Walking into The Fat Goat you can almost forget you are in Richmond. It has a very Northern California kind of feel. Quirky organic space. Jack of all trade staff that might be serving one minute and working the stove the next. You get the impression that you could easily spend a lot of time here. Pity it falls apart at the food.
1st Course – High Hopes – I love scallops. You have to really mess up for me to not like them (Gibson’s Grill managed that…). The idea of a Smoked Scallop Slider was intriguing… A smoked scallop can be tricky. Very easy for it to come out tough or with a funky flavour. The scallops were actually very well done. Smoked just enough to add flavour and colour but not tough or stringy. Sadly, the bun was cold and a little hard while the tomato aioli may as well have been generic bottled mayo. The total lack of depth and flavour was disappointing.
2nd Course – Still Hopeful – A rainy November night just screams for a good soup. Lentil Soup with Curry easily catches the eye. Presentation was perfect. Large bowl, lentils fully cooked but still intact and not mushed, triangle of flat bread, dollop of sour cream. Taste? Exceptionally bland. The curry was only the hint of an aftertaste. Unfortunate, since when I could detect the curry it tasted wonderful. Other than that I may as well have been eating, well, unflavoured boiled lentils. Some bacon, or bacon fat would have been a really nice addition but I would have just settled for some salt.
I was ordering the next course while I was eating the one before. I had fully intended for the next course to be an entree. After this shaky start I couldn’t justify the price of the entrees and decided to hit another appetizer…
3rd Course – Losing Hope – Crab Cake with Wasabi Aioli. I’m sure I’ve had this dish elsewhere and liked it. I was also willing to endure another lecture from Brandon Fox on the sustainability of crab and some of it’s less then reputable sources. I just wanted something good. The crab cake was fine. Basically all crab, no noticeable filler except for binder, no fishy flavour, no real flavour…. Sigh. I’m starting to notice a trend. If the aioli had any relationship with wasabi it was a bad one-night stand that ended with a handshake. On the side of the plate was tomato and cucumber pearls. A real fancy piece of molecular gastronomy. Done right these should explode with flavour in your mouth. They didn’t.
4th Course – Grasping At Straws – Gnocchi with Grilled Fennel, Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers, Parmesan and Garlic Sauce. Surely this must have flavour. Nope. I appreciate subtle and delicate flavours. This was just lacking. The sauce was a brown broth-like liquid lacking in flavour and the promised garlic. The Parmesan was forgotten. The gnocchi was tough and over-cooked on the outside and nearly raw on the inside. ‘Nuff said.
It’s a shame. The space, a horribly difficult space to work with, is nicely done and appointed. The staff is interesting and quirky. Sean, the waiter (organic vegetable farmer by day, waiter by night) reminded of me of Jeff Spicoli – but in a good way. Short of high-end formal dining he could be a great waiter anywhere – casual, caring and genuine. The rest of the staff stood out from many RVA eateries by working together as a team. If they could just embrace the quirky base they have built perhaps they could make the menu just a bit more interesting and if they could embrace some ****ing salt perhaps it might even taste good.