Review of Blue Goat in Richmond.
I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of Blue Goat for some time. As a disclaimer, I should say that I am a regular at some of their other restaurants and am on a first name basis with Chris and Ren and Jason, so I'm not a completely unbiased source. I think Sushi-O and Osaka are probably as good as it gets in Richmond for sushi right now and I absolutely love Wild Ginger for fusion cuisine. So when I learned that Chris was opening a place in the fan that was going to cater to localvoires and do a head to tail concept, I was very excited about it. I'm always at the Farmer's Market getting local produce and meat and I really do think it is a brilliant concept.
Unfortunately, my experience there so far has been a bit bumpy. I think they have a lot of potential, but they haven't hit their stride yet. As is typical for them, the decor is excellent, its a big comfortable room with exposed brick and looks good. It is very open and has no soft surfaces anywhere, so it gets pretty loud. The first time I was there was for a charity opening night event and it was standing room only (and sometimes not even that) so one would expect a certain clamor, but dinner a few nights later was still quite loud. This doesn't really bother me that much, but I know some people don't care for it. Service was exemplary, warm and friendly and enthusiastic. Our server had a lot of opinions about the menu and was happy to share them when we asked. The menu is a bit odd. Instead of appetizers, entrees and desserts, the menu is just divided into three price points $7, $11 and $15. The waitress denied that it was a "tapas" concept, but well, it sort of is. In some cases the price points reflected more expensive ingredients and in some cases more food, but most of the dishes seemed a lot like a tapas size. I think the restaurant is best experienced when approached that way, dine family style and order a good mixture of things.
The waitress warned us that food wouldn't be served in a particular sequence, it would just come out as it was done. We had no objection to that, however as it turned out virtually all the dishes came out within a few minutes of each other.
At the $7 price point, we tried the French Fries with "pork dust" and the goat croquettes. The French Fries were good fries, a bit thicker than my ideal fry (see Belle Vie or Can Can), but I didn't detect any noticable pork dust flavor. I have no problem with adding them to a group order, but they were nothing special. The goat croquette didn't wow me either. It was a meatball of ground goat that had been fried. It wasn't particularly juicy or tasty and didn't have as much of a goat flavor as I hoped. The sauce (a cream and cheese and basil concoction) was out of this world however. Still, probably not enough to suggest it to others. At the party, we had the bread with the whipped butter and it was very good bread. I meant to ask if they made it in house -- it tasted like it. Some might balk at paying $7 for bread and butter, however.
At the $11 price point things improved. We had the housemade Ricotta with truffle honey. It sounds rather plain, but OMG! It was quite possibly the best dish of the night. This was Ricotta like one only gets in Italy and the truffle flavor in the honey was pronounced and a perfect match to the melt-in-your-mouth Ricotta. Get this dish. Trust me. For the record, it was the fake-out chemical truffle oil, but you knew that would be the case. There was also a housemade prosciutto that was quite nice. The pork prosciutto was just OK -- not as good as the stuff from Belmont Butchery, but perfectly fine, but the duck prosciutto was something I'd never had and had a wonderful flavor. We also got the salt-cured Sardines. I expected smaller sardines, but these were behemoths. They were salty (think Virginia cured ham salty) and difficult to eat, but well executed. Between the oppressive saltiness (which we warned about, to be fair) and the difficulty in eating them, this isn't something I would do again, but it was tasty. Finally we had the goat/ricotta/chard ravioli. I'd have to say this was a disappointment as well. The filling was tasty and the sauce was good, but the outside of the ravioli was chewy, almost hard. Its hard to give a good review to a ravioli with chewy pasta. At the party, we also had the rabbit pate on bruschetta, which was quite good. It was a country style pate, but I'd probably eat anything covered with the truffle honey. We also had the pate that night, which was a fine creamy liver pate.
At the $15 price point, we had the pork cheeks spatzle. This was another rock star dish. I personally thought it was the highlight of the dishes we've tried. The pork cheek was braised in a delicious sauce until it was fall apart tender and there were four generous chunks in the dish with some perfectly executed spatzle. The pulled pork shoulder was an attempt to make a pulled pork sandwich more of a linen tablecloth kind of thing and it was fine, but I'd rather have one at Q, thanks very much. I haven't had the pork belly cassoulet, but a very good friend assures me it is the best thing she has eaten and she is quite reliable, so I will attempt that next time I'm in.
For $17, they had a shellfish platter that was steamed head-on shrimp and raw oyster. The oysters are local (of course) and excellent. There was just enough sauce in the oyster to make it interesting without being overpowering and the shrimp were big and sweet.
We finished with a housemade caramel salt lava ice cream that was simple and delicious and a scoop of a dense chocolate mousse that went so well with the port that I forgot to note what else came with it. I think some sort of creme fraiche, maybe.
The beer and wine selection was fairly extensive with many options to order by the glass.
On balance, I'd go back and give it another shot, but it isn't in my top 10 at the moment.
1228 Alverser Plz, Midlothian, VA 23113
3734 Winterfield Rd, Midlothian, VA 23113
Totally agree that it's hit or miss. I thought the pork cheek with spaetzle was also amazing, but was also disappointed with the fries. No dust! Also, on my visit the service was awful. They brought 3 of our 4 dishes (a cheese plate, fries and the spaetzle) all at the same time, like 5 minutes after we placed our order, which in my opinion isn't how small plates should be served. Then we finally asked them to slow down and they waited forever before bringing out our last dish, which was tasty fois gras, but it wasn't portioned well for sharing at all. There was no chance to order additional drinks or to make an experience of the meal at all. I would also give it another shot but wasn't as blown away as I was hoping to be.
Our plan is to go for dinner after some of the kinks have been worked out. We plan to stop in at the bar (one of our favorite bartenders in town, Melissa, is working there) to check out the place. I'm also a big fan of Osaka and Sushi-O.
1228 Alverser Plz, Midlothian, VA 23113