restaurant review

Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant

Last night Megan and I planned to check out the newly revamped Cafe Gutenberg, only to discover a note on the door informing us that they are closed on Tuesdays. Quickly regrouping, we headed two doors down to Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. Sheba is one of two Ethiopian restaurants here in Richmond, the other being Nile which I have been to several times.

After a slightly rough start with the waitress (I had to help her open the wine bottle) we got things started with a bottle of 2007 Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec and an appetizer of Katenya. Katenya is injera bread that is lathered with berbere sauce (Ethiopian red pepper blend) and Sheba cheese and then rolled up and sautéed. It looks like an Ethiopian version of a quesadilla, and was really fabulous, I think it lasted about 3 minutes before we gobbled it up.

For our entrée we shared the vegetarian sampler which came with 5 different types of Ethiopian fare atop a large flat piece of injera served family style. The 5 dishes were Misir Wot (red lentils in red pepper sauce), Yekik Alicha (yellow split peas cooked with onions, garlic, and sliced green peppers), Fasolia (string beans and carrots in a mild caramelized onion sauce), Yeabesha Gomen (collard green steamed and delicately seasoned with garlic and chilies) and Tikel Gomen (cabbage, potato, and carrot simmered in mild sauce with garlic, ginger, onion, and green chills). All this was $12.95 and was plenty of food for two people. The only disappointment was they were apparently out of the Fasolia and served a little green salad instead.

The Malbec was a perfect pairing for the food and stood up to the rich flavors of the Ethiopian cuisine. Although the wine itself had a little too much oak on the nose, it wasn’t very present on the palate and was loaded with dark fruit flavors of cassis and plum and hints of brown spice that picked up similar notes in the food.

All in all a good experience and the food was excellent. We will definitely be heading back when we need to get our Ethiopian fix. Eating with your hands is so much fun!


Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant

9 N 17th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 308-3650

Sheba on Urbanspoon

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New Midlothian Restaurant – Mediterraneo Fine Cuisine

About a year ago, a new, little (actually little) shopping center started going up about a mile from my house. All the buildings had fancy facades that matched each other and it was starting to look like we were going to have a medical offices complex close by. As we drove by this complex being built everyday going to and from work, I said to Megan, “wouldn’t it be great if we got an awesome restaurant this close to our house!” She of course told me to not get my hopes up, so I didn’t. Well low and behold, a few weeks ago, up pops a sign for Mediterraneo Fine Cuisine, hot damn.

After giving the restaurant a few weeks to work out the jitters Megan and I went with her family to see if Mediterraneo would be a local favorite. Right off the bat, the interior of the restaurant was very pleasing. It had a cozy, warm atmosphere that was a great combination of rustic and modern making us feel far removed from the strip mall the restaurant is nestled in.


First off the wine list was very nice, a great range of wines both in region and countries as well as prices. Although I would have loved to choose one of the nice Barolo’s or Barbaresco’s on the menu, I decided to stick with the same region but different grape. We started off with the 2006 Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d’ Asti DOC for $28. It had very nice red fruit, dominated by red currant and cherry with a touch of wet earth and shroom on the palate, very nice especially for the price point. On the menu we had ample vegetarian options for appetizers as well as entrees, so of course we were pleased.

In addition to the assortment of foccacia with sun-dried tomato olive oil dipping sauce and balsamic marinated olives we ordered a very interesting sounding salad as an appetizer. The Ricca Gorgonzola consisted of endive leaves filled with corn, hearts of palm, romaine and avocado topped with a creamy gorgonzola dressing. At $13.75, I was slightly concerned that the salad was overpriced until I saw the size of it, this definitely could have easily been shared by four people. The gorgonzola sauce was not overpowering and added a salty richness to the otherwise refreshing salad.

By this time we were already on our second bottle of Chiarlo Barbera and we ordering our 3rd before the entrees arrived but were informed that we had taken the last two bottles. So, wanting to stick with Barbera I chose another one from the list although a bit more expensive at $40, the 2005 Rive Barbera d’ Alba DOC was quite good. The Rive had more dark fruit and fuller tannins, surprising being that it was a year older, and again a healthy dose of earthy, funkiness that was very nice and provided some great layers to each sip.

For entrees Megan got the Gnocchi ($13.75) and I got the Fettuccine Alfredo ($12.75) as well as a side of asparagus. The gnocchi was covered in a wonderful fresh basil pesto and was cooked to perfection. My fettuccine was quite surprising, but in a good way. I hadn’t had fettuccine alfredo in quite some time, remembering it as an overly rich soupy, cheesy mess that isn’t worth the caloric expenditure. But I went out on a limb and was glad I did, the dish was not super heavy but definitely rich and super flavorful. The sauce had a slight nuttiness to it that was enjoyable and the fettuccine itself was cooked perfectly and was just on the side of al dente.

