Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Street Cook

The Street Cook has enjoyed its quiet, unassuming location on Lynnhaven Parkway for twenty-three years. I’ve lived in the area for 17 of those years and finally made my way into the Mediterranean restaurant. The atmosphere inside The Street Cook is something out of a different era … in a good way. There is something very traditional about the room and I immediately felt at ease. We did not have a reservation but were seated immediately. The booths are small and I thought they were perfect for two but I noticed parties of four enjoying the same size booth and there were accommodations for even larger parties toward the back of the restaurant.

The Street Cook’s menu is filled with traditional and authentic Mediterranean dishes. I’m not an expert in Mediterranean cuisine so I had to rely heavily on the advice of our server. Interestingly enough, one of the first things our server advised us on was dessert. It’s a fabulous creation called “The Bombe” and according to the server, this dessert has to be reserved in advance because they only make a limited number. Additionally, it’s been written up in the local paper and people come to the restaurant because they’ve heard so much about it. I’m not a dessert person, but after all that, we had to reserve one. More on this later.

We started the meal with a carafe of sangria and a plate of spanikopita, which is spinach, ricotta and feta cheese in a filo pastry:

It was delicious but very filling. The Street Cook does not skimp on the portion sizes so it is my recommendation to skip the appetizer if you plan on having an entrée and dessert. Or get the appetizer and order the dessert to go.

Each meal is preceded by a large Greek salad which is served “family style”. The salad was topped with their own Greek dressing and it was wonderful.

For dinner we ordered the house specialty, Chicken Sorrento

This dish is a breaded boneless chicken breast covered with mushrooms, cappicola and marsala wine sauce and topped with provolone and it is served with fettuccini alfredo. The chicken on this dish was so tender it was cut with a fork.

We also ordered the Kota Tourlou which was sliced chicken breast sautéed with mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant garlic and dill and served over rice pilaf.

Also very good. And you can tell from the pictures that I wasn’t lying about the portion sizes. We both ate half and carried out the rest. We ordered chicken dishes but the menu also includes many seafood, pasta, and veal dishes as well.

Now on to The Bombe:

This dessert is ridiculously rich and I’m glad I saved room for it. The Bombe is a dark chocolate brownie topped by light chocolate mousse and drenched in a dark chocolate ganache. It’s sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts and sits in a beautiful pool of white chocolate sauce. It’s a chocolate lover's fantasy and definitely lived up to the recommendation of the server.

The Street Cook is open everyday for lunch and dinner, except Monday. They also serve brunch on Sunday between 9-2. Everything is made fresh and made to order. Substitutions are not a problem. The service was fantastic and it was reasonably priced. It was a great night and I guarantee it won’t be another 17 years before I decide to visit again.

St. Cook on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lynnhaven Fish House

The Lynnhaven Fish House on Starfish Road in Virginia Beach has been a Hampton Roads staple for twenty-seven years. It is consistently voted Best of the Beach and it has beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s reputation precedes itself which makes it perfect during the tourist season. I’ve been invited there a few a times and it is a nice restaurant. However, with all the hype surrounding the Lynnhaven Fish House, I guess I just expected more.

I recently visited Lynnhaven Fish House with several co-workers, some came from out of town and this was their first visit. Reservations were made and once we arrived we were seated immediately. The restaurant is set up so that almost everyone can take advantage of the view. However, since they seat so many people the restaurant is usually crowded and loud so it’s difficult to actually relax and enjoy the view. This restaurant is perfect for large groups of friends or families but if you’re looking for an intimate dining experience you may want to make another choice.

We started the evening with drinks and appetizers as we waited for the rest of the group to join us. The wine list provided many varietals and blends to choose from. We ordered fried calamari, shrimp skewers and oysters rockefeller for appetizers as well as the award-winning she-crab soup. The oysters rockefeller tasted a little like the bay and they were topped with a large piece of undercooked bacon which overpowered any of the other flavors. Regarding the she-crab soup, it was good but in the past two weeks I visited two other restaurants that did it better.

Our entrees were a variety of different seafood dishes. Our server was extremely helpful with his suggestions. I ordered the seafood kabob which is a combination of lobster, shrimp, scallops, fresh tomatoes, onions, marinated green peppers and mushrooms, flame-broiled on a skewer and served over rice pilaf and it was both beautiful and tasty.

One co-worker ordered the colossal sea scallops which were topped with lump crabmeat. She absolutely loved it. The portion size was more than generous and she ended up taking half of it with her.

Another co-worker ordered the king-sized soft shell crabs which looked good but they were too mushy for her tastes.

The rest of our party seemed to be satisfied with their meals. Although for some reason six entrees came out at the same time but it was about five minutes before the remaining two meals hit the table.

We decided to pass on dessert.

As I said, the Lynnhaven Fish House is a nice restaurant. The food is good and the service we received that evening was top-notch and you may not be able to find better views of the Chesapeake Bay. I just feel that they are relying too heavily on their reputation and not working to exceed our expectations.

