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Brookside Seafood Restaurant; The Blue Bottle

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While we were perusing menu — three pages of possibilities plus specials — our waiter delivered a tray of complimentary crudités with a delicious dill dip for us to crunch on and uncorked a bottle of Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio ($17). We attended to the business of deciding between a wide array of fruits de mer (including eight different fish specials), burgers, steaks, poultry and pasta. I can see why both Richmonders and tourists flock to Brookside Seafood for the incredible choice of menu items alone, not to mention the reasonable prices (nothing over $20 and most below $15). There aren't too many places in town where you can order two appetizers, two entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert for a grand total of $76 including tip, which they automatically add onto each bill. While you may find the décor to be a bit passé, and you might order the occasional so-so entrée, there is so much from which to choose, and the service is so personable and swift that we found the experience to be pleasant if not cutting-edge. One of the newest restaurants in town has set up shop in an area not usually associated with a good dinner out, or lunch, or breakfast for that matter. But , a come-as-you-are coffee-house bistro and rotisserie does all three—very well—six days a week from inside its space on the corner of Broad and North Jefferson at the edge of Jackson Ward. The Blue Bottle serves old-concept, straight-ahead bistro fare: food that's big, richly flavored, simply prepared and served in bounteous quantity. If they have it, do not miss the fresh and imaginative shrimp-and duck-stuffed corn tortilla appetizer. And if you like calamari, The Blue Bottle has the best I've had in Richmond: soft, fresh with the lightest of batters. Our entrees included spit-roasted half chicken with steak fries ($6.95); coq au vin teeming with button mushrooms and melting off the bone ($11); duck breast, rich and rare with a generous edge of fat and served over bourbon-mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus ($16.50); a 2-inch-thick spit-roasted chicken salad sandwich ($5.50) The best part, though was that when the bill came and we divided by six, without much subsidizing each of us owed just $25, making this one of the top-three value meals around, possibly unrivaled in quality for price. — Noel Patrick

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