food

Restaurant Review: Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar

Last weekend, I got together with a few friends for lunch. It’s been a few months since our last get-together, so I was ready for some time with the ‘gang’.

We decided on Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, since they appeared to have a little something for everyone. The restaurant is conveniently located right off of Interstate 64 West in Henrico County, Virginia. I’m glad that this one is so close to my home because, while the chain has a few other locations, most of them are over one hour from my home.

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The restaurant describes itself as contemporary Italian food, and I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an abundance of traditional Italian dishes on the menu, but what I did notice was a focus on giving a fresh take on an otherwise simple dish. I ended up trying the zucchini frite (fried zucchini slices) and the shrimp messina with a side of Brussels sprouts.

Travinia’s Shrimp Messina

Both dishes were tasty albeit not strikingly unique. The flavors were good and, while the restaurant puts a new spin on traditional Italian cuisine, they don’t stray so far away from the standard seasonings and flavors that the food doesn’t fit the Italian flavor profile. I appreciate the adherence to tradition while still injecting creativity into the dishes. Good job, Travinia, for walking a thin line and doing it well!

I would return to the restaurant, though I’d probably choose to go in the evening as opposed to lunchtime. I’m curious about the wine list and I generally prefer pairing wine with dinner over pairing it with lunches. It’ll be nice to see how the after-five crowd differs from the lunch crew.

That’s all for my quick review of Travinia. I have to get back to my writing (NaNoWriMo calls!) so that’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow.

food · international

Review: La Tasca Restaurant

So, for a few weeks, I was craving tapas. Tapas – those small, flavorful plates of Spanish cuisine – are light but satisfying: they are perfect dishes for hot summer days. Eventually, my craving got the best of me, and I started researching local Spanish restaurants.

My search ended when I landed on La Tasca Restaurant. It’s been years since I’ve dined there, so I was overdue for a trip. This Chinatown restaurant has become something of a DC standard, especially since there isn’t an abundance of Spanish restaurants in the District. I decided to stop in for lunch and I was eager to see what delights the restaurant had to offer.

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I ordered a lunch special, complete with four tapas. My server was friendly and made sure that I had a table with a great view. As I sipped my iced tea, I watched the hustle and bustle of people milling around in Chinatown. Soon, my first order arrived- except it wasn’t what I actually ordered. The pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) that arrived at my table looked appealing, but I knew I hadn’t ordered it. When my server returned, I let him know that I’d gotten the wrong dish. But he then let me know that the dish was no mistake: it was complimentary. I was surprised and delighted to get an additional tapas plate at no cost.

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My complimentary appetizer: pan con tomate

Then, my actual order started to arrive. My gazpacho was a chilled, creamy delight, bursting with freshness and flavor. Every mouthful was a gourmand’s dream.

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Gazpacho

Next I enjoyed fried manchego cheese bites, manchego frito. These crisp and lightly salted morsels were perfectly complimented by the honey orange marmalade dipping sauce that came with it.

Yummy manchego frito

Then I had the fresh tomato and lettuce salad, the tomatina. It’s been years since I’ve had sweet, fresh tomatoes (most of what’s available in stores is tart). The dressing enhanced the sweetness. I really enjoyed this!

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Tomatina salad

I ended my tapas experience by eating gambas al ajillo, the garlic shrimp. I love garlic and, when I’m not doing the vegetarian/vegan thing, seafood is always on my list. The garlic was subtle but undeniable. And the shrimp were cooked perfectly. This was accented nicely by the red pepper flakes: they added a little heat but weren’t overwhelming.

Gambas!

Overall, my meal at La Tasca was superb! It was a great value and experience. I can’t wait to return for lunch sometime in the near future!