Local Food Musings: Does Dale Reitzer still have it?

After closing their doors on December 31, 2007, there was a lot of speculation whether Acacia was going to reopen at all. Have the proprietors ,Dale and Aline, escaped to the tropical islands to bask in the sun, happy to leave the hectic life of restaurant ownership?

A blip in the radar early February dispelled that notion and they were actually "working like crazy to reopen". In fact, they were planning a special four-course dinner at Six-Burner to appease their restless patrons suffering from Acacia withdrawal.

The “Hungry” Hubby and I immediately made reservations for two, however this quickly grew to six people as the word got out to our friends.

When we got there at 6 pm, the place was already busy. The crowd was a mixed lot. There was a table where the men wore tuxedos and the women wore long dresses (and had mink coats apparently) – maybe they were going to the opera afterwards. There were people like me wearing jeans and an Ann Taylor sweater. And there were those dressed in between. (I admit I hate dressing up to go to dinner because I like to feel comfortable when I eat).

As I said before, I am no food critic and my vocabulary for food description is very limited. But here was the parade of food as I remember it:

First course

Sauteed Scallop, sweet onion custard, roasted pecan sauce, crispy shallot – The scallop was napped with a velvety sauce that was simply nutty delicious. I ate all the scallop pieces but I felt that there was way too much onion.

Second Course

Jumbo lump crabcakes, smoked gouda grits, applewood bacon sauce – Dale’s cheesy grits, as usual, was awesome. The crabcake was a disappointment and tasted like it was left out too long – it got dry and salty.

Third Course

Rack of lamb, lamb bacon, oyster mushroom risotto, port wine sauce – Oh Lordy! Can this dish be any more perfect! Clearly the highlight of the tasting menu, I have never had lamb this good before! There was that superb layer of caramelized fat which I feel is important in giving lamb its unique meaty flavor. It was not gamey at all nor was it tasteless (as some spring lamb tend to be). I lost all decorum of table etiquette as I held the chop between my fingers and picked the bone clean (although I did do it primly and not caveman-style). The port wine reduction was the ideal compliment to the entire dish.

Dessert

Chocolate pudding,Strawberry cake,white chocolate cream – No comment. I’ve never been a fan of Acacia’s desserts. In fact the only places I’ve enjoyed dessert in Richmond, VA were at Franco’s/Sensi and Patina Grill.

           The rest of the places need to work on their desserts. Of course I’m biased because I know how ethereal a properly-made crème caramel (budino at Sensi), pots de crème (Fifth Floor, SF) even something as simple as an apple tart (Zuni Cafe, SF) taste like.(And of course there are the creations of Michel Richard of Citronelle  – but his desserts are more in a different level )

           So what’s the verdict? Based on my experience, I look forward to seeing Acacia open their doors again. I’ve had their crabcakes before and I know how good they were. The slight hiccup in the menu may be attributed to my portion since my friend had no problem with her crabcakes.

But seriously, I hope they’d work on their desserts since I do feel this is an important ending to an otherwise fabulous dinner.

* We had a fantastic wine with dinner- Dynamite Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. I think 2004 was good year for Napa Valley Cabs. This wine is inexpensive at $30 –it’s probably $15 retail.

* Acacia  has also announced their new location 2601 West Cary Street.

12 thoughts on “Local Food Musings: Does Dale Reitzer still have it?

  1. I love reading about other people's dining experiences and this is no exception. Very detailed. Too bad about the desserts… I'm also very picky about dessert and I have not found a restaurant in our area that has wowed me. I'm not looking for anything super fancy… sometimes I just want a simple apple tart but even that it seems to be hard to do for some places. Everything drenched in caramel, powdered sugar, whipped topping… geez…

  2. So not on this particular topic, but I made the bouillabaisse, and it was simply delicious! Thank you for the recipe! Since it wasn't traditional bouillabaisse anyway, I threw in some mushrooms and parsley that I had and the mushrooms added a really nice dimension to the broth. Again, thanks, awesome recipe.

  3. Sounds good. I am all about the cheesy grits.
    Bummer about desserts. I hate that. There are a couple restaurants I really love…until I get to dessert. Makes me so sad. 🙂

  4. It's hard to walk away happy after a bummer dessert–I mean, it is the crowning glory, the last impression you get! But, it does sound like a good experience all in all.

  5. I am originally from Roanoke,Virginia and all of my friends that I went to school with moved to Richmond. Next time I visit them, we will have to go to Acacia. Thanks for the heads up.

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