For dessert we had hazelnut gelato and two cups of coffee. Oh man, I am not sure if the hazelnut gelato is always on the menu, but I definitely hope it is the next time we go back. It was so good!! It was as if someone took some Nutella and a bit of espresso and froze it to make this creamy delight!!

Everyone else at the table loved their dishes as well even my Italian brother in law gave his seal of approval. Some of the other dishes were the Filetto al Pepe Verde ($26 – filet mignon, topped with creamy green peppercorn sauce), Carpaccio di Manzo ($12.75 – thinly sliced beef loin topped with micro greens, shaved cheese and extra virgin olive oil), Swordfish ($23 – fresh swordfish grilled and topped with lemon salmoriglio) as well as a couple more that I didn’t write down and can’t remember. In addition for vegetarians, there are a few more pasta options as well as some great sounding pizzas.


Also being the stemware freak that I am, I loved all the glassware that Mediterraneo uses, it definitely adds a nice touch. I can’t wait to go back, especially since I can walk to the restaurant!


Mediterraneo Fine Cuisine

3730 Winterfield Rd.

Midlothian VA 23113


Mediterraneo Fine Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Visting Italy in downtown Richmond – via Enoteca Sogno

Most people know that I loved my experience in Piedmont Italy last year. I mean with fabulous wine, excellent food and a beautiful landscape that makes you hope that you never have to go home who wouldn’t love it.  Well Broad Street in downtown Richmond may not all of those, but it has a restaurant that definitely has two.  Enoteca Sogno is a small authentic Italian restaurant that seems to focus on the cuisine and wine of Northern Italy.  We had the pleasure of dining at Enoteca Sogno a couple of weeks ago with our friends Bryon and Leigh and had a quite enjoyable experience. Owner Gary was our server for the evening and knowing that I am a wine geek and thirst for information, was full of detailed explanations of all the wine and food that we enjoyed.


We started out with a couple of appetizers and a great Italian Riesling that was bone dry and extremely good. The 2006 Vajra Langhe Bianco paired perfectly with our two apps which were the crostini with white beans and arugula and the roasted red peppers and mozzarella.


For entrees we all shared the special ravioli of the day which was pumpkin in a brown butter sauce I believe. Megan and I shared the risotto of the day which is only offered on Tuesday’s and was made with wild mushrooms and truffle oil. Leigh had the whole roasted Braziano and Bryon had the gorgonzola gnocchi that he was gracious enough to share with us. All the dishes were fabulous as we paired them with the 2003 Cantina del Pino Barberesco. The wine had great dark fruit flavors interlaced with aromas of cranberry, toasted oak and mushroom with smooth integrated tannins.


After we were done with dinner and the restaurant was pretty much shut down for the evening, Gary shared a couple of bottles of Barolo with us. We enjoyed the 2003 Guido Porro Barolo from two different vineyards, both the Vigna Lazzairasco and the Vigna S. Caterina.  Holy crap these were good, but if I had to choose one the Lazzariasco was my favorite with more earth and mushroom flavors and aromas and slightly smoother tannin structure.


If you are fan of Italian food and great Italian wine, and of course live in the Richmond area, I would definitely recommend checking out Enoteca Sogno. Also I would like to say that Enoteca has some of the best restaurant wine prices I have ever seen with very little markup compared to the 100% plus that you usually see. For example, the 2003 Cantina del Pino Barberesco averages about $50 online and is offered for $70 in the restaurant.


Thanks Gary for the brief trip back to Italy, I hope to visit again soon.



Enoteca Sogno

2043 West Broad Street

Richmond VA 23220

Enoteca Sogno on Urbanspoon

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Vegetarian Decadence at Michael Mina

While Megan and I were in Vegas relaxing at the end of our Southwest tour of hiking and mountain biking, we had made plans to celebrate both our 3 yr anniversary and Megan’s birthday at Michael Mina.  We chose his Vegas restaurant that is located in the Bellagio hotel because they offer a 5 course vegetarian tasting menu.  The atmosphere was very relaxed but the service was exquisite and prompt. It was one of those fine dining experiences where the wait staff just seems to sense that you need something without you having to ask.  In addition to the tasting menu we purchased the wine pairings to go along with each course. With the pairings you had a choice of the regular (R) or the premium (P) selections, so Megan and I got one of each to share, so we had the opportunity to taste more wines.


