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Town House (Chilhowie, VA) - Wow!

First, thanks to Chowhounds estufarian, shallots and beantowntitletown for assuring me that a solo diner would be comfortable at the Town House! The restaurant is really in the middle of nowhere: not near a big city, not near an airport, not near anyplace I would be except for that I had to drive by myself from Georgia to the middle of PA. So . . . my advice to anyone who would be anywhere near southwestern VA is "go to the Town House!"

The chefs at the Town House are followers of the El Bulli, foam, molecular gastronomy school. They do it in such a way, however, that anyone who likes food should like it. I'm not a food writer, so I'll try my best. I did the four course tasting, but with the freebies, it was more like seven. The food was exquisite in both visual appeal and taste. The amuse bouche was a delicate black olive-parmesan sandwich cookie. I could have eaten a box of them. My second freebie was a chilled vegetable minestrone. I was served a bowl with tiny, colorful rolled up vegetables, both pickled and fresh (carrots, beets, radishes and leeks, I think) and the chef poured cold broth over it. Then the first course I ordered was white asparagus with pulled honey. Amazing. The pulled honey was similar to spun sugar, and the sauce tasted like salted caramel. But it wasn't weird in any way. Just delicious. The second course was thinly sliced marinated oyster with peas and bacon ice cream! Again, just delicious. And I could go on, but you'll get better descriptions on the chefs' blog at http://townhouseblog.blogspot.com/.

The sommelier, Charlie, was wonderful. I didn't want to do a full wine pairing because I had a few miles to drive on the truck nightmare known as I-81, so he suggested that he pick a white and a red that would go well with the food. And they were perfect. Both Charlie and Chef John had lots of interesting information to share about the restaurant and the food.

So . . . if you're the type of person who would make a weekend trip just to go to a great restaurant, try SW Virginia and the Town House. If you're not, but for some reason you're driving from the northeast to somewhere like Knoxville or Asheville or Atlanta, make a special stop. It's well worth it -- creative and tasty and not expensive for what it is. The restaurant deserves the support of hounds everywhere!

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  1. I had the same kind of SHUT UP! reaction after my first dinner there. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your experience so much and that you're spreading the word. For me, the total experience is what makes Town House so special. I wish I was in the Southeast more often, but no question that whenever I do make it out there, I'll make that special trip to Town House.

    Off topic, but next time I go to Town House, I need to take an extra day to go further up I-81 and visit Thai Siam.

    5 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        It's in Arrington (or Colleen), VA, off highway 29, about 30 miles north of Lynchburg. See this thread:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/377014 near the bottom, starting with a post by mikeh on 2/23/09.

        Sounds like a place you have to go out of your way to get to, but that already has a well-beaten path to its door.

        1. re: beantowntitletown

          I thought it might be that one - I was there last June, but had forgotten the name of it. Thanks.

          1. re: MMRuth

            I should add though - it's thanks to a tip on this board.

            My report is in here:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532606

            1. re: MMRuth

              Great post; I don't know how I missed it. Loved your story about 'the Pie Place'. Now, I absolutely, positively have to go.

    1. Glad you made the effort. Even more so because it was worth it!
      We're still trying to get back - considering flying to Charlotte and renting a car. That's dedication (or foolishness) depending on how obsessed you are (or I am)!

      1 Reply
      1. re: estufarian

        A friend and I have been trying to find a weekend to go, that works for both our schedules. Just a heads up...don't buy plane tickets for July...the restaurant is closed for the better part of that month, if not the entire month. I called for a reservation in July and was informed that they typically close sometime in that month for research trips (to France, Spain, etc...what a life!), and that this July is a special closure because the chefs are getting married and going on honeymoon!

      2. We went to Town House a month ago for the first time. Every detail of the evening was amazing. We had the 9 course tasting menu. We requested 2 different options for the main and starter and they were very accommodating. They were knowledgeable and aware of my SO's allergy concerns. I had the wine pairing and was very pleased with the choices.

        I wish I had the writing skills to adequately describe the evening...it was one of the best meals either of us have had. With innovative techniques I often find the food more interesting than delicious. Not the case here. Flavors were the purest and freshest imaginable. Combinations of textures and flavors were delightful surprises that worked well on every level. Each serving was stunning from a visual perspective, often very architectural in presentation.

        I wish I could go there more frequently. This is a big splurge type place from my financial position, but it is so immensely satisfying that we hope to visit quarterly to better experience their creative handling of each seasons offerings. Our 4 hour drive home was devoted to talking about the evening. A month later we are still remembering and discussing!

        1 Reply
        1. re: meatn3

          meatn3, and all,
          Be sure to sign up for their email notifications of specials as well as of special events.
          We were there last week and, as you might expect, it didn't disappoint.
          I know we can eat locally and have two mundane meals or go to Townhouse and have one meal that will send me to the cookbooks just because of the inspriations.
          (The cookbook Alinea is a good readalong to fill the time between great meals.)
          (If you have the opportunity to try their deconstructed rhubarb strawberry gazpacho, do so. )

        2. My wife and I had dinner at the Town House last Thursday--a theme dinner honoring local tomatoes (5 courses $55, wine pairings $25). It's the third time we've eaten there (living in Massachusetts, it's not exactly in the neighborhood), and the food is truly incredible. Everything was outstanding, but the highlights this time were the main course (salmon lightly smoked --over a bed of tomatoes, I believe-- served with a slightly curry-flavored foam) and the final course, a gazpacho of seasonal fruits and vegetables (including small tomatoes), over which was poured a practically clear vegetable broth--and accompanied by an amazing sweet olive oil cake with meringue folded into it. I thought nothing could top the dessert the last time I ate there--one of their riffs on the "purple mountains" with various chocolates and curry--but this was the most amazing symphony of flavors, aromas, colors and textures I've ever encountered.
          The NYT article (you can access it through the Town House website) is really good and gives a good sense of the cuisine, the chefs, and the owners--who told us they've just finished renovating an old house to provide a couple of B&B rooms for folks to stay in as well. I wish the article had mentioned Charlie Berg, though; he is an extremely welcoming host and his wine pairings are as innovative and successful as the food!

          3 Replies
          1. re: capercat

            Four of us recently traveled from Chapel Hill to eat at Town House for the first time. Words fail me - we are all just smitten and eagerly look forward to the next visit. I am happy that we reigned it in to four courses in order to savor each flavor explosion and wine pairing. If made to choose, my personal thrills were the "Caramelized Eggplant & Cantaloupe with grilled mango, ginger pudding, peanut, tamarind "raisins" and basmati" and the chocolate dessert "Purple Mountains with latte, anise seed, black sesame, yogurt." Of course, the aforementioned olive oil biscuits and vegetable "minestrone" must also be noted. But, seriously, words fail. And, what an unusual experience to feel so comfortable and welcome while luxuriating in such masterful work. Additionally, I have to mention and highly recommend the delightful Lincoln House B&B just up the road a bit in Marion VA.

            1. re: tryityoulllikeit

              ...wanted to add pics: interior front, Caramelized Eggplant, Purple Mountains... (I think you can click on them and they get big)

               
               
               
            2. re: capercat

              Agreed Charlie is a great host and somilier.