October 2, 2011 by grub like a girl
Let me just put this out there…I am completely fortunate and a little overjoyed that I absolutely love my job. And what can make it more awesome? That we have team dinners. Every couple of months, we pick a time and a place to reconnect out of the office and enjoy good wine, amazing food, and conversation. It was my turn to pick the restaurant where we would dine. After coming up with a few great contenders, I settled on Balliecaux. It had great reviews and an interesting menu that I had found online.
We went to dinner on a Wednesday night. Balliceaux is located on Lombardy St. in the Fan. Big drawback to this area…1 hour parking 1 Hour Parking – 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday, & 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday. Richmond, why?! Here was my smart, yet inconvenient solution. I parked, then an hour later I interrupted my dinner to move my car to the next open spot on the street. A cumbersome musical chairs but, it is what it is. And it’s so incredibly worth it because this place is AMAZING.
No other Richmond restaurant is comparable to the interior at Balliceaux (so far). It’s atmosphere is trendy and minimal, but nowhere near pretentious. It was refreshing to see that this space is used in the most brilliant way. The decor resembles an Anthropologie store- with minimal naturalistic colorings and whimsical fixtures. The walls are concrete; worn with distressed cracks and random areas old soft blue paint, only to hint of an earlier structure (or maybe this one of those newly created “established” look). The lighting in this restaurant is unusual. Metal star-like structures with vintage light bulbs strategically hang from the ceiling- just like pieces of unique art. Large votive candles line every table and nook. Why is it that candlelight not only makes everyone seem sexier and more interesting while also making food and drinks taste better? God bless candlelight. The bar is breathtaking- with tangled deer antlers (both real and glass) mounted on the walls and floating from the ceiling, and a cool 70′s concrete trellis patterned back splash.
We started off by ordering starters (a.k.a. appetizers). The smoked bluefish dip, tandoori fried cauliflower, and oyster b.l.t. We also happened to be in time for happy hour which was…awesome. $3.00 off draft beers and $5 house wine…how can you go wrong? We got our starters and passed them around the table as if Thanksgiving was already here- I love this about sharing food; pick and pass. My favorite starter was the tandoori cauliflower, which also came with a chickpea salad and some fresh pickled cucumber ($11.50). The cauliflower still had a fresh crunch and worked perfectly with the light curry-fused batter. The chickpea salad and cucumber was a refreshing bonus to this small dish. The bluefish dip was also amazing (get used to the positive comments about this place) not too fishy or creamy and was perfect with the bay crisps- ok, ok, they were basically chips ($7.50). I didn’t partake in the oysters (travesty!)…I am not an oyster fan but judging by my dining companions reaction, they were pretty spectacular.
After our happy hour libations, we moved on to a bottle of ’03 rioja reserva ($52.00). A spanish red with cedar-y notes and smoky flavor- it was either a hit or miss at our table. I enjoyed it. Before tackling my entrée, I ordered a cup of blue crab Soubise soup ($4.50) . I adored the soup. What I really liked was its spiciness; i’ve noticed the majority of Richmond dishes lack spice so this soup brought me right back to flavors I had longingly missed. Another bonus of the soup was the subtle zing of the lemon crème that stylishly swirled the top of the soup. Gorgeous and delicious…why did I feel a bit guilty spooning this soup in my mouth? Oh, the delicious part. Duh.
I was most excited about my main course, the garlic grilled farm hen (yes, hen- I know it sounds too adorable to eat). This dish was accompanied by a ricotta, potato, black olive, and zucchini salade mixture ($23.00). Heaven. Yes, it tasted just as good as it sounds. The hen was juicy and subtly seasoned, though I didn’t taste much garlic flavor, I was nowhere near disappointment. The salade mixture was most incredible. The medley of smooth ricotta, starchy potato, and pungency of the olive was perfectly harmonized.
My dining companions (also known as my bad@ass coworkers) ordered some pretty fantastic plates such as the clay pot catfish, bistec (lovely photo included), and pan seared tuna. The tuna was the most interesting. I would know because I was lucky enough to get a fork full. Now, I am not a huge fish fan (hm, that sounds quite odd) so I was a little apprehensive of the tuna but when I bit into it, I would have never been able to tell this once swimming in the sea. It was great. What was interesting about this dish is its paired with a mexican “brownie”- a stout, bitter (no sugar), yet chocolate-y concoction. The flavor of the brownie could only be appreciated when paired with the tuna. Otherwise, it would have tasted unusual by its own self. What did this tell me? That this place wasn’t afraid to experiment with strange flavors. Kudos, Balliceaux.
By the time the dessert menu was passed around, we were all stuffed. Somehow, we managed to all find room to split the churros with coffee sauce and coconut cake (all $6.00). The churros was nice and warm, crispy on the outside and perfectly dusted with the traditional mexican-y blend of cinnamon and sugar. The coffee sauce was warm and complemented the churros in a simple, balanced way. The coconut cake was cut in a generous portion and it’s flavor was light and airy. Overall, the desserts were satisfying. Nothing over the top; simple and traditional.
Balliceaux is incredible. So incredible, that it may have moved up to my top 5 Richmond eateries. Bam! And also so outstanding that I had to revisit this place last night for a drink. Just to give you an idea of the drinks they feature, I ordered a Tom Yum Yum (with suggestion of the bartender). This cocktail’s ingredients are listed as ”coconut rum, vodka, lemon juice, jalapeño, lemongrass syrup, ginger, and soda” ($9.00). This skillfully concocted libation is superb. For those wondering about the jalapeño? Yes, it’s spicy but not overwhelming; perfectly harmonized with the flavor of lemongrass and ginger.
This restaurant’s cool ambience along with brilliant, fresh concocted dishes sets itself apart from other Richmond restaurants. No wonder this place has been featured on Richmond.com top 25 restaurants. This place is wonderful. Perfect for a sexy date night, dinner with friends, or whatever the occasion. Balliceaux is highly recommended. Experience it for yourself, you’ll automatically be the person who picks the awesome place to eat. Whoo hoo.