Where We’ve Been Eating Lately

I mentioned a while back that I’m working on a list of my favorite restaurants in the area. These two restaurants I’m going to gush about in this post have earned a spot on that list.

First up is Nouvelle. And I apologize for the terrible photos. It was incredibly dim in half of the restaurant, and the other half had school cafeteria style florescent lighting. I also apologize for the lack of specific details in this post. We ate at Nouvelle a few days before Valentines Day, and they don’t have a website with all of their offerings to jog my memory. Luckily I took a few photos of parts of the menu.

Anyways, we ordered cocktails, but since I didn’t take a photo of that, and since their menu isn’t available online, I can’t remember exactly what I ordered… Pretty sure the first one was a margarita, and the second one was bourbon and basil.

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We couldn’t decide on one appetizer, so we chose two. We had the pork belly (heritage pork from Leaping Waters Farm, braised with miso & ginger, served with Brothers Farm greens, strawberries and a balsamic glaze) & the Kinilaw; a Filipino style ceviche (fresh Ahi tuna marinated in ginger, coconut milk, soy, & chili peppers; served on top of Asian slaw).

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Both were amazing, but the pork belly was definitely the favorite. The saltiness of the meat with the sweetness of the strawberries was absolutely delicious.

For our entrees, I went with my standby: scallops. These scallops were served with sauteed local, seasonal apples, grilled bok choy and farrotto (farro risotto). This dish was wonderful and substantial. I would have never thought of serving apples with scallops, but this is something I definitely want to recreate at home.

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G had the pork chop, and while it was delicious, he said that the pork chops I make are better. Not going to lie, I love it when he says that… 🙂

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They were only offering one dessert the night we went, bread pudding, so we went with that. It was delicious.

I’ve read a lot of positive press about Nouvelle, and it definitely lived up to the hype. I can’t wait to go back and try some other things from the menu. And someone else needs to go and try their famous 50/50 burger. I’ll never order it, since I don’t eat lamb, but I’ve heard it’s amazing.

Next is Esoteric.

We went to Esoteric as part of Virginia Beach’s restaurant week, and the meal was pretty phenomenal. At least for me… Everything I ordered was immensely flavorful and generously portioned. Graham wasn’t so lucky. But, my portions were large enough that I shared with him.

First: cocktails.

Well, cocktails for me, beer for him. I had two that evening. The first was was the Bees Knees (Beefeater gin, lemon, honey syrup, lavender bitters). The second was a Ginger Snap (Larceny bourbon, pear juice, ginger syrup, lemon). Both were fantastic.

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We started with mussels (for him), BLT poutine (for me), and a bowl of olives (for us). I’m not a huge fan of mussels (it’s a texture thing), but these were good, and the broth was excellent. But not nearly as good as my fries. I have no idea why gravy fries aren’t a bigger thing in the south, but they should be! These were wonderful, and the portion was HUGE.

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For our main course, I had the hot chicken (half chicken prepared with African curry spices, house pickles, mustard seed served on top of potato bread accompanied by honey mustard potato salad), and G had the short rib pappardelle (house made pappardelle tossed with braised short rib, topped with a farm egg and parmesan cheese).

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I typically do not like fried chicken. But holy moly, this was probably the best chicken dish I’ve had at any restaurant ever. The seasoning was absolutely amazing. I kept the white meat, and shared the dark meat with him. We were both blown away by the flavor of this dish.

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G’s pasta was good, but the portion was very, very small. The pasta was excellent, and the meat (what little there was) had great flavor, but it needed to be more substantial.

Both desserts were wonderful (carrot cake & chili-chocolate pots de creme), but the pots de creme (chili and chocolate Pots Du Creme topped with pistachios and candied ginger) blew the cake out of the water. This dessert was amazing, and if I had been at home, I probably would have licked the bowl.

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Esoteric is definitely one of my new favorite spots in the Hampton Roads area. Besides the delicious food and cocktails, the restaurant is BEAUTIFUL. Gorgeous wood, clean white subway tile and fun light fixtures everywhere! I was absolutely in love with the decor.

Being honest, neither of these dinners were cheap. Nouvelle cost us $150 (including tip), and Esoteric cost us $143 (including tip), but both were worth it! If I were to pick one over the other though, I would pick Esoteric. The food + the atmosphere make for an incredible date night spot.


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