Acacia Midtown: Looking for a Michelin Star?
Let me tell you the tale of how The Wife and I ended up at Acacia Midtown last night.
She had met a friend in South Hill for lunch (half way between Richmond and Raleigh.) Having been in the car all day in the rain didn't exactly set the mood for wanting to come home and spend a couple of hours cooking dinner, so I suggested we go out - maybe try one of the various prix fixe menus that have been popping up all over Richmond.
The Wife called through several to find out what the nights menu was - to make sure it was something she was able to eat. Bistro Bobette had mussels and pork tenderloin on the menu last night. While it sounded good to me, The Wife hasn't been eating shellfish during this pregnancy and pork is not her favorite - so that was saved for another night.
She called Belle Vie - which, according to Richmond.com has a three course prix fixe that they bill as a "bistro menu." The person who answered the phone was rude - saying "excuse me?" laughing and telling her they offer no such thing. That didn't inspire us to ever want to make the trek down there.
I had to tell you those stories to tell you what made our experience at Acacia so special. When The Wife called, she told the person on the phone, Rebecca, that she was pregnant, and there is a lot of food she can't/doesn't want to eat, and asked if she could share the nights prix fixe menu with her. It wasn't available yet - the chef releases it to the staff around 5:00 every evening. Rebecca offered to take her number, call her back when it was released and make reservations then if it worked. Impressive effort in going the extra mile.
She called back and The Wife was wowed with 4 entrees to choose from, so she promptly set reservations at 6:30.
We arrived out front of Acacia, where they have complimentary valet parking. Inside, the same Rebecca took our coats, remembers The Wife's name and led us to our table.
The experience has been great so far, and we've only just walked in - but here's when it starts to sink in that this restaurant is something different.
We were seated and promptly greeted by our waiter who greeted us with "Good evening, I understand there is a food allergy, or special request here, the kitchen is happy to accommodate any requests." From the brief conversation several hours ago, it was noted - and remembered - that The Wife was pregnant and might have special requests. That level of attention to detail impressed us further. He offered that their bartender could make a wide variety of mocktails - and The Wife took him up on that. He crafted her something with rhubarb juice, molasses, and slices of citrus. It was perfect, not too sweet - and the most unusual flavor she'd ever had in a mocktail - I was jealous with just my glass of Pinot Noir.
Their prix fixe menu offered two appetizer choices, four entree choices and three dessert options. All sounded amazing.
The Appetizer choices were a roasted yellow pepper soup or a salad with blue cheese, apple matchsticks, arugula and some kind of nut. She opted for the soup and I chose the salad.
The soup was rich - it tasted like a hearty roasted pepper with a hit of sweetness. The salad was an equal match. I've never "loved" a salad, but this was different. Every bite was perfectly uniform, the sweetness from the apple and dressing, the tang from the tiny blue cheese crumbles and the crunch from the nuts.
Out entree choices were rockfish, duck, flounder or ribeye.
I was torn between the rockfish and the duck and asked the waiter's opinion. The rockfish sounded amazing until he mentioned that the duck had a nice crispy skin - you had me at crispy duck skin. It was cooked perfectly with a small, perfect layer of duck fat under the skin. It was paired with a scalloped potato risotto and asparagus.
The Wife ordered the rib eye - and while she had to have it cooked more than she normally would, it was still an amazing cut of beef that almost fell apart under her knife.
Her dessert was a chocolate cremeaux with an olive oil ice cream. I love olive oil ice cream - trust me on this. I opted for the yuzu dessert that came out almost like a key lime pie, but with yuzu - and a scoop of ice cream as well.
I closed out the meal with a cup of tea - which comes out in a french press pot. No tea bags here.
This is definitely the best $24 per person (not including wine and mocktails) I have EVER spent on a meal - anywhere. New York, Chicago, Miami, California - anywhere.
What really made the dinner an experience was the small attention to detail. Each person gets a "bottle" of water - it comes in old glass milk quarts, and your glass is never allowed to get 1/2 empty.
You really feel like the entire staff is there to take care of you. It's not just your waiter. My Wife had her water glass filled by three different people who noticed it getting towards the half way point. When she left to use the restroom, her napkin was immediately folded. And all of this is done in a very subtle way, that you hardly notice they're there.
Everything throughout the evening was on point - impeccable. This is more than just good service. Someone has taken on James Beard, and now is looking to add a Michelin Star to the list.