So unfortunately I forgot my camera when we went to the restaurant so I don’t have pictures of the fabulous food presentation but below is the menu and the wines that we received with each course. It was pretty cool, with each pairing the sommelier came out and told us about each wine and why it was paired.


1st Course – White Crane Ranch Lettuces with Ellie’s Reserve Blue Cheese, red wine poached apples and hazelnuts. The blue cheese was done in a foam along side the greens while slivers of the poached apples lay hidden beneath the salad waiting to be discovered. I like salads but am not usually a huge fan, but this was a damn good salad and it went beautifully with the wines. The wines that were paired with this course were the 2007 Huia Sauvignon Blanc (R) and the 2005 Leeuwin “Artist Series” Riesling (P). Both had nice levels of acidity that complimented the salad with the Riesling being more complex and layered with a longer finish than the Sauv. Blanc.


2nd Course – Fava Bean Cavatelli with porcini mushroom, brown butter and shaved summer truffles. The dish was served piping hot and was rich without being too rich.  All the ingredients blended perfectly together, no single one was overpowering, but all were present in each individual bite.  The wines for this course were the 2006 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis “Vieilles Vignes” Burgundy (R) and the 2004 Arnaud Ente Meursault. Again both wines went perfectly with the dish. The Arnaud was a little bit more rich and fuller bodied with slightly less acidity, but both had great pear, apple and almond flavors and were capped with loads of minerality. Of the two the Meursault was my favorite with the dish and was an excellent Chardonnay.


3rd Course – Artichoke Souffle with Parmesan Cream, Pickled Baby Artichoke.  The soufflé came with a little table side service, always a nice treat. Two waiters brought out our plates that the soufflé, pickled artichokes and the parmesan cream were all on and set them down in unison. Next the waiters, again in unison, cut a small tunnel into the soufflé and proceeded to pour the hot parmesan cream into the soufflé until it bubbled out of the top. I think this was probably my favorite dish. The soufflé had a nice crispy top and was exotically rich with the cream that infused each bite. Paired with this dish were the 2006 Dopff & Irion Pinot Blanc (R) from Alsace and the 2005 Albarino Lusco (P).  Both wines had a nice acidity that cut through the richness of the creamy dish and had clean crisp minerality that went well with the often difficult artichoke. The Albarino was different than most I have had with this one being more full bodied and layered, but still had a great acidic backbone.


4th Course – Roasted Vegetable Pot Pie with Braised Fennel, Baby Carrots and Gold Beets. The pot pie also had table side service that was done in unison. After it was set down on the table, the waiters simultaneously cut a perfect circle out of the top of the pie and set it just off to the side of the top giving you the opportunity break off a perfect piece of crust with each bite.  The pie was bottomless as the crust was just over the top of the ramekin and was chock full of rich veggie goodness.  To go with the pie which was technically our entrée, we had two Pinot Noirs to work with.  First was the 2006 Bethel Heights Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley (R) and the 2002 Domaine Bertagna Vougeot “Clos du Perriere” (P).  These two wines were both excellent but you could really tell the dramatic difference between an old world and a new world Pinot Noir.  The Bethel Heights was more fruit forward with hints of fresh herbs at the finish while the Clos du Perriere was more earthy and good funky up front with darker fruit across the mid palate and great green bean notes at the finish. Both went great with the dish and both were great Pinots in their own resepect.


5th Course – Trio of Michael Mina Signature Desserts – This was fun because instead of getting one dessert we got to taste three.  They were all really delicious and there was just enough of each to make you decision on your favorite but still wanting just one bite more.  Our three selections were the warm chocolate cake, coconut panna cotta and a mini root beer float.  Our favorite was the panna cotta!  To pair with this we both got the same wine, it was the Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port. Surprisingly to me it went well with all the deserts, even the root beer float.  It was a great Port, very rich with caramel, cola nut and almond extract flavors. A great way to end the meal.


Although that wasn’t technically the end, we each had a cup of coffee while we sat and tried to decide which was our favorite dish and I think for both of us it was the soufflé. The entire meal was a perfect progression both in the food choices and in the wine pairings.  The meal was definitely expensive, the most expensive meal that Megan and I have ever had, but it was definitely the most exquisite dining experience that we have had to date.  It sucks you have to pay an arm and a leg to get ridiculously good service and food, but I am sure it pricey for restaurant owners to have multiple people waiting on 1 single table.  If you want to have a special dinner and a great dining experience I would highly recommend this restaurant the next time you are in Vegas, especially if you are a vegetarian.




