Virginia’s is one of the only reasons you should trek to Avenue C (if you are against the alphabet city land that is). While the menu is small and could appear limited to those who are used to seeing one of everything or trendy truffle items, everything I put in my mouth was outstanding and immediately erased my first thought of what should I even get here. I actually skipped the appetizer section as a whole because I desired to have almost every large plate and side. The restaurant was great about using our side dishes and coursing out the large plates in an appetizer way that made sense for the palate. The Gnocchi is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. If you like lemon and how can you not, this dish is delightful, pillowy and just explodes in a beautiful way in your mouth. The morels also add great texture and some vegetable life here. For only $18 this portion is quite large and can be easily shared among three or four people without having to fight over each bite evenly. While Scallops are usually my go-to, we went with the Atlantic Striped Bass. The chef uses saffron and dill to create a drinkable broth even when the fish is gone. It reminded me of a comforting bowl of matzo ball soup. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fish in a broth like this that wasn’t too buttery or rich. It felt extremely healthy and earthy, and I loved this, too.
Atlantic Striped Bass
As for sides, order all three. The Roasted Mushrooms with grilled escarole and sunchokes taste like crack. These vegetables all work so well together and the goodness just keeps increasing. The mushrooms are large and tender and melt in your mouth. I don’t even know what it is dressed with, but I’d like to have a bowl of these to myself. It’s perfect. The Crushed Potatoes are more of a mashed potato consistency but not all the way pureed so that there is a little texture. Topped with chives and creme fraiche, you can get your carbs here. The Grilled Young Carrots with pickled ramps and tokyo turnips are also tasty. As I said, the food here is magnificent and it seems like they don’t even have to try too hard to impress you. They are cooking real food, actual produce and highlighting their natural flavors without masking the food in butter, oil or too many other ingredients. It’s simple, it’s alive and it’s satisfying. Virginia’s is the kind of place you want to go back to because you crave that gnocchi or you want that piece of fish that you know will be fabulous. Isn’t that what we are all looking for these days?
The music is natural and good enough to have conversations over, the coral/orangey colored booths pop and invite you to stay for a while. Cheers to the boys who opened Virginia’s. They worked together in Chicago at Charlie Trotter’s and managed to survive the New York restaurant industry as well. Props to my friend Reed Adelson who I met about four years ago at Locanda Verde when he told me he would one day open his own place. Now that is inspiring plus now we all have an amazing new restaurant to love.