Saturday, May 2, 2015

Claire's at the Depot, Warrenton VA

On Saturday, nearing the end of our annual break from the restaurant, we decided to make the 45-minute drive to Warrenton and have lunch at Claire's, where we like to sit outside in beautiful weather.

Michael Shaps PV, a Decent Bottle
Duly seated outside on a fantastic spring day, we had to ask for the wine list. It's terribly difficult to sell wine in a restaurant if you don't give customers the opportunity to buy it. A pair of catbirds were raising hell in the trees above and around us as I looked through the very limited list. I am spoiled by our list at our restaurant, I will admit. Just as I had hoped at Tuskie's for a decent bottle of Willamette Pinot, I hoped at Claire's and came up wanting. The only interesting bottle on the list was the Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2012 and so I ordered it, knowing that he does not make bad wine. Dark and jammed with deep berry fruit and with tannins that are well in check, this is a very good Virginia Petit Verdot, though it is about 5 years too young to drink.

Yellowfin Ahi Tuna Wontons
I let Ann pick the food as I perused the wine list and she chose two appetizers and two entrees for us. The tuna wontons didn't excite me but they weren't bad. I felt that there was too much wonton for the tuna and the soy dipping sauce did not work for me. With wasabi, I would want a ponzu sauce, but this was more of a Southeast Asian sauce, tasting of tamarind. Again, not a bad dish, but there are tweaks I would make to it.

Crispy Calamari
The crispy calamari was a very generous portion and quite excellent, easily the best dish of the day. The rémoulade on the side was fairly flat and tasted mainly of mayo; I would have liked a bit more character in it, but then, I really don't want any sauce at all on my calamari. Lemon and salt is all I want or need.

Spring Risotto
The description of the spring risotto sounded great to us risotto hounds. What's not to like about "melted‎ leeks, morel, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, wilted spinach, chives, marjoram, shaved parmesan"? As it turns out, there was nothing wrong with those ingredients, but the rice itself was botched. The outside was way overcooked while the interior was still underdone. In my experience this is hard to do. This is the dish that caused me to make my own version on Mother's Day to put this one out of my mind.

Artichoke Raviolone
The other entrée that sounded intriguing was a special of artichoke ravioli. I guess I was hoping for house-made ravioli, but that is pretty unrealistic at lunch. The filling was pretty decent, but then the whole was drowned in a cheese sauce that didn't help the dish one bit.

So our appetizers were a lot better than our entrees, but I think that's true at most restaurants. I know that we are a lot more excited about the appetizers on our own menu than our entrees. And it seems to me that the execution has slipped since we were last there. All in all, we had a very enjoyable lunch and we'll keep going back as we are able to help support Claire in bringing good food to Warrenton.

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