The East Village, long known for a bohemian, Trash & Vaudeville kind of scene and sadly some Baby Gaps along the way – has now become the setting for a few, very inviting, low key restaurants with first class cooking. One of these is Virginia’s, sprung out of a pedigree that includes Per Se, Locanda Verde and Charlie Trotters. And huzzah for all of us that the band got together.
It’s quaint and comfortable. 38 seats. And very charming. Two tops are a bit close together but real estate dictates the intimacy. That’s okay, it’s a friendly bunch. Hand made wooden tables were built by Chris Ramos’s (Per Se) uncle and the vintage menus, the perfect but spare wall decor, are from a collection by Reed Adelson’s (Locanda) father. Even the font on their own menu comes from vintage type and Virginia happens to be the name of both Ramos’s and Adelson’s mothers.
Camaraderie notwithstanding, it’s the food I came to spend time with and It’s supercalifragilisticly good. Serious, playful, twists around the classics melt-in-your-mouth good. Higher end than the usual Avenue C counterparts of yore but times they have changed, bringing kitchen magic with them. It’s market focused American cooking and they mean it.
The menu is designed by small plates and large plates – a description that has become the kale of menu world. There were three of us and though we were all terribly considerate, I’d love to go back and share with myself. And I might just press rewind and start again with the Summer Squash Toast with Fava Bean Tapanade & Tomato Coulis. Fresh, fun, crisp toasts balanced beautifully by the vegetables.. A bite of spring to strike the first chords. But the next two plates were Dylan goes electric.
Carmelized Romanesco, Smoked Pine Nuts, Clothbound Cheddar & Speck (can be made vegetarian) was a whirlwind of tastes. There’s an edge of glazed sweetness, crunch, smokiness, and then in marches the tang of Cheddar. You might assume it wouldn’t all coalesce but you’d be so very wrong. Grilled White Shrimp, Peaches and Purple Pole Beans captured the essence of summer at the delta, the beans offered the crunch and the peach, some sweet with the brine. (no pic)
I think of the sides as another variation of a small plate these days and very glad to have added two to the selection. The Roasted Mushroom, Chicory and Sunchokes was a delight. Each bite a unique fabulous surprise. Same goes for the simpler but luscious color pop-up dish of Grilled Young Carrots, Pickled Ramps and Tokyo Turnips.
Diver Scallops, Vidalia Onion, Romaine Heart? Aces on the cook. Great sear on the outside while juicy on the inside. (no pic). The menu special of the evening was the Pork. Ultra farm to table stuffed suckling pig. With huckleberries and fennel. I’d say special alright.
Since corn season is upon us, the Sweet Corn Risotto, Morels, Parmesan was a definite given. This is something you want to bathe in, tuck in next to you in bed at night, devour every chance you get. It’s gastronomic comfort bliss.
And for those barstool burger nights, you’ve got it. They are becoming known for the at-the-bar-only lauded burger. Hanger steak + short rib + lard and then add what seems like a wheel of cheddar set atop beef fat carmelized onions. But wait there’s more! A swath of bone marrow mayo all nestled on a beautiful brioche from She Wolf bakery. Get in line.
It’s not an extensive menu. It doesn’t over reach. But there’s plenty to satisfy most palates. The lovely wine list only enhances, priced to accommodate every diner. Plus there’s a small well crafted cocktail list. Virginia’s is the kind of spot where you could go for a family dinner, a tete a tete or a first date and all of those scenarios would play out well. Comfortable chic.
647 East 11th Street
Monday-Thursday 6-10:30pm Friday-Saturday 6-11pm