The Roosevelt gets it

The Roosevelt’s roasted pork belly with jalapeno cheese grits

So many new restaurants are opening up in Richmond, it’s hard not to get excited. There’s one that boasts of nose to tail dining and another that boasts of being the first noodle bar in town and then there’s the Roosevelt.

I must admit that I was not too keen about The Roosevelt’s location. Too far from a gal living among the boxed atrocities of suburbia plus it’s not in the usual neighborhood like the Fan or Carytown where I’m more familiar with parking.

Thankfully, there’s the “Hungry” Hubby who could park mostly anywhere and have a better understanding of street signs than I do.{uhm, no parking from where to where?} 😉

I rarely write about restaurants nowadays because I’ve realized that the physiology and psychology of taste is different for everyone. There’s a pre-conditioning from childhood which I’ve written to some extent here. Then there’s that which physically defines our taste buds – the taste receptors on our palate. For example, some people like me don’t like beer because it tastes awfully bitter while HH doesn’t like vanilla because it taste like cough syrup. Our taste buds taste things differently and it’s not always psychological. So how can anyone write objectively? You can’t, everything is subjective and depends on the critic’s physiological orientation and psychological conditioning. When I trust a professional critics’ reviews, I try to remember other reviews they have done and try to determine if their tastebuds match up with mine. 🙂

The influx of new restaurants has reanimated my desire to write about my dining experiences and my dinner at the Roosevelt was so sublime and perfect in almost every way, it’s only fitting to start here.

The dining room 

HH and I arrived before 5:30 pm for an early dinner on a Friday night. I was immediately taken with the charming facade and truly felt the vibe of an even more charming interior. Ambience usually does not affect what I think of the food but there’s something about that perfect shade of blue on the walls stenciled with damask that offsets the masculine undertones of the dark wall panels, tables and bar that evokes a pleasing, relaxing atmosphere

We got to sit by a cozy corner by the window (yes, better for pictures too). I was all set to order the pork belly until I heard the special that night: sweet tea brined buttermilk fried chicken.

I was wishing I had brought a second stomach. Fried chicken has always been my kryptonite from childhood, but so has pork belly. In retrospect, I should have ordered both and packed up the leftovers. That way I would not have cast longing glances over to our neighboring table coveting someone else’s fried chicken.

Roasted Mussels, vermouth & garlic

The pungency of garlic immediately assailed our senses when our mussels appetizer arrived. There is truth in that you eat with your eyes and nose first. HH and I usually de-shell all the mussels and let it soak in the broth – but that would mean patience – and I must say I snuck one into my mouth before we managed to free all these bivalve mollusks from their covering.There are a few places that prepare this seafood correctly, and I’m adding the Roosevelt to my very short list. The mussels were the right side of juicy and tender. More so, the broth was tasty with the heady mix of vermouth and garlic, I had to stop myself from dunking and eating all the grilled bread.

Pork belly has increasingly gained respect on more restaurant menus. Sadly this doesn’t translate to great dishes this porcine fare so rightly deserves. More often than not, I’m presented with a thick slab of white fat that could have used more rendering and a measly portion of meat.

I have no problem eating a thick layer of fat. I think it just needs to be handled with more finesse. I believe if you are going to keep an inch-layer of fat, render it so it’s softer and you might as well throw it into a deep-fryer to get a crunchy outer layer – like the pork belly confit, and the Filipino dish, bagnet.

My pork belly dish at the Roosevelt was exactly how I wanted it if it were braised or roasted. The fat layer was thin and had some tasty caramelizations on top. Slicing was easy and not too tender as to fall apart giving a pleasant savory chew. The jalapeno cheese grits and red gravy were a welcome complement to the rest of dish.

Hanger steak, homemade A1 sauce, handcut fries

The HH’s hanger steak wouldn’t win best dish from the looks of it. But a bite into one of the most flavorful cuts of beef can certainly get the appetite juices flowing. Butchers have long kept this convoluted piece of flesh to themselves because of its rich flavor. The hanger steak can be quite tricky to cook because of its unruly grain, but HH’s steak was tender enough considering that it’s a hardworking abdominal muscle plus it had the requisite sizzling buttery flavor. I loved the homemade A1 sauce that came with it – it’s a nostalgic blast back into my younger days when I loved that stuff. HH though, thought the A1 sauce was unnecessary.

gnocchi mac and cheese

The gnocchi mac and cheese was the only plate I was not too crazy about. Probably because it tasted too heavy to go with my pork belly.

Remember how I mentioned in a previous post how the last course seals the deal. Well, this did, in…every…possible…way.

Caramel ice cream, roasted peaches – look at all that melty goodness

First let’s start with HH’s caramel ice cream and roasted peaches. Simple, right? I’ve always wanted some sort of caramel ice cream since I missed the ultimate from San Francisco’s Bi-rite creamery. When I saw it on this menu, I kinda hoped the hubby would order it. It delivered the expected complexities of caramel in a lusty refreshing mantle of cold melty goodness on top of warm roasted peaches. I have a weakness for hot and cold desserts in one, don’t we all?

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

This buttermilk panna cotta and I have a history. I first had it at Six-Burner where I declared it one of my favorite desserts in town. Back then it was served in an oval creme brulee dish. It was tangy, sexy and sweet with a hint of vanilla. When Lee Gregory left Six Burner, I started to panic. I even contemplated buying the pricey “On Cooking: a textbook of culinary fundamentals” book because he had contributed his panna cotta recipe to the tome.
So was my reunion with this delicate set dessert as I imagined?

Sure was! It was as I remembered: the texture was sublimely sensual, the tanginess of buttermilk, rich, and the infusion of vanilla beans subtly hinted as dark specks within the creamy dessert. It was served in an adorable glass jar with a generous portion of blueberries to complement the mellow tartness of the sweet course.

Judging from the packed house by 6:00 pm, I think I’m not the only one who thinks the Roosevelt gets it. It sure gets me.

The Roosevelt
623 N. 25th Street
Richmond, VA

*all pictures taken with Iphone 4 under natural light

10 thoughts on “The Roosevelt gets it

  1. We’ve been to the Roosevelt twice so far. You’re right – they get it. I’m a Hill person, and we’ve been waiting for something new for quite a while. What a treat that the food is so incredible! We will be regulars!

  2. @rosa – it was my fault for not having the foresight to see that the gnocchi would be to heavy as a side dish.
    @T.W. – Yes, I was very happy with the light and the pictures captured the yumminess of the dinner.
    @Tim – I know! So excited to see it more on menu.
    @BHL – lucky you to have Roosevelt right by you!

  3. That caramel ice-cream is literally gonna send me over the edge right now 🙂
    I love mussels and those sound pretty good… the best ones that I had were at a seafood restaurant in perth, australia. my friend was smiling at me in amusement, watching me lick the plate clean!

  4. Oh deliciousness! I haven’t been happy dining out in my neck of the woods lately. I just may need to take a trip down your way.

    Hopefully, all is well after yesterday’s quake.

    Thanks for sharing, Veron. Please don’t ask me to choose one fav, I just may need to go with the pork belly, hangar, peaches oh no, lol…

  5. You’re reminding me that I had a sublime buttermilk panna cotta served with a blueberry compote & lemon shortbreads in SF a few weeks ago & meant to ask for the recipe. Any recipes for this one? I haven’t yet found the ultimate recipe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s