At last, I can reveal the secret I’ve been sitting on. Okay, maybe I sat on it a day or two too long, but before I get to that, let’s talk brunch. Richmonders do love their brunches. I think that’s because it gives ‘em an excuse to start drinking before noon, but that’s just one man’s humble opinion.
HOP TO IT: One of my favorite in-town spots to enjoy a delicious pizza and cheap wine is The Hop on Cary Street at Lombardy. Now, of course, The Hop may be best known, besides for their great pizzas, for their large selection of some 250 to 300 craft beers in bottles and cans. But they also have an ample wine selection at very budget-friendly prices. I can buy a bottle and enjoy it with a delicious pizza right in the store/restaurant for a very reasonable price.
But, we’re talking brunch here and while co-owner Evan Byrne says he’s not offering a full-blown brunch, he is now offering brunch calzones from 11:30 to 3 on Saturdays and Sundays. He has several calzones from which to choose including a create-your-own-calzone. All the calzones come with scrambled egg and cheddar jack cheese. They all sound marvelous. I’ll have a hard time choosing between the Ham, Egg and Cheddar Calzone, which features sweet peppers and onions or the Hot Italian Sausage Calzone with sweet corn, jalapeno and cilantro. Or should I hae the Spinach Calzone or maybe the Roasted Red Pepper Calzone. You can see what a dilemma I have before me.
The calzones are served with a side of house made pico de gallo. Whichever I choose, I’ll almost certainly have a $4 mimosa, which they’re serving during their “Calzone Brunch” hours. They’ll also offer delivery service, too. A calzone in bed doesn’t sound bad, either.
MORNING NOODLE: My Noodle and Bar at 1600 Monument is also doing a weekend brunch from 11 to 3:30 both Saturday and Sunday. Although, they are tweaking their brunch menu just a bit, GM Leslie Hong tells me that several of the favorites will stay on the menu and that includes their Pad Thai omelette, their Japanese Crab Roll and their Breakfast Currito (think Curry Burrito). Leslie says they’ll also be adding a chicken and waffle dish, which she describes as a brunch version of one of my favorite My Noodle dishes, the Crazy Joe Taco.
She also tells me that their Thai Basil Bloody Mary is quite popular. I’ve sampled it and I can understand why. My Noodle is also serving a passion fruit mimosa as a brunch-time beverage.
HERE’S THE SCOOP: I’m talking ice cream here. As you know, I can resist anything except
temptation, which is what took me back to Charm School Social Club this past week. All I can say is if you’re going to eat their ice cream, you may as well opt for the toasted marshmallow on top. Wow. It’s good.
HERE’S THE REAL SCOOP: Now, I can reveal that this secret, which I’ve been hinting at for a couple of weeks, can be told. Brandon Pearson, co-owner of Sabai as well as the new Temple restaurant, is opening another restaurant in Scott’s Addition, Aloi, at 3103 W. Leigh Street. Brandon tells me that the emphasis will be on good, healthy food, but he’s not talking bean sprouts and nuts. It’s a contemporary American restaurant, Brandon says, adding, “that means it’s a melting pot of cuisines. WE can have Asian influences. We can have Middle Eastern influences. We’re going to have falael on the menu. We’ll also have four to five vegetarian dishes at all times. We’ll have something for everyone…everything in moderation.”
While the goal is to provide delicious fare, Brandon says, “We’re gearing towards being as health centric as possible, but we’re not sacrificing flavors in the cuisine.” Ben Waters will be the head chef.
Brandon adds with regard to healthy dining and with reference to Southern-style cuisine, which is so popular in the city, “We (Richmonders) are lacking options to be able to eat in this style setting and feel comfortable about what we’re eating. Aloi is not branding itself as ‘farm to table’ but that’s what we are.”
Speaking of style, this may well be the most beautiful new restaurant to hit the city in some time. I, for one, am pretty excited to see this project, which is something Brandon has been planning for quite a while, come to fruition.
Brandon who has been pretty tight lipped about the new place, says he hopes to open by the end of next week. Stay tuned.
SOUPS ON: Speaking of Temple restaurant (and I was) I had the chance to enjoy lunch there this week. At Temple the emphasis is on soups and other dishes from Laos. And although I went in planning to try the soup, I ended up eating everything but. I loved the khanom Jeeb, featuring steamed crab and pork dumplings with onion, shitake mushrooms, and water chestnuts. The Kahnom Chin Nam Ya Gai (coconut curry cooked with chilies and ground chicken, served with thin rice noodles, chinese long beans, cabbage, pickled mustard greens) was also quite tasty .
BRING ON THE MUSIC: And now for a rundown of our entertainment/dining picks for the weekend –
Friday – July 27
The Taters – O’Toole’s (8 p.m.) I could tell you how fantastic this band is, both with their original stuff and their amazing covers. But I think I’ve said that before.
Saturday – July 28
Blue Orchid Jazz Trio – Positive Vibe Café (6:45 p.m.) “Speakeasy” style arrangements of beautiful, time tested Jazz standards and original compositions
The JOB – Ponies & Pints (9 p.m.) Virginia’s Top 40 independent band performs
Sunday – July 30
Chatham County Line – Tin Pan (7 p.m.) North Carolina based bluegrass band