Categories: restaurant review, vegetarian, wine review | 1 Comment

Verbena is no lemon!

Verbena is actually the name of a lemon or a type of lemon but it is also the name of a new restaurant here in Richmond, which was by no means a lemon in our opinion. After getting much fanfare from the local blog scene and traditional press, and seeing that they had a couple of yummy veggie options on their menu, Megan and I decided to check it out. So after we hit River City Cellars for their tasting we headed over to Verbena for dinner.

We had reservations for 6:30 but arrived about 10 minutes early and were seated with no problem. The restaurant had 4 or 5 tables already occupied and it seemed to have a few patrons upstairs at the lounge, although I didn’t check for myself. Our water glasses were promptly filled as our menus were dropped off at which time I immediately dove into the wine list. The wine list was nice, with fair pricing, not overly extensive with about 18 selections each of white and red, and a nice diverse mix to suite everyone’s palate. Our waitress came over and introduced herself and promptly started in on the specials, although we stopped her to let her know we were vegetarians so she didn’t have to go into her schpeell about the duck and foie gras. She did however let us know what the 3 vegetables would be in the ravioli trio as they change everyday. We ordered our wine which was the Vino Robles 2005 Petit Sirah from Paso Robles and she gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu and make our selections. Upon her return she brought some fabulous bread accompanied by a homemade olive tapanade that we quickly scarfed up after ordering our food.

What we ordered –

Appetizer – Saffron potato cakes – $6

Salad – Manakintowne mixed greens with dressing of the day, a blackberry thyme vinaigrette – $6

Entrée 1 – Trio of ravioli (2 with Shitake mushroom, 2 with Butternut squash and 2 with Spinach) – $16

Entrée 2 – Phyllo wrapped vegetable medley (stuffed with asparagus, carrots, and squash accompanied by a light tomato sauce – $16

Dessert – Pistachio cupcake topped with white chocolate icing, surrounded by a passion fruit puree – $6

Coffee – 2@$1.50

The restaurant was fine dining in its approach to food and service. They had attentive and skilled wait staff, beautiful silverware that was almost ergonomic in design, Schott Zwiesel glassware (you know I am sucker for nice stems), and a simple yet elegant dining room. At the same time, they were able to make the whole experience seem very casual and relaxed, which some fine dining establishments fail to do.

The saffron potato cakes were simply amazing – I wished there were 10 on the plate instead of two, lightly pan fried on the outside but soft on the inside, with the saffron providing an excellent flavor without being overwhelming. The salad was crisp and fresh, and the homemade blackberry thyme dressing was refreshing and almost palate-cleansing. Both the entrées were great. The ravioli were a perfect balance between tender and al dente, and were chock full of their individual ingredients (sweet potato, spinach & ricotta and shitake mushroom). There was no hide and seek with the veggies to where you couldn’t even tell what they were filled with. They were topped with a light cream sauce which, if I were at home, I would have been tempted to lick out of the bowl. The phyllo wrapped dish (actually the vegetarian version of their phyllo wrapped salmon) was equally as good as the ravioli. Jam packed with flavor, the richness of the phyllo played well with the lightly grilled and steamed vegetables (which were plentiful), tied together by a wonderful yet simple tomato sauce.

Accompanying all this was the Petit Sirah from Vino Robles winery.

My Tasting Notes

Nose – black currant, cedar, plum, caramel

Taste – thyme, blackberry, blueberry, date and cinnamon

Mouthfeel – med body, soft and smooth

Finish – medium length and black cherry flavors

The wine was good and very “rich”, with loads of dark fruit that didn’t taste like fake, Hi-C fruit. I might have preferred something with a little more earth and vegetal notes to go with the food, but the wines on the menu that would have given me that would have been too tannic and full-bodied, possibly overpowering the food. All in all it was a good choice and excellent sip that would also be good all by itself, and at $30 it fit the bill.

Last but not least were the desserts. As soon as we heard “pistachios” our ears perked up and we didn’t even have to think about which one we were ordering. The cupcake had ground pistachio in it and was topped with an uber creamy white chocolate icing and fresh whole raspberry, surrounded by an exotic passion fruit puree. The savory aspect of the pistachio balanced out the sweetness of the icing and the tartness of the puree very nicely. Accompanied with some good strong coffee, it was an excellent way to finish the meal.

With 20% tip we were just over a hundred smackers for dinner, which for the amount and quality of the food was not bad at all. Our experience was great as you can tell and we walked out wondering when we would treat ourselves to Verbena once again.

Verbena on Urbanspoon

Categories: restaurant review, Richmond, verbena, wine review | 5 Comments