Sunday, March 11, 2007

Avenue 805

In the past week I’ve had the opportunity to dine at Avenue 805 twice. Avenue 805 is located on Davis Ave. behind the Pizza Hut facing Broad St. And as the clipboard menu warns – If you park in the Pizza Hut lot, you are being towed as you read this. Avenue 805 is small divided about equally between bar area on one side and an aisle of 2 and 4-top booths on the other side. Right in the front there are a small number of table and chairs. Art lines the dining space and is for sale. A small cozy space that lends itself to couples.

The first night we went it was Cheap Date Night. Here’s the scoop: For $35 a couple you can get salad, pasta with your choice of sauces, a dessert of the night to share, plus a bottle of wine. The salad and pasta are served family-style. Wow! Unfortunately, our cheap date night did not turn out so cheap, but it’s mainly because my husband had to have meat with his sauce, and the both of us can be a little wine snobbish, at times. For our Cheap Date Night, the red wine was a Beaujolais Nouveau. We had not been thrilled with this year’s production back in November, thus, this wine was not an option. But never fear, Avenue 805 had an alternative. We could pick out any other wine on their list and receive $10 off. We went for it and chose an Oberon Merlot from Napa. The wine is regularly listed at the restaurant at $30 a bottle. We thought $20 was a decent price. Now we needed to decide on a regular or Caesar salad. We opted for the Caesar. I also wanted pasta with the Puttenesca sauce (olives, capers, garlic, tomato). Since I chose the sauce my husband chose penne as the type of pasta and insisted that we add grilled chicken (an extra $5) because he wanted some meat. Our “cheap date” ended up costing $60 instead of $35. But in the end it was well worth it. The Merlot was fantastic. As we enjoyed our first sips, the waitress blessed us with a variety of breads (onion-rosemary focaccia, plain Italian slices, and a dense quick bread) to be dipped in olive oil. The salad, as promised, came in a big bowl and was generously portioned. The penne with puttenesca and chicken was lovely. Lots of black and green olives, and capers. I was a happy camper. My hubby picked over the capers (he’s not a big fan of them) and enjoyed the grilled chicken. Once again we were served a generous bowl and took home enough leftovers to feed both of us again for lunch. For dessert, Avenue 805’s menu advised us to trust them – they knew what they were doing. I had some trepidations. What if the dish contained raspberries or raisins or coconut or walnuts or several other things I don’t particularly like? My husband jokingly said that the dessert would probably be bread pudding (which he detests). Sure enough, it was bread pudding with an apple-cinnamon sauce and whipped cream. I scarfed up dessert while he pouted a wee bit.

The regular menu contained the pasta and sauce combinations for $10 a person and chicken ($14) or veal ($17) scaloppini with a choice of preparations (Milanese, Parmesan, Piccata, or Saltimbacco). The rest of the menu changed on a daily basis. We continued to be intrigued by the menu, and the wine prices seemed reasonable with quite a few from which to select. Thus, on Saturday night we decided to return – with one slight twist – we decided to walk (the weather was so delightful, we could not resist). It took us about 45 minutes to arrive (at a gentle walking pace). We arrived about 6:30 PM and can not tell you how glad we were that tables were still available. We sat all the way in the back (intimate, away from the door). This time we ordered a Marietta California Petite Syrah for $26. What a powerful and chewy wine. Great color and mouth feel. We had not run across this wine at the places we normally shop in Richmond and had really forgotten about it. We are now on a hunt for it. Of course, we were served a basket of bread. We ordered the Avenue 805 Winter Caprese Salad to share ($8) – Fresh mozzarella served over mixed greens and roasted red peppers. A few tomatoes were thrown in and olive oil and a Balsamic vinegar reduction were drizzled on the sides of the dish. Pesto topped the mozzarella. Except for the tomatoes, I reveled in this dish. My husband thought the pesto was too strong, but he raved about the Balsamic reduction (it had been reduced to a sweet syrup). Once we finished the salad, we sopped up the rest of the reduction with our bread. For entrees I chose Grilled Boneless Pork Chops with Andouille Dirty Rice topped with a Tasso Ham Sauce ($18) advertised as a “swine trifecta.” And true to the menu description, shear swine heaven. The chops were perfectly grilled. The sausage had just enough hint of spicy heat. The sauce was creamy and cheesy with tiny bits of Tasso ham. My other half went with the Veal Milanese – lightly breaded served over linguini and topped with a tomato-lettuce slaw. He did not having “salad” on top of his veal, even though it was tasty. He immediately pushed the slaw to the side of his plate. He thoroughly enjoyed the veal. The breading was just right. The linguini had a sprinkling of herbs and cheese and tasted like it had been briefly thrown in the veal pan to soak up any flavors right before serving. Next time he would ask for the veggies on a separate plate. We had no room for dessert (I took half of my entrée home for leftovers).

On both occasions we had very good experiences. We were lucky to have the same waitress both nights. She was attentive without being intrusive. And for a busy, small place, she had the time to come back and top off our wine glasses on both nights. On Cheap Date Night there was hardly anyone at the bar (which is the only place to smoke), thus, we were not bothered by cigarette smoke. On Saturday, we were very glad that we sat in the very back as far away from the bar as possible. If we had been seated in the front, we would have had a very unpleasant experience from a smoky fume perspective. I hope in the future Avenue 805 considers going completely smoke free.


Bill said...

"we would have had a very unpleasant experience from a smoky fume perspective."

I totally agree. I am absolutely sick of smokers. Besides increasing dry cleaning bills and hurting the health of the waiters, smokers completely ruin expensive meals. I have been changing to non smoking restaurants as one or two smokers at the bar can kill the entire atmosphere of a Fan type restaurant.

pjpink said...

Thanks for the post, bill. I know exactly what you mean. We had an even worse experience at Davis and Main. They do not allow smoking until 10 PM, but they do not have any working air system (at least that our respiratory system could notice) to clean the air from the night before.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, which has taken me there for cheap date night on more than a few occasions, the desert is ALWAYS bread pudding. But a great review nonetheless!

Brian said...

the bread pudding is the best part of the meal!