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Expressions at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is worth the trip.

Destination Dining


For those of us whose lives are more centrally situated in the Richmond area, Mountain Road is not really on our way to anything. All that changed for me on a recent Saturday night when I made the trek to the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen to check out its restaurant-in-residence, . I'd been to the Cultural Arts Center once before and found it to be a creative makeover of an old school with lots of space for exhibitions, classes and theater. Since then, Expressions, which has another location in Innsbrook, has opened and their fare fares quite well.

Although the front door and hallway, adjacent to the Cultural Arts Center entrance, is a bit school-corridorish, the interior of Expressions is tasteful enough. One room serves as a bar and lounge, and the other is a dining room that seats around 50. We made a reservation for our Saturday night visit, but when we arrived we saw that it had been unnecessary. Only one other party was dining — a table of six. The dining room is nicely appointed with upholstered hardwood chairs, votive candles and (real) flowers on the tables, oils and watercolors by local artists on the walls, and a view of a courtyard. I heard the other party suggest tablecloths for the tables, and I'd definitely have to second that for the dinner hour.

[image-1](Stacy Warner / menu offers a diverse selection of appetizers and entrees ranging from sandwiches, personal pizzas, salads and burgers for less than $10, to beef, pork, veal and seafood entrees plus several pasta dishes, all $22 and under. While deciding on dinner, we nibbled on warm bread served with two spreads, one of cranberry and cheese, and another with anchovy, cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes — both absolutely delicious. How is it that no one has found this place, we wondered? Our waitress explained that on nights when there is an event happening in the Cultural Arts Center, the restaurant is busy.

For starters, Bottomless Pitt ordered oysters prepared with sautéed spinach and lemon fennel vinaigrette ($7). Six of them were served in the shell on a large bed of dressed mixed greens. He reported that the oysters were tasty, baked to the right consistency and delicately flavored with fennel. Salads came with our entrees, and I chose a small Caesar with a creamy lime-Caesar dressing. My salad was fresh with crispy croutons and the dressing was nice, although I didn't taste any lime in it. Across the table, B.P.'s mango-cherry dressing, a thick, slow-as-Heinz, creamy concoction, was loaded with cherry bits.

[image-2](Stacy Warner / steaks are rarely seen on restaurant menus, so B.P. decided to give one a try. He was delighted with the results of his daring. Served perched on a bed of perfectly lumpy mashed potatoes, the 12-ounce steak was topped with herb butter, grilled to a warm pink and surprisingly juicy and tender. A veggie medley of sautéed and seasoned zucchini and yellow, red and green peppers accompanied the steak ($19).

In the mood for seafood, I ordered the seafood penne a la vodka ($17). A huge plate full of all kinds of fruits de mer — scallops, shrimp, baby lobster tails, all prepared just right and accompanied by prosciutto — was more than I could possibly consume. The basil tomato corn sauce was rich and creamy, just the right complement.

Though we were full to the gills, we couldn't resist sharing a slice of warm, homemade blueberry pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Gooey and fresh and outrageously sweet, the pie was worthy of pushing even the fullest stomach over the edge.

As we walked out to the parking lot and quickly found our car — the only one there — I thought of all the folks missing out on the treat that Expressions really is. Care has been taken to come up with an interesting menu, and service is friendly. For all of those who live nearby in the numerous subdivisions that now populate formerly rural Glen Allen, and for the adventurous city slicker, Expressions at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen ought to be a dining

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