Trouble With Toast

Restaurant Week review: Vidalia | August 21, 2006

It’s official–Vidalia is my favorite restaurant in DC. Both of my previous meals there (one full-price, and one during August 2005 Restaurant Week) were spectacular, but Friday night’s RW dinner truly cemented Vidalia’s lofty status in my culinary pantheon.

From the moment we walked through the door, the experience was perfection. The maitre’d greeted us warmly, like we were regulars (I wish). Instead of begrudgingly telling us about the Restaurant Week menu, our waitress highlighted the wine specials that were chosen to accompany the affordable food. Since Jason was celebrating some good news, we decided to try one of the wine flights, which included 3-ounce tasting pours of four different varieties. More specifically, we had a glass each of a 2005 Verdejo, a 2004 Albariño Blend, a 2005 Hondarrabi Zuri, and a 2005 Syrah (the grouping was called “Spanish Blancos y Uno Rosado”).

For the appetizer course, I chose the fried green tomatoes and Jason went for the pork ‘n beans. I adore fried green tomatoes, and these were the cream of the crop—three delicately fried slices, accompanied with tomato-okra “stew” and topped with a creamy crawfish remoulade. The pork ‘n beans really surprised me; the pork belly was tender and flavorful (and not nearly as fatty and tough as it could have been), and the beans were cooked perfectly in the sweet and tangy barbeque glaze. Jason opined, “This sure isn’t like any pork ‘n beans I’ve ever had before!”

For the main course, I chose the Carolina mountain trout and Jason tried the shrimp and grits. I didn’t get to try much of the latter, since my man was enjoying it so much, but the grits (which are often either too runny or too hard) were delicious and the shrimp were savory and plump. We both agreed that it was worth every penny of the $8.00 upcharge. The trout was absolutely divine—skin on, which I love (I just think it adds so much flavor and texture to any fish dish), with roasted vidalia onions, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a pecan and brown butter emulsion. The sauce was delectably sweet, but not at all overpowering, since the potatoes and tomatoes seemed to cut it just a bit.

For dessert, after I ordered an Irish coffee and Jason chose a 20-year tawny port, we decided on dessert—the Chèvre cheesecake for me and the Georgia pecan tart for him. The cheesecake was the smoothest and most decadent I’ve ever had; it literally melted in my mouth. Since I’m not a huge cherry fan, I pushed the fruit to the side of the plate and reveled in the subtle yet rich flavors of the cheese and the almond crust. The pecan tart was served warm, and Jason asserted that it was the greatest dessert he had ever eaten. It really was lovely, and sinfully sweet—in fact, the chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream actually cut the sweetness, which seems counterintuitive.

As I mentioned above, the service was top-notch and (obviously) the food was sublime. Despite the fact that we cleaned our plates for every course, we did not leave feeling stuffed or uncomfortable. When we departed, we felt enriched and happy, pampered and joyful, and ready to go back for our next special occasion (though we may just have to make one up, in order to return more quickly). Vidalia treats Restaurant Week in exactly the right way—as an opportunity to turn a slow week into a busy one, to continue to please existing customers, and to draw in new clientele with exceptional food, service, and atmosphere.

In short (well, too late, really, but oh well)—a perfect ten!

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