New to you: A flurry of restaurant openings spices up the local dining scene

The food at Comal is inspired by the owner's youth in Oaxaca,  in southern Mexico. Photo by Amy and Jackson Smith. The food at Comal is inspired by the owner’s youth in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Photo by Amy and Jackson Smith.

Comal

After 16 years as a manager at Mas Tapas, Benos Bustamante launched Comal, an authentic Mexican restaurant, in the former Belmont Barbecue space. Just a couple of weeks after opening, Bustamante and his team are already hitting their stride. The menu marries fine dining with traditional flavors from Mexico, specifically Oaxaca, where he was born and raised. A recent meal included slow-cooked pork tenderloin tamales with a garlic sauce and green salsa, pan-seared salmon tacos with pico de gallo and guacamole mousse, seared shrimp with a purée of roasted black beans and avocado leaves (they taste a bit like basil), and silky braised pork ribs with guajillo mole and queso fresco from Caromont Farms. The core of the menu consists of food from Bustamante’s youth, with some dishes prepared from his grandmother’s recipes. One C-VILLE Weekly editor who knows her way around a kitchen says the mole negro con pollo is the best dish she’s eaten in recent memory. The presentation is meticulous and artful, the dining room small and colorful—and Bustamante’s pride in his staff so great that it literally brings him to tears.—Joe Bargmann

816 Hinton Ave., 328-2519, comalcville.com

 

BLU Point Seafood Co.

The latest addition to Staunton’s restaurant scene is a tribute to coastal foodways in the mid-Atlantic and New England. The concept came as the founders of New Southern staple, Zynodoa, contemplated gaps in area offerings.

“We spend a lot of time vacationing on the coast,” says owner Jeff Goode. “We missed those tastes—but you couldn’t get quality, sustainably caught seafood in town. And we wanted to fill that niche.” The couple purchased and spent eight months renovating a vacant downtown building, and BLU Point opened in early October.

On the menu: New England lobster rolls, boutique Chesapeake Bay oysters, and teriyaki-style tuna steaks paired with Shenandoah Valley produce. The ambiance? Think upscale family dining on the Outer Banks.—Eric Wallace

123 W. Beverly St., Staunton, (540) 712-0291, blupointseafoodco.com

The food at Kama is inspired by chef Peter Robertson’s love of Japanese cuisine. Photo by Tom McGovern.

Kama

Diners may be momentarily perplexed by Kama’s tagline, “improvised Japanese cuisine.” But once they’re seated at the restaurant, on the ground floor of the Violet Crown cinema, the title will seem less important than what ends up on the plate: inventive cooking by chef Peter Robertson, whose yen for Asian food—in particular, Japanese—was nurtured by years of eating Eastern fare in Manhattan.

Robertson is best known for Côte Rôtie, the food truck that he and his wife, Merrill, launched after moving here from Water Mill, New York, where their 12-seat restaurant won critical acclaim.

Earlier this year, Will Richey of Ten Course Hospitality approached Robertson, asking whether he’d like to change up the menu at the Violet Crown—but the chef demurred. He had established the Japanese-inflected menu at North American Sake Brewery and Restaurant and wanted to continue on that path.

In time, the chef’s passion won over Richey and Violet Crown owner Bill Banowsky, who gave Robertson the tools to follow his instincts—and hired an A-team to back him in the kitchen and manage the restaurant and bar.

Kama’s early reviews have been good to glowing. Diners have applauded familiar Japanese fare such as udon noodles with pork and vegetables in broth, lightly battered fried chicken, and seared sushi-grade fish. There’s also duck breast and rib-eye cooked on the wood-fired grill, and adventurous dishes like the one made with fish heads. The restaurant is an education in Japanese flavors, and an ambitious choice for a Charlottesville restaurant. Here’s to Robertson, for expanding our culinary vocabulary.—J.B.

200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3015, kamacville.com

 

Jack’s Shop Kitchen

We were disappointed when this airy Ruckersville space was vacated earlier this year by chef Eric Bein’s Jack’s Shop Kitchen. Now, we’re happy to report that Bein is back, joining forces with Allan and Naomi Green, new partners who had dined at Jack’s in 2018, met the chef, and returned to settle down nearby and raise their family.

It’s a homecoming for Allan, who grew up in Fredericksburg and graduated from James Madison University before moving to Long Island, New York, to put his degree in hospitality and tourism to work. There, he met Naomi, who also works in the business. “They came to us with great interest and experience,” Bein says of the Greens. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead and growing together.” That growth includes ramping up production at Bein’s farm in Madison to provide hyperlocal ingredients.

Breakfast and lunch are now served seven days a week, but Jack’s will soon also offer dinner Thursday through Sunday. The evening menu will carry over the daily light fare—housemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers—but add Southern entrées such as waffles and fried chicken and shrimp and grits.—J.B.

14843 Spotswood Tr., Ruckersville. 939-9239, jacksshopkitchen.com

 

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