Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Amour Wine Bistro

Amour Wine Bistro, 3129 W Cary St, Richmond
Brunch menu

Karisa: Amour is one of those awesome Richmond spots that is always just off of my radar, which is completely my loss. I’d been there twice before this brunch. The first time for bubbly before my 30th birthday dinner, and the second for a weekday lunch when Can Can was packed. Both times were wonderful experiences. The owner even gave me a small little candle-lit dessert to go along with my birthday drinks. So why do I forget about Amour? I’m not sure, but after this brunch, I won’t make that mistake any longer. In fact, we had such a good time and liked it so much we stuck around Carytown after brunch and went back for an equally tasty dinner (and a fashion show!)

Practically everything was perfect about our brunch. Our server was as kind as he could be, indulging and anticipating the needs of Michele, Janice, and my giggly selves. I was worried our silliness would stick out in a white tablecloth restaurant, but we were made to feel right at home. He clearly knew we required drinks, and after a wonderful mimosa served Kathy-style (in a champagne flute, not over ice, Richmond-style) he suggested a Provence, with sparking rosé and grapefruit juice garnished with a slice of watermelon. It was fabulous. We all had several and were sad when he preemptively told us they were out of grapefruit juice. They were so good I didn’t mind paying $8 each, the highest price point I feel is reasonable for a brunch cocktail.

To complement the drinks I turned to my favorite brunch staple, the crab cake benedict. I don’t think there were many other savory Karisa-friendly options, but this was a day when I just wanted the comfort of creamy eggs and rich hollandaise. Aside from being at Stella’s, I don’t think I could have been happier. The crab cakes and eggs were situated atop a croissant and drizzled with perfectly crafted hollandaise. Why aren’t all benedicts served on a croissant? They should be. Just like avocado, croissants make everything better.

We’d discussed ordering a crepe with Nutella for an appetizer, but opted out for some reason I can’t recall; probably because it was a poor life choice. We rectified that decision by ordering one for dessert. Y’all know I’m not much of a dessert person, but I have a special place in my heart (and stomach) for Nutella. I’m sure I don’t have to even say it, but it was delicious. I mean, Nutella.

Michele: My only previous experience at Amour was with Karisa and Andrea about a year and a half ago. We went to Amour for a couple glasses of wine before dinner at (you can probably guess) Stella's to celebrate Karisa's birthday. I really had no expectations walking into Amour for brunch this week. One might worry that a wine bar would not bother getting a full liquor license, but thankfully Amour offers a Bloody Mary on their brunch menu. The folks here make their own fresh Bloody mix from puréed fresh tomatoes. This was the most unique Bloody Mary I've ever had. It tasted fresh and wonderful. The drink contained small pieces of tomato and whole celery seed, creating a really interesting texture. The coffee at Amour is equally delicious. It arrived in adorable little coffee cups with matching tiny pitchers for the cream. We drank lots of it, and our server kept our cups full.

For my meal this week I selected the special savory crepe, which featured a wide array of seafood. The dish contained rockfish, shrimp, crab, mussels, egg, asparagus, and lentils, all wrapped up in a thin, fluffy crepe. I thought at first that a crepe might not be enough food for brunch, but I was proven wrong when the plate arrived. The portion size of the savory crepes at Amour are just the right amount of food to fill you up. All of the different types of fish and seafood inside my crepe were cooked perfectly. The distinct taste of the lentils complimented the mild seafood flavors beautifully. The filling contained the right amount of egg -- enough to hold the other ingredients together, but not so much that it tasted like an omelette. The small side salad added a pleasant crunch to the dish. For dessert, we split a crepe filled with Nutella, the entire world's favorite sweet treat.

We stuck around Amour for a bit longer than usual enjoying more of their champagne cocktails. The crowning moment of our brunch came when the owner come over for a chat after overhearing me mention taking French in high school. Turns out he is from Strasbourg, where I spent a few days during my big Euro adventure several years ago. We had a wonderful time talking with him, and truth be told, he convinced us to come back later in the evening for dinner and a lingerie fashion show put on by the ladies who own Fiamour down the street in Carytown.

After two delicious meals at Amour in one day, I'm ready to put this charming Carytown bistro up high on my list of favorites. I will absolutely return to Amour in the future. The atmosphere inside is charming. The menu is simple yet well executed with the freshest ingredients. And likely the owner will be there, personally ensuring a top notch dining experience.

Janice, Guest Bruncher and de facto 5th brunch club member: I was the first of our group to arrive this week at Amour Wine Bistro, a restaurant unobtrusively nestled between Weezie's and Sweet Frog in the heart of Carytown. When I walked inside the restaurant, I was surprised, and a bit nervous, to discover that only one other table was occupied by diners. Uh-oh. Was the welcoming and friendly server meant to distract me from what ultimately would result in a sub par brunching experience? Was the elegant decor, replete with original works of art and bathed in soft lighting, supposed to lull me into a false sense of security? Oh, paranoia, you faithful and stupid friend! My dining experience at Amour Wine Bistro was superb! Let's go down the list, shall we? Delicious and refreshing brunch cocktails, garnished with fresh fruit? Check. A croque madame (a/k/a a grown up ham and swiss, topped by a fried egg) grilled to golden, buttery perfection? Indeed! An attentive but not overbearing server? Oui! In fact, that list doesn't even begin to cover the crepe nutella (!) we enjoyed for dessert (it can only be described as decadent...perhaps even sinful) and the personal invitation we received from owner Paul Heitz to return to Amour Wine Bistro that evening for a private, ladies-only dining event. Let's just say that Michele, Karisa, and I are now huge fans of Fiamour Lingerie, the gorgeous wares of which were on display that night at Amour. Should the offer arise to revisit Amour Wine Bistro for brunch (or dinner) I will undoubtedly respond, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there." C'est magnifique!

Rating: 5
Food Very Good. We enjoyed our entrees to the point where conversation almost came to a halt. That’s some special food. Michele’s special savory seafood crepe was the star, but the French favorites were incredible too. The dessert crepe was fantastic.
Service Very Good. Our server was very attentive without being overbearing and we were never at want for coffee or drinks. He was helpful with food selection, and very knowledgeable about the menu. Over and above just doing his job.
Atmosphere Very Good. Amour feels fancy with white tablecloths yet doesn’t feel stuffy. The wide windows make for always entertaining Carytown people watching. We couldn’t be sure, but we thought the art on the walls is from local artisits.
Coffee Good. Coffee by illy. We especially enjoyed the presentation and the cute creamer served alongside cups perfect for our hands.
Tea Not rated. We’re sure it would have been great though.
Mimosa/ProvenceVery Good. At $8, these bubbly drinks are a little more than we typically like to pay, but we all agreed they were worth the price. The Provence was a refreshing change of pace from the standard mimosa. Fresh, quality ingredients are clearly a priority, and it shows.
Bloody Mary - Very GoodAmazing! Fresh mix, made from puréed tomatoes, perfect amount of spice, whole celery seeds, great texture from the pieces of fresh tomato.

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