Friday, April 29, 2016

Eurasia, Virginia Beach

After such a wonderful night the evening before, it was really disappointing to think about leaving Asheville, if not because Asheville is such a wonderful place then because it meant that our only vacation period of the year was quickly drawing to a close and that we would soon be staring workaday reality in the face again for another 51 weeks. Our final breakfast at Carolina B&B started with fantastic blackberries in a basil-infused syrup with loosely whipped vanilla cream. After this, we were served a bacon and broccoli egg bake with asparagus and a banana muffin. It was a great breakfast, but we couldn't linger, as much as we would have liked to, facing a 7-hour drive to Virginia Beach.

Delicious Blackberries

Bacon and Broccoli Egg Bake, our Final Breakfast in Asheville
We were checked out and on the road by 10am, tentatively putting us into Virginia Beach around 5pm which was fine but I was worried about Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic. We didn't have dinner reservations until 8:15 so there was no real rush. The drive east and north from Asheville was a long boring interstate trip with no views, but we did note that the rest stops in NC are super, clean, and very well maintained.

Leaving Asheville, it was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low 80s and we were rolling with open windows, blaring classic rock on the radio. By the halfway point though, it was clouding over and getting noticeably chillier. By the Virginia state line and cruising east on US 58, we had the windows up and were struggling to find any radio station not playing Christian music or conservative talk. Both my families are from Southside Virginia but that still doesn't make it feel like home. And what a culture shock after leaving the crazy and totally leftwing Asheville.

Seven hours after departing peaceful spectacular Asheville, we arrived in the land of the 6-lane interstates and high-rise buildings just in time for bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic and a low gray ceiling that shrouded everything in a mist too large to be a fog and not enough to be rain. It was a cold, dreary, damp, aggravating afternoon when we pulled into the hotel near the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts where Carter and his fellow students from all over the state would give their performance on Saturday afternoon.

After resting for a little while at the hotel, it was a dark, rainy, crappy night when we set out for Eurasia just a few blocks off the beach. Friends had recommended that we try this restaurant, located in a strip mall. Sorry in advance for the crappy photos; the lighting was just low enough to make everything on the cellphone camera grainy.

We started with cocktails. Ann had a cocktail called Absolutely Perfect made from Absolut Mandarin, St. Germain, cranberry juice, and prosecco. It was quite nice and I wouldn't be surprised if we don't rip it off for the restaurant. Jazzed by the Crusta that I had at Rhubarb, I asked for a Sidecar and I sort of got a Sidecar, but really, in a rocks glass with a little ice and a slab of lemon? Not the best bar work that I have ever seen.

"Absolutely Perfect," A Really Good Cocktail

A Sidecar?
I was just glancing at the wine list in preparation for digging into it when I saw the same wine we had the night before in the 2012 vintage and I looked no further. This was equally delicious as the 2001 but without the benefit of bottle age. It was however, way, way less expensive.

Baby Barbaresco
As usual, I pretty much let Ann figure out the food while I figured out the wine. She decided on Ahi Tuna Tartare with ginger, sriracha honey, diced egg white, quail egg, and wontons. If you're going to do a dish that everyone does, you need to step up your game to make it shine. Sadly, this tuna was really middle of the pack. The tuna itself was underseasoned and needed texture. The egg whites were crudely whacked making me wonder about the care that the kitchen actually puts into their dishes.

Tuna Tartare
Served alongside the tuna was a beet and burrata salad with "grains" (whatever they were), an avocado mousse, preserved lemon, black pepper crackers, and toasted almonds. The dish really didn't hang together as a salad for me, the burrata was OK but not memorable, and the beets were woefully undercooked.

Beet and Burrata Salad
Next up was olive-oil poached octopus with orange, grilled scallion, hoisin, and a plantain chip. The octopus was fairly good, but I don't understand how the other ingredients play together or help the octopus in any way. It reminds me of a junior cook throwing a bunch of ingredients at a plate because they sound cool.

Olive Oil-Poached Octopus
The best dish of the night and the one that hung together best concept- and flavor-wise was rock shrimp with cavatelli, oyster mushrooms, and ramps in a butter sauce. The delicate shrimp and pasta was buried in an avalanche of cheese and there was way too much butter sauce for the amount of ingredients. This could have been a stellar dish, yet it ended up being heavy-handed and clumsy.

Shrimp and Cavatelli
Ann was also intrigued by the dish called Chef's Steak & Eggs: Guinness-braised short ribs, white polenta, crispy poached egg, and braising jus. The egg was really well done but the rest of the dish wasn't at all memorable. I'd hoped for some awesome short ribs; they weren't.

Steak and Eggs
We wanted to have more wine but with us having to drive and it being dark, rainy, and us in an unfamiliar place, that wasn't a good idea. So I took a chance and asked the server if we could get another bottle of wine to go along with a cheeseplate. She made both happen in fairly short order. Back at the hotel, we had our dessert: cheese and Barbaresco from Dixie cups.

Barbaresco in Dixie Cups

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