If there's restaurant royalty in Richmond, a crown would go to chef Dale Reitzer, whose reputation grew exponentially when Food & Wine magazine named him a rising star a decade ago. Now he's hoping to reign over this city's food world again, opening the highly anticipated Acacia Mid-Town next week after 10 months of getting the place together in slo-mo.
It's a mushroom- and oyster-toned space, completely gutted after 40-some years as Hauke Press, that provides a warm, art-free backdrop for Reitzer's plated presentations. Working alongside him will be familiar faces from the restaurant's first home in Carytown: his wife, Aline, running the front of house; Philip Perrow, sous chef; Chris Collins, assistant sous chef; and Thomas Buchanan, wines. Their commitment is stronger than a family bond, Reitzer says — and he's gratified they'll be back in action at last, serving dinner to a well-traveled, demanding clientele. “People are coming with huge expectations and we have to deliver,” Reitzer says. “We're big on technique, the way our food is executed — we make things harder than we have to.”
The menu won't be a shocker. “I'll stay as true to local ingredients as possible,” Reitzer says, “but not limited from other flavors. We'll make it a little bigger and more approachable,” and will still include a three-course prix fixe meal and casual wine dinners among the seasonal, eclectic, seafood-rich offerings. Though the room could hold more, they've kept seating to 99, with a few two-tops outside and a large round table in a prime corner. A private party area will hold 40. This won't be a white-tablecloth place, but as eco-friendly as possible, including Chilewich runners on the tables and recycled materials elsewhere. A wine display room next to the bar is a focal point not often seen in Richmond, and Reitzer and crew will be on display too, through a window in the gleaming stainless kitchen they've worked relentlessly to complete.
Acacia Mid-Town serves dinner Mondays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. 2601 W. Cary St. 354-6060. www.acaciarestaurant.com
It's been a tough period for many restaurants and some chefs and owners report they've added less-expensive entrees and specials to their menus to keep the cash flow intact. But it's too late for another handful of operators. Recent apparent casualties include: Casas Grandes (Stony Point), the Piano Club and Tandoor (West End), Main Street Mocha (downtown), Fondue Fanatic (Midlothian) and Chesdin Restaurant (Petersburg).
Other restaurants that were in the planning stages have been scrapped for now, including a new bistro from chef Kevin LaCivita of Pomegranate, who just dropped out of a potential project at the former Acacia space in Carytown. Pomegranate Euro Bistro continues its successful run in Shockoe Slip.
New in Town
Direct from Hopewell, where they ran DB's Junction, co-owners Bruce Sessoms and Doyle Bunch are opening Richmond's newest gay club and full-service restaurant and bar, Nations, in the former club Z2 space at 2729-A W. Broad St. They'll have one of the city's largest dance floors; on the menu are comfort foods like chicken-fried steak, sandwiches and daily specials, most under $10. “We're catering to the gay community,” Bunch says, “and are offering a clean, safe place to enjoy entertainment and our food.” The space has darts, a pool table, televisions, Wii bowling, Guitar Hero, karaoke and nightly entertainment. Lunch and dinner daily once its ABC license is approved. 257-9891.
Our recent review of Tastebuds American Bistro [“Savory Character,” Oct.15] got the dander up for several readers. Here are their critiques of our critique:
“I just finished reading the review of [Tastebuds] American Bistro, and I have to say, I couldn't disagree more. In fact, my dining experiences at this establishment have made me wonder why the critics aren't busy touting American Bistro rather than LuLu's and Delux, for instance. In terms of innovation, taste and value American Bistro is, in my opinion, way ahead of the game.” — Kathy Napier
“Please help me in correcting a bumbling article. I am mad at such an ill-informed and airy-headed critique.” — Patrick McCarty
CORRECTION: We report in the print version that Sushi Ninja had apparently closed, but the restaurant is still in business. It had closed for a few days but is now open again.