Lynnhaven Fish House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eurasia Cafe and Wine Bar

I have wanted to write a review on Eurasia Café & Wine Bar on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach for quite some time but have always hesitated because part of me didn’t want the word to get out. Somewhere in my mind, I believe that I’m the only person that knows about this fantastic place. Logically, I know that is not the case and now it is time to help spread the word.

Eurasia blends European and Asian cuisine and in the process has created something extremely special. It has quickly become my favorite restaurant in Virginia Beach. I have been there several times to celebrate anniversaries, holidays and for absolutely no reason at all other than to enjoy a good glass of wine and a fantastic meal. The menu, which changes with the seasons, is filled with choices that will satisfy anyone’s taste buds. I especially love the Off the Hook “Rockafella” which combines the daily catch with fried oysters, creamed spinach with fontina, bacon, stravecchio and mashed potatoes. Other favorites include the scallops, pan seared pork and shrimp pot stickers, and the Hollywood’s Cobb Wrap, which combines all the ingredients of a cobb salad in a wrap. Delicious! Meredith, who is in charge of the Eurasia kitchen, does something wonderful with food. It goes beyond typical preparation. It shows imagination, spirit and a fundamental love for food. I have never met her, but I absolutely love her.

Eurasia also boasts an impressive wine selection and the menu lists various wine suggestions with each entree to make your choice that much easier. The staff is also very knowledgeable and helpful regarding wine selections. If you cannot find a wine to your liking, you also have the option of purchasing a bottle from the adjacent PJ Baggan and bringing it into Eurasia for a small cork fee.

The setting is cozy and seats about 40 guests. It is decorated with lovely artwork and intimate lighting. The restaurant is open until 9:00 pm during the week and 10:00 pm on the weekends so reservations are recommended. The staff at Eurasia are experienced and attentive and make the experience that much more pleasurable.

Eurasia Cafe & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mannino's Italian Bistro

I am slowly discovering that spontaneity can be a positive thing when dining out. Tuesday is date night and we had a plan. We planned to go to one place for dinner but my guy wanted to stop for a drink before dinner. Honestly, I don’t really understand that concept. I mean, why not have drinks at the same place that you’re having dinner? He likes the variety. I told him that I was game. That was how we came upon Mannino’s Italian Bistro on Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach.

Mannino’s is a small, out of the way bistro which is very unassuming and neither of us had heard of it before tonight. My guy was driving by one night and saw several cars in the parking lot and filed that image in his mental rolodex and pulled it out for such an occasion as this.

I walked into the Italian bistro and was not surprised by the décor or the setup. It looked like an Italian bistro. It was cozy and the simple wood furnishings were polished to a bright shine. It was clean and comfortable. We opted to sit at the bar because we planned to only have drinks. Our server, Chuck, introduced himself and showed us a wine list. He suggested a Cabernet Franc out of Napa, which is usually used in blends and the only other time I tried a straight Cab Franc I hated it. He allowed me to taste it and I was pleasantly surprised. While he poured two glasses he began to give us some of the history behind Mannino’s. The restaurant has only been open for a year and they are about to open a second location on Pleasure House Road. Everything is made fresh and everything is made to order. They make their own mozzarella and they grow their own herbs. At this point, we had all but decided we’d be staying for dinner. After Chuck gave us a quick rundown of the specials it was a done deal. I have a weakness for Italian food.

As we sat at the bar and sipped our wine, I noticed that the front door kept opening and there was a steady stream of patrons. More than once the host greeted people by name. For some reason, that made an impression on me. I appreciated the friendly atmosphere.

We both chose soup as our first course. I had the smoked halibut soup which was full of smoky fish and hearty potatoes in a creamy white broth. My guy had the crab soup and instead of being made with sherry it was prepared with marsala. Of course, living in Virginia Beach, I have had my fair share of she-crab soup and this was by far one of the best I’ve tasted.

Our main courses were something to behold:

I ordered the salmon over puttanesca sauce. Puttanesca is a combination of regular olives, Kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies in olive oil. The combination of the salmon and the sauce made for a surprisingly light meal. The fish was fresh and cooked perfectly.

My guy ordered this beautiful dish:

It’s called Vitello Saltimbocca which is a pan seared veal cutlet topped with prosciutto ham, baby spinach and fresh mozzarella. The sherry wine sauce was incredible. It had a mildly sweet flavor that reminded me of maple syrup … only not that heavy. Trust me, it was wonderful.

I don’t generally order dessert but my guy always does. So we compromised and decided to share a ridiculously delicious chocolate chip cannoli for dessert. House made tiramisu and New York style cheesecake were also featured on the menu.

Mannino’s is open for dinner Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. The most expensive entrée on the menu was $18 and on Monday nights they feature a wine special. All bottles are on sale for $10. This gives patrons an opportunity to try a variety of new wines or stock up on old favorites because any wine that is not finished in the restaurant can be corked and taken with you.

Although we had plans to go somewhere else, I’m glad we were led to Mannino’s. The food was wonderful. Our server made excellent food and wine recommendations. The service was outstanding and the price was more than reasonable. This is a place that we definitely plan to revisit.

Mannino's Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon