By the time you read this, Si Tapas, the new restaurant from Richmond and Fredericksburg-based restaurateur Mo Roman (he has five eateries among the two cities, including a Si Tapas in Richmond), will have opened its doors in the old Starr Hill Music Hall and Restaurant space on West Main Street. When the place opened last week, we could almost feel the steam being let out of the pressure cooker. Since we first broke the news way back in March that Coran Capshaw had assigned the lease on the space to a mystery man from Richmond, Restaurantarama has been hearing lots of chatter. First there were comments from the party-poopers:
Whatever. West Main is a dead zone. Nothing survives.
And the eager beavers:
Music! Music! Will there be music? What we need is more small-venue music!
Then, when word of the concept got out, the worry warts wondered:
Do we have room for another tapas place?
And the elitists complained:
Wait, there’s a Si Tapas in Richmond? That makes it a chain and we hate chains!
Not what you’re thinking: Executive Chef Josh Hutter says Si Tapas is not just another Charlottesville tapas restaurant.
O.K., calm down, people. Let’s take this slow and in small steps. Like a tapas meal, if you will. Restaurantarama sat down with Executive Chef Josh Hutter and General Manager Chris Dunbar just before opening night to find out some actual details rather than conjecture.
Yes, it’s tapas, and yes, Charlottesville already has Bang! and Mas (voted best restaurant in C-VILLE’s annual poll), but they tell us this place is different. Hutter, a veteran of the Charlottesville dining scene, having worked in the late 1990s and early 2000s in several kitchens from Rococo’s to Metropolitain before heading to D.C. and San Diego for a few years, says, “I love Mas. This can’t be Mas. We aren’t doing authentic, rustic Spanish tapas. We’re doing tapas-style and more progressive Spanish fusion.”
For example, instead of imported Spanish chorizo on a plate with a hunk of homemade bread, you’ll see dishes such as Pan Roasted Mussels with Chorizo, Marjoram and Albarino and Stuffed Squid with Chorizo, Shrimp and Black Rice. The menu is broken down into Seafood, Meat & Poultry and Vegetarian selections that range in price from $6 for Roasted Broccolini with Garlic, Chili Flakes and Lemon to $16 for Colorado Lamb Chops with Pistachio-Fennel Pesto. There are classic tapas “Snacks,” such as Roasted Spanish Olives, Spanish Cheeses and, oh yes, Bacon-wrapped Dates. But presentation on even these simple appetizers will be more dressed-up, says Hutter, who likes to do plated dishes with micro green garnishes, etc. “They’re not just to keep you occupied while you wait for your table,” says Hutter.
The wine list is on the traditional side, with old world selections from Spain and Portugal rounded out by some edgier, new world stuff from South America, but the beer list, 75 bottles in all (nothing on tap), will include imports from around the world. Dunbar reminds us that, “the Spanish don’t produce many beers.”
You’ll also have your pick of specialty martinis and fancy pants cocktails—an hibiscus mojito sounds especially intriguing to us.
The upstairs will hold music events, but we’ll leave it up to C-VILLE blog Feedback to keep you posted on that scene. What we can tell you is that the upstairs has gotten a facelift to match the downstairs décor—lots of colorful, Moroccan-style influences, glass tile-topped bars and old-world-meets-swanky-urban-bar aesthetics.
In no particular order of importance, here are three tidbits of news: The Clifton Inn is now serving a three-course tasting menu brunch on Sundays for $28 a person. Zinc is now serving absinthe—yes, the real deal stuff of the Moulin Rouge (newly released from a century-long ban in the United States). And HotCakes has added coffee bar seating just off to the right of the entrance to go along with free Wi-Fi.