Yesterday was Friday and Neil and I had time to go out together, thank you "Parent's Night Out" at Capital Karate. As you know, restaurants are a high form of entertainment for me, so I was really looking forward to this. But, I spent the better part of my day agonizing over where we should go. I even reached out via Facebook for suggestions. Got a few good ones, but just wasn't feeling it. I checked out countless menus online and finally came across one that interested me AND it was a place that I hadn't heard of yet. How did this escape my attention? My razor wit? My eagle eye surveillance?
Virtu: Located next to Dianne's on Devine. Well, that would be the old Grazin' Monkey. And, as irony would have it, Virtu is also a tapas restaurant, just like the Monkey of days gone by. But, even though the menu looked fantastic, I left my office unsure. Why, you ask?
Over the years, many places have popped up billing themselves as "Tapas Bars" and it's been disappointing. See, true tapas is a snack and it's FREE. That's right. You go into a bar in Spain, order a drink and they bring you a little plate of their house tapas. Some places switch it up from time to time, some have their own signauture tapas that they serve all the time. Keep drinking, they keep bringing you little snacks. So, when America got a hold of this idea and Americanized it, what we got were restaurants serving micro-food with macro-prices. This led me to my mediocre reaction to the discovery of Virtu, because cynicism crept into my brain and told me, "Don't get excited. It's just another perversion of the tapas idea and you'll be pissed off about your bill." Oh, cynicism, you're just so bad...
Ok, I need to speed this up...got home, mentioned a few ideas to Neil, he shot them down, then I casually mentioned this new place. That's what he wanted. I pulled up the menu to show him; uninterested in seeing it, we're going. Ok, then.
Long story short (I know you're relieved), I was really impressed. It's locally owned & operated, which is a biggie for me and the Neilix. Our waitress, Nicole, was very professional, attentive, knew the menu and brought her *A* game. Now, for the food. We each had the "Three Hearts Caesar Salad" which features hearts of romaine (of course), hearts of palm and hearts of artichoke. I tend to find that restaurants will tell you there is good stuff like heart of palm and you search and search to no avail for it on the plate. Not so here. The salad had a generous portion (but not too much) of palm and artichoke. The lettuce was prepared the right way...bite size, no wilted or bruised leaves, like it's supposed to be. The dressing was impressive too. It contained all the classic flavors of a good Caesar dressing, but wasn't too acidic like some and the salad was properly tossed in it, not drowned in it. The menu features this salad with tomato...I had mine without. Success.
Then, we shared tapas. We chose three...Cuban mojo chicken skewers, crab & artichoke fritters and langoustine ravioli in beurre blanc. The chicken was very flavorful and perfectly tender. We received three skewers of bite-sized chicken breast and it was plenty for the two of us to share. The sauce was delicious, the chicken tasted "grilly" and the presentation was very nice. Success. The fritters were a test. So often, I find that fried dishes end up over-fried: too greasy, too hard, too damn fried. And, again with the cynicism, so often, we get gypped on crab, even though we live in a coastal state where we can catch the little suckers all day long! So, these fritters were going to be scrutinized. Surprise! They were very well cooked, nice deep gold color and the inside was soft and warm and CRABBY! They were drizzled with a super remoulade sauce, making all the flavors work really well together. Success. Lastly, there were the langoustine ravioli. I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, really outstanding. The pasta was perfectly cooked and al dente...even fine restaurants have a tendancy to send out rubbery ravioli, in my experience. Not the case here. The filling was light and delicately flavored, which was complimented nicely by beautiful beurre blanc with a little bite of citrus. Success.
I overheard Nicole tell the table behind us that the restaurant has only been open about 9 weeks. It was a Friday, which is busier anyway, but I was pleased to see the restaurant full and people arrived, ate and more took their places consistently during the time we were there. This, of course, is a good sign for a new restaurant. And, if you like to support locals, like we do, this is very encouraging.
Neil and I will definitely be going to Virtu often. I recommend it wholeheartedly and would love to hear your comments after you try it out. Maybe we could all hook up there!