At Virginia’s in the East Village, kale finally breaks free of its salad shackles. Instead of massaged into a raw salad, you’ll find it slowly braised and paired with seared cuttlefish and Moroccan olives on the small plates section of the menu ($15).
Like the kale and cuttlefish dish, just about everything on the ever changing American menu features the expected seasonal farmers market ingredients, but with creative twists. For instance, the grilled white shrimp with matzutake mushrooms (also a small plate) comes with transparent slivers of shaved Buddha’s hand and a flurry of the Japanese chili mix togarashi ($15). A plate of caramelized romanesco is dressed up with smoked pine nuts, Vermont clothbound cheddar and a speck vinaigrette ($14). We knew fall had really arrived when we spooned into the rightfully rich butternut squash risotto with porcinis, crunchy pecans and—oddly, but deliciously—tarragon ($20).
Chefs Reed Adelson (a veteran of Locanda Verde) and Christian Ramos (formerly of Per Se) have a number of things in common: In addition to the fact that they both happen to have a mother named Virginia, they share an obsession with sourcing the very best ingredients. Trips to the Union Square Greenmarket four days a week are a given. Ramos is also particularly proud of his relationship with Pennsylvania’s Irwin Mushrooms, who he has been working with for over six years—their mushrooms justly get star billing on the menu. His beef source hits even closer to home: He gets his from his father who imports grass-fed beef from Uruguay.
On a recent night when we stopped in, the place was empty at 7 p.m. but filled and sporting a full waitlist by 8 p.m. With plenty of candlelight and a warm ambiance supported by a welcoming staff and the chefs’ cheerful willingness to accommodate all dietary restrictions, Virginia’s has been kicked to the top of our date night list.
Even with fine-dining touches dabbled through the menu, the vibe manages to remain friendly and casual enough to just pop by and slide into a cushy banquette and settle down at a burnished oak table.
We imagine the chefs’ namesake mamas would approve.
647 E 11th St.