Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dogwood: A Bit of Blight?

On Friday we dined at Dogwood Grille and Spirits with another couple. My husband and I had never been, although it had always been a goal. Our friends had not eaten there in quite a while. I, for one, was quite excited. This heart-of-the-Fan restaurant located on Main St. had garnered great reviews in the past and was named Style Weekly’s 2006 Restaurant of the Year. The night was perfect; we were eating with dear friends. What could be better?

I’ll begin with the water. The regular, generic tap water was infused with mint. And while I advocate anything that will perk up city water, no one alerted us to the water’s altered statebefore pouring. I liked the wine list. It contained a variety of choices and the price points were not exorbitant. The higher end selections were decent for a restaurant. Our table selected the Hahn Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly spicy and jammy. It turned out to be an interesting choice since the table ordered either seafood, fish, or Creole for entrees. But up next, the appetizers: Venison Carapaccio, Tuna2 (Tuna Carapaccio and Tuna Tartare), and Barbequed Duck Wontons. The Venison won the most raves of the night. The tuna was decent, but the Saki shooter, which accompanied the dish, had an alcohol burn that overpowered the dish. The wontons, again, were decent, but the Asian-influenced slaw was tastier and preferred. Entrees consisted of Crab cakes with a tartar sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans (the special of the evening); Tuna steak; and Quail stuffed with Andouille sausage atop dirty rice. My husband wanted me to stress that, at least for him, tartar sauce has no business anywhere near a crab cake. Thus, even though lump crabmeat filled the cake, his opinion was “The tartar sauce sucked.” And even though the special boasted roasted potatoes, the received potatoes seemed to be of the boiled variety. One of our friends ordered the Tuna steak. He loved the sides (and mea culpa I can not remember what the sides were), but thought the tuna had just come along for the ride. The Andouille overshadowed the delicateness of the quail; however, the dirty rice had a nice, spicy flavor, and had an abundance of crawfish. With both the crab and the tuna, we discovered something amazing – the wine (a spicy Cabernet) acquired a pronounced vanilla taste. Very interesting. We skipped dessert and had truffles and cookies along with Sambucca, Belle de Brillet, and quiet conversation at our friends’ house.

For me, Dogwood Grille and Spirits had no “wow” factor. And at these prices, “wow” must be present. All of the items on the menu appealed to the imagination – interesting and unusually juxtaposed ingredients – unfortunately, the food did not realize its potential on this visit. At least the place is non-smoking. I salute them for providing a breathable atmosphere.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I heard they recently changed ownership. Don't know if there was a chef change. You're right though...those prices require "wow" factor. You should have had dessert if they still serve the carrot cake ice cream sandwiches. Divine.

Janet said...

My husband and I went to Dogwood when they first opened and had an average meal. We can it another try recently and had the worst meal we've ever had in Richmond (and we dine out 3-4 nights a week on average). I think Dogwood is by far the most overrated restaurant in Richmond.