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Kuba Kuba; Hermitage Grill

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Lately, things Cuban seem all the rage. Kuba Kuba need not rely on the trendiness of its namesake to attract its clientele. Instead, it appeals in the old-fashioned way — with interesting food, good service and an appealing atmosphere. Some menu standouts include the Latin antipasto plate ($9.95); empanadillas, savory pastries ($2.95); and the traditional Cuban press sandwich ($5.95), which is one the finest sandwiches available in Richmond, if not on the planet. Specials have included a delicious seafood sofrito ($15.95) that involved shrimp and mussels in a robust wine-spiked broth served over angel hair pasta and topped with Spanish Manchego cheese. A 2-inch-thick tuna steak (a special at $15.95) was perfectly grilled medium rare and topped with a fresh mango salsa that was as attractive as it was delicious. A frozen chocolate coffee mousse topped with whipped cream ($3.50), by itself, justifies a visit to Kuba Kuba. Whether you're in the mood for dessert and coffee, a quick sandwich and a beer or a three-course meal, Kuba Kuba deserves serious consideration.

Another type of restaurant is on the rise in Richmond: the country bistro.The country bistro may be a more authentic expression of Richmond cuisine than anything else around. In general the food is full flavored, simply prepared and served in humble abundance in a casual, mildly eclectic, unfailingly cheerful atmosphere. This is the kind of restaurant you find behind the large bay windows of Hermitage Grill on Hermitage Road in Henrico County's Lakeside district.

The menu at Hermitage Grill is broader than you'd expect, from everyday to gourmet. The menu includes pesto-encrusted salmon filet ($17.95), chicken quesadilla ($8.95), prime rib ($12.95), linguine Alfredo with portobello and basil ($9.95) and tempura shrimp with crushed red pepper and honey glaze ($12.95). There also are sandwiches and a selection of foccacia: the Greek (tomato, black olives, feta, anchovy, roasted red pepper; the traditional (tomato sauce, onion, bell pepper, mozzarella); and the West End (smoked salmon, garlic, capers, and Parmesan).

Despite some early growing pains amplified by the small space, Hermitage Grill has crossed its own line and become something of a homesteader on the rural dining frontier of North Side Richmond.

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