I finally made it to Longoven. This new Richmond restaurant has been highly anticipated. Years of popular pop-ups that even received a feature as one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 built excitement across the Richmond dining scene. The restaurant finally opened in mid-June with the first of what will eventually be two dining experiences.
The Longoven Space
Tucked in Scott’s Addition, Longoven’s space has been fully renovated by Fultz and Singh Architects. The outside doesn’t feature a sign—look for the pretty building on the corner of Clay and Altamont.
The front room features warm tones and a minimalist but welcoming bar. On my visit, I enjoyed a cocktail here while I waited for my friends to arrive. The vibe was relaxing and soothing. Classy and streamlined décor allows a focus on the food.
We dined in the back room where cooler tones and lighting create a focus on the beautiful and open kitchen. If you sit facing the back, you can watch chefs Andrew Manning and Patrick Phelan putting detailed finishing touches on each dish. When you go, peek outside the large, floor-to-ceiling window for a view of what will be a patio with a fire pit come Fall.
The Drinks at Longoven
Cocktails change seasonally and this season you’ll find lots of garden-inspired flavors, both sweet and savory. Of several I’ve tasted, my favorite has been the Huckleberry Gin Fizz, featuring Huckleberry-infused Plymouth gin, Muz vermouth, lemon, honey, egg white, and soda, shaken to frothy, sweet-sour perfection.
If you’re in need of something stiffer, try the Summer Martini. It features Bloom Gin, garden-infused Dolin dry vermouth, koji, and aromatic bitters, finished with a twist. Koji is a traditional Japanese ingredient that’s used to make foods from soy sauce to sake. It adds a savory-sweet flavor to this cocktail, which is boozy, bright and a bit vegetal—a perfect end to a long week.
The wine list focuses on Old World selections. I was pleased at the range of obscure and unique options, which averaged out at around $10 per glass. On one visit, I enjoyed a crisp glass of sparkling wine from Italy made in the traditional champagne method. On another, I paired my lamb entrée with a fruity, spicy Bulgarian red blend.
The Longoven Menu
The Longoven a la carte menu is divided into small plates and large plates. On my first visit, our server told us the house suggests one of each per person. I think this is the way to go if you are doing a full-on pull-out-all-the-stops meal. However, if you are not super starving or are dining with friends who like to share, some of the dishes are quite splittable.
Longoven Small Plates
Favorite small plates I’ve tried so far start with the fluke. This dish is light and visually stunning. Fluke crudo is topped with a bright and savory cucumber-fennel foam and topped with fresh basil juice and pretty pearls of tapioca. It’s so light and delicate—a perfectly clean and fresh start to the meal.
Corn, Shitake, Blue Crab and Egg is richer. The custard is creamy and thick with savory shitake mushrooms, cool crab salad, and perfectly salty grated egg yolk to pull it all together.
Octopus with potato and egg is a dish I’ve gone back for more than once. Slices of perfectly cooked octopus and potato meticulously arranged atop an artful curve of spicy mayo and sprinkled with delicate pearls of egg whites and pickled onions. The flavors and textures are incredibly satisfying, plus the dish is visually stunning.
Longoven Large Plates
My favorite large plate so far has been the lamb loin. Perfectly cooked lamb is served with onions, shitake mushrooms, fresh fava beans, and a savory, umami black garlic sauce.
The roasted monkfish with kombu, mushrooms and mushroom broth added tableside was also hearty and flavorful.
Potato, mushroom and pecorino pasta featuring noodles made from potatoes was rich and indulgent. I’d recommend sharing it as a side among your table.
Desserts at Longoven
Don’t skip pastry chef and third owner Megan Fitzroy Phelan’s beautiful and innovative creations. My table was a bit skeptical about an olive oil dessert. We’d all tried a variation from some other establishment and been underwhelmed. Not here. A combination of olive oil cream, olive oil shortbread, olive oil jam, blackberries and thyme kept us all coming back for one more bite. The combination was rich, sweet, and wonderfully flavorful.
A roulade of coriander cake, blueberry gelee and white chocolate mousse served with cilantro oil and blueberry sorbet perfectly straddled creamy, tart and sweet with a wonderful range of textures that was equally difficult to stop eating.
And, hazelnut sponge cake with hazelnut praline, hazelnut mousse, comte ice cream, and dark chocolate décor hit that sweet-salty spot just right.
What most impressed me about my meal at Longoven was the intentional touches that made my dining experiences special. The service was attentive, knowledgeable and friendly with the right amount of time between courses. The staff spaced reservations so the chefs had time to meticulously plate each dish, ensuring it looked as lovely as it tasted. After the meal, our server surprised us with special sweets, including a scrumptious gold bar carefully nestled atop a bed of greenery. These extra moments and details are what elevate dining.
Longoven Tasting Menu
Starting August 23, along with the a la carte menu, Longoven will offer a tasting menu in the back dining room on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The tasting menu is available for parties ranging in size from two to four guests. It will cost $110 per person and will include 6 to 8 courses with additional snacks interspersed throughout. Guests must make reservations and pay ahead and can choose to add a wine pairing at an additional cost. With the special experience that regular dinner provides, I can’t wait to try the tasting menu!