TARRANT’S CAFE

I feel like these past few weeks in Richmond have been a catastrophic nightmare.

Earthquake, hurricane, and now, monsoon-like downpours.  And of course, my Birthday fell right in the middle of the chaos.  My best friend flew in for my Birthday weekend, (unfortunate timing for her) with plans to go out, hit the Fan, and lay out at the river.  Well, Irene crushed all those idealistic plans.  Instead we hunkered down all weekend, lost power, drank too much wine, and watched the only tree in my backyard fall down- taking my power lines with it.  Awesome. When Sunday finally rolled around and still without power, it was only appropriate to go out for a normal dining experience.  For our sanity and for my well deserved Birthday dinner.

I decided on Tarrant’s Cafe.  My roommate had raved about it, I knew exactly where it was, and I was desperate to find an excuse to pull myself together into a half decent fashion.

Tarrant’s interior is drenched with dark mahogany paneled walls, crisp white table linens, positively flattering lighting (*reminder* for future dates).

We walked in the front doors of Tarrant’s and patiently waited at the hostess stand.  For 5 minutes.  During this time, a few random servers would pause by us to mutter the famed words “Someone will be right with you”.  After awkwardly hanging out at the hostess stand (what seemed fooorrrevveeerrrr), the hostess finally made her presence.  Not sure if we rubbed her the wrong way or if she had a jackrabbit-like sense of urgency but as soon as she picked up our menus and started to walk us to our table, she  sped off so incredibly fast (ZOOM!).  For a second, I thought it may had been a joke.  I realized it was no joke when she turned halfway through her power walk to our table and gave us that look, you know that look…like, “are you coming or what?”  So my friend and I followed her through the two dining rooms like speed walkers.  It was weird. And rude.

I needed an adult beverage (not like the warm box of wine marinating in my post-hurricane-warm fridge).  I ordered the Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir ($7.50/glass) and started off with the She Crab Soup ($5.95- cup).  This is another dish that I’ve only experienced in Virginia.  It’s similar to crab bisque but a bit hearty and has slight hints of sherry.  It’s amazing.

Another thing that was amazing?  Their rolls.  Ok, I hate saying rolls, it has such a mediocre understatement.  The rolls that Tarrant’s serves looks like bread, post Photoshop.  They were perfectly coated in a buttery glaze and the bottom was saturated with warm olive oil and spices.  The bread and the soup was a perfect combination, maybe a 800 calorie combo but hey, it was my Birthday.

For my entrée, I chose the chicken melt sandwich ($9.95) with herb grilled chicken, Swiss & American cheese, tomato, bacon & herb dressing all on Texas toast.  My sandwich was right on target except when I bit into the first half, there was no chicken.  The chicken was huge and unfortunately only on one side of my sandwich.  A little disappointing, but nothing to seriously mess up my dining experience.  The herb dressing was fantastic, it was warm and creamy and added an exceptional flavor to the juicy chicken.

My friend chose the white seafood pizza with shrimp, scallops, ricotta & mozzarella ($10.95).  I’ve seen photos and rave reviews about their pizza but this one missed the mark.  It looked unfinished or something (I can’t quite put my finger on it) and it was cold.  Cold pizza!?  Only in the morning, thank you!  It had all the right elements … mozzarella, ricotta, and seafood but executed all wrong.  Maybe the cook creating the pizza was still in post-Irene trauma.  Not sure.

After our entrees we moved on to dessert.  Now, I will make it clear that I rarely get dessert.  I guess it forces a needed post dinner workout.  Or maybe it stems from my childhood- as a kid we never ordered dessert.  My brother and I would politely ask my parents for dessert when dining out.  Their response was always the same- a snap back phrase that I still can hear in my head …

“We have ice cream at home.”  Word.

Tonight was my birthday, and I wasn’t passing on dessert.  Luckily, my best friend and I have similar taste so we settled on splitting the berry cobbler ($6.50).  I don’t think cobbler is a hard dish to mess up so I was not overly excited or disappointed when I got a bite.  I used to love cobbler filling, now, my focus has turned to the crust.  Tarrant’s knew how to execute a pretty decent cobbler crust.  It was crisp on the top, softer towards the filling, buttery, and warm.  It wasn’t grainy either- I’ve has cobbler crust that tasted like oatmeal was the main ingredient … not my style.

All in all, my dining experience was pretty decent.  Tarrant’s food was good, the service is a small drawback.  I went, I ate, and left with real satisfaction and no real complaints.  For a post Irene dinner, Tarrant’s won me over.
Tarrants Cafe on Urbanspoon

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