Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Comfort in Richmond (on Broad St.)

comfort Anthony Bourdain says you should never eat out at the beginning of the week in his book, Kitchen Confidential. He states unequivocally that the food is left over from the week before and the real chef has the night off. And so it was with some trepidation I made a stop at on Comfort on Broad St. Tuesday night. With a name like “Comfort,” though, how could a chef go wrong with things like meatloaf and pie, or mashed potatoes and string beans? A long, narrow airy space, full of light and a spectacular tin ceiling, Comfort easily integrates lots of modern blond wood without jettisoning the old storefront sensibility of downtown Richmond. Although the space tends to get a little loud as it fills up with diners, our table was far enough away so that normal dinner conversation wasn’t a problem. Add a wait staff that was attentive, quick and knowledgeable—what more could you ask for on a Tuesday night? We started with a straightforward appetizer of shrimp and grits. The creamy grits were redolent of sharp imported Parmesan and contrasted nicely with the perfectly grilled shrimp drizzled with a piquant sauce. Although our server called it a barbecue sauce, this particular sauce was non-smoky and delicately tangy. Fried green tom atoes as our second appetizer had a great cornmeal crunch to them and a nice peppery bite, accented by a remoulade sauce on the side. All of the entrees came with a choice of either two sides for the very hungry or three for the gluttonous (and are priced accordingly, $12-$18). For large parties, family style portions are available and I admit, I felt a little wistful as I saw a large steaming bowl of macaroni and cheese we ordered for the children. It was a hard choice; order the pan-fried catfish or the salmon topped with micro-greens? The creamed spinach or the potatoes au gratin? We finally decided on meatloaf and bacon-wrapped trout, but unfortunately, only the trout was a winner. It was smoky, moist and succulent from the bacon surrounding it. The meatloaf, however, was a disappointment. It was dry and compact, and although I could see what looked like little white bits of Parmesan inside, I couldn’t taste them. The pallid mushroom gravy did nothing to disguise what might have been (gasp!) meatloaf left over from the weekend. The sides we chose more than made up for this one misstep. Lovely braised greens enhanced with little chunks of country ham and a sprinkling of vinegar were merely a prelude to the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Although just potatoes, cream, butter, salt and pepper, they were unbelievably light and fluffy with a few tender lumps. I ate all of mine and would have eaten my companion’s except that they were all gone. Neither of us had any room for dessert but forced ourselves to try one anyway. The dessert menu was surprisingly limited and between the banana pudding, two choices of ice cream, and the apple-rhubarb crisp, we chose the latter (with a banana pudding back up). It took a long time to reach our table, and although our server apologized, it really wasn’t worth the wait. Apples weren’t a strong enough foil for the assertive rhubarb and the excessive amount of cinnamon in the crumb topping (which had unaccountably slid to one side of the plate) was overwhelming. A generous dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream almost saved the dessert—it was the real thing and a joy to taste. However, the banana pudding really hit the spot. It was actually, once scrutinized, a jazzed-up crème brulee (a favorite of mine) with a cookie crust and very thinly sliced bananas just underneath the crackling sugar topping. Although plain fare is ostensibly its mission, the food at Comfort both satisfies the nostalgic urge for the food our southern moms used to make while at the same time actually serving food far beyond the capabilities of most of the cream-of-mushroom-soup-toting mothers with whom we actually grew up. Overall the meal was a somewhat uneven but the mostly well-made individual dishes far exceeded the less than perfect ones. I’ll be back to Comfort whenever the craving for a home-cooked, I mean far better than a home-cooked meal hits me, Monday through Saturday.


Blogger Ross said...

You should try Croaker's Spot down the street on Leigh and 1st (I think?). Seafood, soul food and the best corn bread around.

September 13, 2005 1:42 PM  

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