Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Three Parts of Cafe Caturra

My sister, bless her, gave us a gift certificate to Café Caturra this past year. We decided to try the one on Alverser last night.

Part 1

The evening started off rocky. We entered, saw folks eating, and waited to figure out the protocol. What looked like a menu graced the counter where the cash register and a young woman donning an apron stood. She finally asked what we wanted (no real welcome). We told her we wanted to have dinner. She then pointed to a menu on the wall, which we had not seen. Apparently, we were supposed to order at the register and then find a table. The menu on the counter happened to be a wine menu. Okay, so we craned our necks and figured out what we wanted between choices of paninis, sandwiches, and salads. The wine menu contained 6 reds and 6 whites. The wine we ordered could not be found in the register. She also mistook our saying Petit Verdot for Merlot. In a flustered huff she went to find a manager-type to assist (no real ‘excuse me, I’ll be right back’). Once we got the orders straight and sat down to wait, she could not even pick us out of a small place to give us our order. This person even went to the outside patio to try to deliver our sandwiches (it was 50 degrees – no one was outside). We did observe that the rest of the staff seemed to have a pleasant and service-oriented demeanor. But one bad apple had the potential to spoil our evening.

Part 2

We both had ordered paninis. I ordered the Cured Prosciutto Panini with fresh mozzarella and fire roasted red peppers. The prosciutto was surprisingly tough and did not impart the saltiness that I expected. While the sandwich was decent, I would be inclined to try other items next time. My husband had the Cuban Pork Panini. Now, let’s face it, a Cuban sandwich will always be the one at Kuba Kuba until I travel to Cuba. And this sandwich did not resemble the Kuba Kuba variety in the least. But it was a great tasting sandwich. The pork was smoked and the pickles were sweet. A great combination along with the provolone cheese. This reminded us more of a Southside Virginia version of a Cuban sandwich. Both were accompanied by chips with hints of rosemary or lemon pepper.

Part 3

The wine selection did come across as sparse. The reds generally ranged between $20-30 and featured a Sicilian, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, Chilean, Argentinean, and Australian. All selections could also be ordered by the glass. And we may have considered ordering by the glass if we had known that the Café had a fantastic wine preservation system. Not even upscale places invest in these babies. Very impressive. If only we had been informed. Anyway, we ordered the most unusual from our perspective – 2005 Deen de Bartoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot from Southeast Australia. Upon the first taste the wine wavered all over. Heavy body; tart, bright fruit. And every taste was separated. No smooth melding of flavors. But as we got some air into the red liquid (Caturra used large 14 ounce glasses, thank goodness), the elements all came together and could pair well even with smoked pork and sweet pickles. At the end we were touting the wine as containing a blackberry body with a raspberry fruitiness.

I was pleased that our evening ended on such a happy note after a very tenuous beginning. I hope that more wine selections will be added in the future. I look forward to trying some white wine by the glass.


in vino veritas said...

ahhhh! and i just posted about how good the lunch is there. of course, i had soup and sandwich. gosh, i am so sorry that the start was not as good as the finish.

pjpink said...

No worries. I would try it again and take advantage of the wines by the glass since they are stored properly. And hopefully next time all of the staff would understand the principle of good customer service.

Anonymous said...

If you want a real Cuban sandwich go to Miami. Being Cuban no other area of the country makes them better and I have been to Kuba Kuba. Although the food is good it is too Americanized for my taste.

Paul Hammond said...

Allow me. I agree about Kuba Kuba, nice place, nice food, but...

Should you want a pretty good Cuban (sandwich) try Cafe Cuba.

Mom and Pop shop at its best. Just like Miami/Tampa.

Anonymous said...

Re: The three parts of Cafe Caturra:

This is an outstanding cafe. I stop by every morning on my way to work for coffee and a pastry. Lunch is great too, such a peaceful and cultured oasis from the normal boring panera type business lunch. Dinner may be the best aspect. Excellent wine selection hand picked by owners that truly understand the industry. The developer of 'Can Can' in the fan is now the part owner and CEO of this emerging cafe. He may be among the most knowledgeable restauranteur in the state, so be careful with wine criticism. Most likely, you are just uninformed. Overall this is an amazing value and truly unique idea. I wish they would open 10 more of these.

Anonymous said...

Previous "Anonymous" might be getting his wish. Caturra is opening a third Richmond cafe on Grove Avenue near St. Catherine's, supposedly later this summer. 24 wines by the glass, fresh roasted coffee, great patio and pergola facing Grove. Word on the street is they are opening a 4th location near Atlanta before the end of the year and four other cafes in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia in 2009. I don't think they are franchising (yet) but a friend told me they have over 70 investors already.

Monica Burns said...

All I can say is, I'd have called a manager over and pitched a fit about the poor service. In my day job I deal with people all the time and customer service is VERY important to me.

If I don't get good service at a restaurant, I don't tip period. If I get it, its 20-25% of the bill for the server. I also make sure management knows because they can't correct the problem if they're unaware.

Great post