Thursday, February 14, 2008

When Restaurants Give Birth - LuLu's

From the ashes of Chettie's Cow & Clam, Richmond's brunch leader, Millie's, has spun off to create LuLu's. At least that's what M thinks. Her memories of a misspent youth as a fixture at Chettie's are hazy at best...

Arriving on a blustery and rainy Tuesday evening we were surprised to see how busy it was. The decor was nice. A little industrial, open kitchen, nicely lit. Especially enjoyed the Socialist Worker's Paradise style artwork. Warmed the cockles of my lefty heart. We sat in a booth along the wall. Bit of a mistake. Not a lot of space between the chair and table. The thin piece of wood between me and the next table rattled and vibrated with every movement of myself or the people next to us. Finn assumed the knocking was an invitation for him to knock back. I think we owe someone an apology. There was also a speaker mounted right over th
e table. The music alternated between very loud Elton John and reggae and barely audible jazz. It was like an iPod on random for both the music and the volume. An unneeded distraction.

We started with beverages. Stella for M, Yalumba Shiraz for myself. The wine came in a rocks tumbler that is the trend but also seems a bit overused by new eateries. The temperature of the glass indicated that it had recently gone through the dishwasher. Warm glasses are ok for cognac, not for wine.

For apps M and I tried the Lobster & Crab Fritter with Mango Salsa and ordered the Shrimp & Grits special for little Finn.

The Shrimp & Grits were very nice (this coming from me, a non-fan of grits). Finn thought it a bit too spicy so I ate most of it. The shrimp were nice and firm, not overcooked albeit a tad oily. The grits were almost done like a version of a potato pancake. The reduced moisture firmed them up and they soaked up the spices of the dish. Very nice.

M and Finn liked the Lobster & Crab Fritter. Me, not so much. A better description would have been a hush puppy with essence of lobster & crab. The shellfish were completely lost in the amount of filler used. Crispy outside but too gummy inside. The mango salsa was sweet to the point of preserves.

Entrees were next. I had.........

****LOCAL CELEBRITY ALERT***** Disbarred Commonwealth Attorney and new Delegate Joe Morrisey stuck his head in the door looked around and walked out. Remind me to tell you what he says about Richmond when he's had a couple of drinks....

......ordered the High-Falootin Mac & Cheese W/ Grilled Asparagus & Shrimp. Presentation - 8.5 Functionality - 1..... The dish was very pretty in a high sided bowl was penne pasta in a white cream sauce covered with chives and shredded cheeses. Topped with grilled shrimp and asparagus the bright pink and green over the white mac and cheese made for a great visual. Now, not forgetting the high sides of the bowl, try to cut the crisp asparagus of remove the tail of the firm shrimp on top of the pasta and melted cheeses. Disaster lurked at every bite. Oh, the taste? Very nice. The Mac & Cheese was rich and heavy but perfect for such a nasty day. The asparagus was cooked to perfection. The shrimp were outstanding. Firm and spiced just enough to really let the flavour of the shrimp shine.

M ordered the Beef Stroganoff with Red Wine Cream. Red wine and cream scares me sometimes. It's either a separation event waiting to happen or it can get very easily unbalanced. It was served over penne pasta and, like mine, was in a high sided bowl. Unlike mine, everything was cut into bite size pieces so the dish was much easier to work with. The meat was fine but the sauce, while balanced, was way too soupy. You shouldn't need a spoon for stroganoff. The dish was also thrown off by too few mushrooms and too many onions.

Service was minimal (except for constant water refills by random staff). My first impression was that one server had called out or that they had understaffed. As the dining room emptied and the staff stood around talking the service level didn't improve. Don't get me wrong. The service wasn't bad, it was just enough to get by.

For a relatively new restaurant they are showing the experience of having a good pedigree and I think they will do well. A few tweaks could make it better but identifying those takes time. It was interesting to see that while LuLu's was busy there were a number of restaurants that we walked by were completely empty both before and after dinner. I guess it's too easy to forget all those great places own in the bottom.

As we left I think we noted the person Delegate Joe was looking for. Silver Mercedes with Delegate plates. Possibly inebriated driver repeatedly trying to parallel park but only accomplishing removing the finish of his hub caps of his very expensive car on the cobblestone curbs of the Bottom....



4 comments:

RVA Foodie said...

Great review. I almost feel like I've been to Lulu's now, thanks to your detailed report. Whenever I head down to that part of town, I wind up at Sumo San. May have to change up my routine to walk in your footsteps. Cheers.

in vino veritas said...

i always wind up at sumo san as well. got to try the lulu's

Bookstore Piet said...

See now I've never been to sumo san. Guess I need to head in that direction...

RVA Foodie said...

Go to sumo and ask for the crouching tiger roll. Each bite, is the best bite of food ever.