.