Sunday, January 13, 2013

Amuse

Amuse Restaurant, 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond (inside the VMFA)
Website with downloadable menus

Karisa: We decided to class it up this week and combine brunch with the Chihuly exhibit at the VMFA. Three of us are members, so along with "free" tickets to the exhibit, we also got 10% off our meal - score! I'd never been to Amuse, but have looked up longingly at people sipping cocktails while overlooking art. I longed to be one of them, and now I have been. I now also know why they were looking out to the art and not around them... there's practically none in the restaurant. In fact, this is my biggest (and only) compaint about our brunch; the restaurant is incredibly sterile. White walls, black tables, beigeish chairs, black and white art. For such a beautiful museum, I wanted and expected more in the ambiance department. 

As for the food, I had a really hard time deciding what to order this week, mostly because there was absolutely no vegetarian entree on the brunch menu. Nothing. Dishes that are typically vegetarian (the tortilla espanola, for example) threw in lamb at the end of the description. Even the crabcake had bacon. Fortunately I haven't been as averse to seafood recently, so I went with the shrimp and grits (a dish that typically does have another meat... weird) with fried brussels sprouts. I was not disappointed! Plus, I've been on a brussels sprout kick recently, so they were especially welcome. It was so good. The grits were creamy, the shrimp was perfectly cooked, and the brussel sprouts added an unexpected flavor and texture. I cleaned my plate. Two thumbs up for Amuse!  

By the way, if you haven't seen the Chihuly exhibit - go! It's fabulous.


AndreaWe started our new year off right by selecting to brunch at Amuse. The meal was a wonderful overall experience. The only regret was that I felt like I ate a little too much of my tortilla espanola and felt slightly uncomfortably full when I was walking around the Chihuly exhibit afterward. Oh well...it was WORTH IT!

I had been to Amuse previously for cocktails and once for lunch. The space has a beautiful view with lots of natural light from the windows. The walls are mostly white, save for some art work (of course), and there are two main dining areas - one large and open, and one smaller with about 6 tables. We were seated in the smaller room, which was nice because it was quiet and facilitated our girl talk.

We received some brunch bread (almost like a moist coffee cake) and ordered the biscuit special (goat cheese and cranberry spread) to start. The biscuits were fabulous. I could have eaten several more of those bad boys. The coffee was pretty good. Although the menu featured an array of sparkling wine cocktails that were calling my name, I managed to abstain. For my entree, I chose the goat tortilla espanola (eggs, potatoes, goat, herbs, cheese) because it was original and definitely not something that I will be preparing at home in the near future. Although I enjoyed Kathy's stuffed french toast and Michele's beef as well, I think I ordered best this week. My favorite part was the salty cheese on top; I don't recall what kind it said on the menu, but it tasted like Manchego. The goat was moist and plentiful; I definitely couldn't eat it all. The dining experience was overall very pleasurable and we debated whether it was worth a 5. Ultimately, Amuse just lacked something intangible that puts it over the edge to our highest category. I definitely recommend that you check out Amuse, especially if you're out with friends or family and making a day of the beauty that is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.


MicheleDo y'all watch Portlandia? For me, getting to Amuse was kind of like that episode where Carrie shows up for her first day at a new job. She can see her boss upstairs, but the building is so complicated and full of distractions that she can't figure out how to get up to where he is. I walked in to the VMFA, and I could see the restaurant a couple of floors above me, but getting there was challenging. Elevator? To which floor? Stairs? They won't take me exactly there either.

Alright, I exaggerate a little. It took me a few minutes of head scratching, but I located the entrance to Amuse eventually and sat down at our table. We were seated in a smaller dining room off to the side of the main one. Both rooms have a great view of the courtyard behind the museum. The decor is a bit modern for my taste, but it was clean and felt very fancy.

While waiting for our main courses to come out, we ordered an appetizer of biscuits to share. The biscuit "du jour" on this particular Sunday was whole wheat and goat cheese with berry butter, if I remember correctly. We were a bit surprised when four squares of cake came out first, but apparently coffee cake comes standard for everyone. The cake was moist and went well with the coffee. The biscuits were quite nice as well. I couldn't really taste the goat cheese, but the biscuits were tasty, and the butter complemented everything nicely.


Speaking of beverages, I enjoyed the coffee. It tasted pretty good to me, although I don't think Karisa liked it as much. My Bloody Mary was extremely disappointing. The drink had an olive, which was probably the only good thing about it. Overall it just tasted like watered down cocktail sauce to me.

For my meal this week I decided on the grilled hanger steak. The Amuse brunch menu does not feature many egg dishes, but thankfully for me, the one with steak also includes eggs. This dish also includes roasted cauliflower, baby leeks, and thin crispy potato strips. The steak medallions were cooked perfectly medium, and the lime curry sauce on the side complemented the meat superbly. The vegetables were cleverly hidden underneath the sunnyside up eggs. The cauliflower and leeks were roasted nicely and sliced up very easily. Who am I kidding, the lime curry sauce complimented EVERYTHING on the plate superbly.
We had a great brunch at Amuse. We decided to award it a 4. Amuse gets high marks for decor, service, and food, but it lacks that "it" factor for us to push it up to the coveted 5. I would certainly come back to brunch here as part of a Sunday at the VMFA.


Kathy: I'd never heard of Amuse before this brunch club outing, and I would definitely go back. The setting is really pretty - I particularly enjoyed the museum grounds - including the atmosphere of the restaurant. While a tad sterile, I liked the upscale, but not stuffy, vibe. The menu offered a lot of great options and I had instant food envy over Karisa and Andrea's orders. The french toast was incredibly sweet, in a good way, though I'm not sure I prefer my bacon covered in maple syrup (I know, who am I kidding? I'll take bacon however, really. It's bacon.)


They had a fantastic selection of really fancy teas, served with a whole pot of water, and nothing makes me happier. Except, of course, a huge selection of delicious fancy cocktails. I couldn't choose between Judy's Jubilee (cherry flavored) and the ginger sparkler (flavor self-explanatory), and ended up choosing the former. It was good, though I would have loved to see if the latter was better. The only real downside to the meal, aside from my food envy, was the raspberry coffee cake they serve gratis before the meal. It was underwhelming - not enough raspberries. After the meal we went to see the Chihuly exhibit, a perfect end to the day.


Rating: 4
Food Very Good. Although the menu was relatively small and perhaps would not suit all palates (especially those looking for several egg-related items), the flavors were on point and the dishes were executed well.
Service Good. Waiter apologized when one bruncher's second mimosa came out right before the check did. There were only a few times when we had to wait a minute or two for a refill or to answer a question.
Atmosphere Good. Close to very good, but the overall vibe was a bit sterile for our taste. The tables and chairs were relatively minimalist as well. Points added for pretty silverware, lots of natural light, good volume level, nice view, and outdoor seating.
Coffee Good. Coffee was served in rather small cups, which required several refills. A little bitter, but suitably strong.
Tea - Very Good. Tea selection was broad and high quality (Mighty Leaf).
Mimosa Good. Excellent variety of fancy cocktails and sparkling cocktails. Mimosa was served in a champagne flute (fancy Richmond-style.)
Bloody MaryFair. Tasted like watered down cocktail sauce. Redeemed by the olive

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