My plans to meet a friend last night at Balliceaux had to be postponed until lunch today, but given the gloomy skies, it was a great day for lunch out anyway. Since she'd never been but had heard about the very un-Richmond-like decor and interesting food, we did the full tour of the renovated space first and then covered as much of the menu as two lunchers could hope to.
The damp and cold outside made us suckers for soup; I had the split pea and Italian sausage and she savored the creamy seafood stew with rock fish, oysters, bacon and fennel. In fact, she was so inspired by the stew that I expect she'll be making some of her own very soon. Not me, I'll just enjoy the efforts of other soup makers.
Choosing a sandwich was more difficult, so we settled for our top two favorites and agreed to split them so we could each have half. I wanted the Morta Torta, consisting of shaved Mortadella with melted Raclette (like Swiss, the server told me, but with more of an assertive personality), and pickled peppers on crusty bread. Served warm, it was a salty, fatty, flavorful delight.
She got the shaved leg of lamb with arugula, red onion and pommery aioli, also on a roll. The arugula and red onion added the perfect punch to the lamb, although we both agreed that the lamb being so cold detracted a bit from the overall effect. Still, it was delicious, just not quite as good as it would have been at room temperature. Both sandwiches came with mountain o' fries, crisp and salty and unnecessary, but then we didn't have to eat so many of them, either. Perhaps it was the discussion of the secret sex signal that distracted us from noticing how many we ate.
But we did have to have dessert and with only one chocolate option, our choice was pre-determined. The mocha torte was cake and mousse covered in chocolate ganache and served with berries and hazelnut ice cream. The thick coating of ganache would have made whatever was inside irrelevant, but actually it was lovely and the ice cream's unusual flavor was worth experiencing with the torte.
My friend was amazed at the transformation of Bogart's Back Room into the sleek 60s light-filled destination that it now is. Despite my raves about the shows back there, she admitted that it's unlikely she'd be back for late night music, but I feel certain she'll want to add Balliceaux to our Ladies Who Lunch List of worthy destinations.
I'll just have to remember not to make dinner plans on days that we end up at Balliceaux for lunch.