Welcome to the second half of our Charlottesville weekend trip! My local friend had recommended a slew of restaurants for a nice dinner out in Charlottesville, but Ben rejected them all, settling instead on L’Étoile (817 West Main Street). Because it had been his birthday a few days earlier, he got to choose, and I must say, he chose very well.
It’s a nouveau Southern restaurant with French influences, and it looks deceptively small both inside and out.
In addition to that front room, where you can see Ben enjoying a beer, there is a large porch outside and a second floor. But it feels like an intimate space. If I had any complaints, it’s that our waiter was rather brusque, but hey, everyone has an off night. Everything else was top-notch, starting with the amuse bouche of a crab cake with pureed broccoli aioli and microgreens.
Gorgeous presentation, which was true of all the dishes. The crabcake was fine, and the greens were overwhelmed by the aioli, but it was a beautiful start to the meal. The next course, a three-cheese plate, was exceptional.
The flowing quality of that presentation was eye-catching. In addition to the cheeses and breads, it contained olives, roasted garlic cloves, thinly sliced and fried garlic chips, and red onions pickled with cloves. The red onions were not my chunk of cheese, but everything else was delicious. The bread was brushed with melted butter and liberally dosed with salt that combined best with the brie and blue cheeses, though it overwhelmed the chevre. But as a cheese plate, it was so much more inspired than I expected.
For an entrée, I opted for two appetizers, though I should have just had one, because the shrimp and grits was plenty.
It was served with a mirepoix, roasted tomatoes, and more of those microgreens and the broccoli aioli. They used thick kernels for the grits that added texture and crunch that made the dish. Each individual element was delicious on its own and together. Mirepoix is often an afterthought, but it wasn’t here. It mixed perfectly into the dish, making it all more savory.
My second appetizer was a cold peach, goat cheese, and cucumber soup.
Oh look! More of that ubiquitous broccoli aioli! It was extraneous, but it made for pretty artwork in my soup. The peach, goat cheese, and cucumber all played an equal role in the soup, and it was both soothing and smoky. I may try to reproduce it at some point.by