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Pub Grub? No Flub

The hometown entry in the Richmond brewpub battle fights with good food

For those who want comfort food, the rotisserie chicken with sturdy garlic mashed potatoes is simple and good; its golden India Pale Ale sauce is a noble try at linking food and brew together, but it seems too laid back for its own good. Nice, yes. But I wanted it to be ... arresting.

Same goes for Ruiz's signature torn-chicken pasta, which tasted oddly flat despite all its appealing ingredients: roasted peppers, corn, scallions, jack cheese and springy, corn-flavored noodles somehow added up to less than the sum of their parts. A little goosing (lime? a hint of chile?) could transform this dish. I'm less optimistic about one night's special of slightly too-cooked flounder stuffed with spicy, bready crab meat; it was hardly a disaster, but it was no competition for that chili-rubbed salmon.

I regret to say that the plates here are decorated with those annoying vegetable and herb confettis that make me want to say "take this back to the kitchen and wipe it clean!" And that somebody keeps forgetting to send the advertised sourdough bread out of the kitchen (it would come in mighty handy with those sausages). And that the desserts, alas, display the moribund look endemic to dessert trays throughout the land; why restaurants continue to regard these sugary wax museums as marketing tools is beyond me. Ruiz's banana shortcake and innocent, chocolate-sauce brownie confections surely deserve better. Let me read about them on the menu rather than look upon their poor, dead corpses.

Better yet, just give me some of those fried zucchini chips for dessert. And a tiny glass of stout.

The Houston Brewery, 6224 Richmond Avenue, 953-0101.

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