Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Attractive Abundance

Diets notwithstanding, perhaps it's time to reconsider the buffet.

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Those who drive Interstate 95 north of Richmond are familiar with this handsome landmark, a campus of several buildings in colonial style near the I-295 interchange. Built in the 1980s as corporate headquarters (Figgie International), it's been redeveloped as the Virginia Crossings Resort, a hotel-conference facility. The complex includes a golf course, a residential community and other amenities. While meetings are the chief focus, the restaurants are open to the general public. The facility is managed by Benchmark Hospitality, which runs 28 such sites.

The scene of the daily buffets is The Glen Restaurant in the central building. The restaurant is a large, tastefully decorated room, seating perhaps as many as 150. A smaller, more intimate space houses the Yellow Tavern, where lighter fare is available. Anthony Frank, a professionally trained, award-winning chef who originally hails from New Kent County, oversees the restaurant and the catering activities.

The dinner buffets ($24.95 and $26.95) are on a weekly rotation. Tuesday and Saturday nights feature a diversity of seafood; Monday nights serve up baby back ribs with other Southern specialties; Wednesday nights are grill nights; Thursday nights focus on prime rib; and Friday nights feature an Italian selection. Champagne brunch ($24.95) on Sunday features an omelet station as well as carving stations for meats and fowl. (The daily lunch buffet, which also rotates, is $14.95.)

The Italian buffet presents five courses. For antipasti, a large table is given over to a copious array of cold meats, cheeses and vegetables. We could easily have made a delicious meal from this attractive presentation alone, but restraint was in order. We wanted to at least taste the buttermilk-cashew soup — deliciously subtle and smooth, with just a touch of sweetness and a garnish of cashews for texture — before we moved on to the pasta station.

The pasta course is often the most interesting part of an Italian meal, but it was perhaps the weakest at the Glen. The diner chooses from three or four precooked pastas and from three sauces; other ingredients from the display trays may be added. A chef then reheats and prepares the pasta while one waits. One of us chose ravioli and the other tortellini, but both pastas were listless and overcooked, and the oily pesto sauce added practically no flavor, a minor failure but certainly not a disaster. There was plenty more to go.

The dining room was sparsely populated during our visit, which was, for us, both good and bad. The good was that we did not have to queue up for the buffet and could move leisurely; the bad is that some of the selections on the entree table were heated too long. I liked the pork osso buco, an interesting variation of the usual veal dish. Pork shank lends itself to slow-cooking and is probably even enhanced by sitting over heat. The osso buco was succulent and tender in the complex tomato sauce. Likewise, the roast hen was good, but the leg of lamb was not at its best. Saltimbocca (veal scallopini with prosciutto and sage) had gone dry and hard. The broccoli rabe had turned a gray-green, but it kept its interesting bitter flavor, sweetened by roasted red peppers.

We, of course, had room for at least a taste of some of the six or so desserts, on this evening not particularly Italian. The apple-cranberry pie was delicious, as was the pecan-chocolate pie. There were several cakes and chocolate concoctions that had to go untasted.

The wine list has a few wines under $30, but most go over. The service was friendly and attentive, used dinnerware disappearing quickly while we were filling yet another plate.

The restaurant at the Glen is geared for groups, large or small. With its fixed price and range of choices at the well-prepared buffet, it's a good choice for celebrations or meetings of all kinds. S



The Glen Restaurant at Virginia Crossings Resort ($$$$)
1000 Virginia Center Parkway
727-1480
Lunch: Daily, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Brunch: Sunday, 11a.m.-2 p.m.
www.virginiacrossingsresort.com




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