Friday, April 18, 2008

Date Night

Big J and I had a date, our first in quite a while. We had a great night planned: wine tasting at a local shop followed by dinner at a new restaurant.

First the wine tasting:
Crush Wine Shop is a newer addition to Charlottesville and one that we learned about a couple months ago while having lunch in the Belmont neighborhood. Every Friday night they have a wine tasting of four wines. This week three of the four wines they served we had previously tasted, so there were no big surprises. The first wine was a sparkling white and it was very good, light with flavors of apple. A nice wine for a summer evening. After tasting wine and looking around the shop we headed next door to dinner.

We made reservations at The Local, one of the newest restaurants in town. I had read a couple things about it: one in our local weekly paper that highlighted the restaurants use of less expensive but flavorful cuts of meat as well as the reasonable price point. The owner stated that he wanted it to be a place where people could feel they could afford to come regularly and feel welcome -- a true neighborhood restaurant.

The ambiance was great with exposed brick walls and a beautiful wood bar. Big J and I sat at the bar to wait until our reservation (although they said they could seat us early). I chose a Localjito which was made in the usual way but with brown sugar. Big J had a pint of Dogfish 60-minute IPA, one of his favorites.

After finishing our drinks we were seated upstairs. Again, the decor was great, more quiet and intimate than downstairs. There was also a patio which looked like it would be perfect for warm summer evenings. Two negatives: the floor was incredibly bouncy and needed a little extra support; and there was a weird fluctuating light problem as if the circuits were a bit overloaded. I don't know how Big J felt, but the light issue was a definite distraction for me.

The menu, while not extensive, was intriguing. Our waiter was pretty inexperienced, but friendly. He took our order, after telling Big J that they were out of his first choice of braised short ribs. Big J began with the friend oysters with horseradish creamed spinach. It was a nice combination although the oysters would have been better had they been pan fried as opposed to deep fried. I started with the beef marrow with baby green salad and toast. Now, this was the first time that I had beef marrow and in some ways I wish I would have waited to have it at a higher-end restaurant. But that was my choice and it was good to try it out. It was a little greasier than I would have liked and I think it would have been better had it been roasted longer. However I did like the acidity of the vinegar on the salad paired with the marrow.

For his entree Big J chose the Spice Rubbed Pork Chop with potatoes two ways (mashed and shoe string sweet) with a chipotle adobo gravy. The spice rub was quite good with just the right amount of heat. The mashed potatoes were creamy -- exactly how mashed potatoes should be. The gravy was pretty nondescript, a bit of a disappointment given its description.

I chose the tuna steak frites. And I ordered it rare. It came with a side of local asparagus and creamy braised leeks. It's important to note here that I ordered it rare. It came medium. Quite frankly medium is never acceptable for a tuna steak. Big J said I should send it back, but that's really not my thing. So, I ate my overcooked tuna. The fries came on the side in a paper cone. I had read some comments that the fries were soggy. That wasn't my experience, but they weren't seasoned at all, which unfortunately heightened the (over) saltiness of the braised leeks and tuna.

The best part of the evening was that we had a chance to go out together. We love trying new places, but unfortunately The Local was somewhat of a disappointment. We would definitely go back for drinks and perhaps appetizers. We may try it again after it's been open for a while longer. It is such a unique space in a great neighborhood that I wanted to like it more than I did. Unfortunately in the C'ville restaurant scene if it's not really good it doesn't survive.

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