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Lox and Loaded

Food Review: Dinamo pulls off a win with an unlikely concept.

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Dinamo's distinctive look sets off its Italian-Jewish menu. Mya Anitai and Brad Wein run the Fan District cafe, which announces its hours by propeller. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Dinamo's distinctive look sets off its Italian-Jewish menu. Mya Anitai and Brad Wein run the Fan District cafe, which announces its hours by propeller.

It’s small and the décor is decidedly futurist — acrylic-topped tables, angles, swirls and a miniature marble bar. Incredibly quaint, Dinamo is the most recent brainchild of Ed Vasaio, the chef behind Mamma ’Zu, 8½ and Edo’s Squid. If you’re looking for the same fare as those establishments, this isn’t the place. If you’re looking for exceptional renditions of Jewish-Italian favorites, you’re in for a treat.

Run by the gracious Mya Anitai, formerly of Mamma ’Zu, and Brad Wein of Edo’s Squid, the place projects a quiet self-possession that comes from their years of experience. Evidence of this confidence seeps through every detail, from the simple and assured food to the capable service.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s easy to find something to adore, though the menu for each meal is brief and pithy. Breakfast shines with the accessible and delicious — eggs in purgatory ($5), an omelet with potato latkes ($7) and sausage with polenta ($10). House-made sausage is offered two ways on one recent morning, with parsley and provolone or spicy Italian ($5). While the price seems steep for breakfast, the dish is large and easily split. Get coffee, which is expertly prepared and a stellar sidecar for a crunchy-on-the outside, soft-on-the-inside latke. The espresso machine is a behemoth beauty.

Lunch consists of sandwiches, salads and pastas in the same brief format. A salad of crisp asparagus spears, bright red peppers and sweet pulled crab ($12) is a breath of fresh and original in an often lettuce-laden genre. A mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich ($10) leans toward the more traditional lunch grub, bursting with creamy white cheese and salty pork.

Dinner items are seasonally driven, from basics to deceptively complicated dishes, prepared with practiced hands and an easy boldness. An appetizer of tender veal tongue, served as a special, is downright exceptional with an herb dressing and spicy red onion for contrast. Toasted crostini are slathered with mozzarella and topped with anchovy and a delicate pepper ($7). A maitake ($14), hen-of-the-wood mushroom, is lightly sautéed with onion and paired with frisee and tomato salad, earthy and acidic side-by-side, a thoughtful match. Hearts of palm and toothsome chickpeas, studded with olives and red onion ($10), are piled on top of crackling, out-of-the-oven flatbread.

An entree of gnocchi Bolognese ($17) elicits contented sighs with its dense potato-pasta balls and tangy meat sauce. House-made squid-ink fettuccine ($18) is black as night, pleasantly chewy, and highlighted with a multifaceted crabmeat-laden red sauce. Conversely, the partnering of tomatoes and potatoes is addicting with their simple flavors enhanced by spicy sausage ($18). Ham and peas, equally simple in presentation, are a stunner, the two co-mingling like old friends.

Questions are encouraged and affably answered about the menu, the vision and the restaurant. The easygoing air of the place makes it worthy of a first date or meet-the-parents, a business luncheon or a coffee and fuel-up for a morning running group.

A menu is above the kitchen entrance with desserts and caffeinated options. Gelato is a must and definitely with nocello ($6), an Italian hazelnut and walnut liqueur. Go ahead and start a note home to your mother about the chocolate espresso torte ($7). A massive propeller consistently and confidently rotates in the front window signaling when the space is open and metaphorically summarizing the energy of your entire dining experience.

Dinamo
821 W. Cary St.
678-9706
Monday-Friday: Breakfast 8-11a.m.
Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner 5:30 p.m.-close.
Saturday: 5:30 p.m.-close
dinamorichmond.com

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