In the end of 2018, several food writers compiled lists about what is missing from the Richmond restaurant scene. On each and every one of these, I made the same comment: tapas. Sure there are small plates restaurants in Richmond, but I love solid, European tapas. You can imagine how my excitement peaked when I heard that Randall and Lyne Doetzer were opening Restaurant Adarra, a European-inspired neighborhood restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. The restaurant opened on February 14 2019 and I was lucky enough to score a reservation.
Randall and Lyne are both experienced in Richmond’s food scene. Randall was head chef at Julep’s then at Nota Bene. Lyne has worked in front-of-house Metzger and The Stables at Belmont, among other spots. Both are level 2 sommeliers. They have traveled extensively throughout Europe and are trying to create the type of experience they’ve found there at Restaurant Adarra.
Restaurant Adarra is located in Jackson Ward in the old Rogue space. The décor has been warmed up and polished with exposed brick, wood tones and gold accents. It’s still not the largest restaurant in town—explaining that neighborhood destination vibe—and you can make a reservation for a table or to sit at the bar.
The food at Restaurant Adarra
The menu at Restaurant Adarra consists mainly of small plates with a few large dishes. You are meant to order as a table and share. Depending on what you order, one to two small plates per person is about right.
On our visit, we started with the roasted olives. This combination of warm olives, harissa, garlic, citrus and peppers was rich, salty and flavorful, making for a satisfying pre-meal snack.
Next we tried the shrimp with bagna cauda and parsley. Bagna cauda means “hot bath” and these shrimp were lounging in a garlicky, spicy sauce. If you order it, make sure you ask for bread because you will most certainly want to dip in the delicious sauce.
Restaurant Adarra is the first place I’ve seen in Richmond that has Iberico de Bellota Pata Negra regularly on the menu. This special ham comes exclusively from Spain and Portugal where the pigs roam oak forests eating only acorns. It is also aged for 36 months and when you order it, it comes freshly sliced, tender and flavorful. Every time I eat it I just want more.
We also had the veal tartare, which is topped with a combination of shallots and mushrooms. The veal is chopped to order and the generous selection of toppings and spices would make this perfect for a tartare newbie.
While the entrees were all delicious, dessert is what absolutely blew us away. Olive oil cake with house-smoked ice cream hit a distinctive spot between sweet and savory and was like no dessert I’ve tasted before. Please go and order this.
Drinks at Restaurant Adarra
With two level 2 sommeliers at the helm, you can guess the beverage menu is also impressive. Cocktails are distinctive. We tried several and were most impressed with the Potent Potion. A spicy and floral combination of red wine, madeira, Ancho Reyes spicy liqueur, chestnut honey, Angostura bitters and love potion #9 bitters was served in the perfect little apothecary bottle with two tiny glasses for sharing.
These rich and fruity flavors were perfect with the olive oil cake and smoked ice cream.
Also, don’t miss the dealer’s choice menu section that allows you to choose between standard and top shelf and then a few descriptors from a list, such as “fizzy,” “eggwhite,” “vegetal,” “sweet,” or “boozy.” Don’t want to imbibe? You can also choose a few descriptors and the bartender will be happy to craft a mocktail.
Along with cocktails, the wine list is also extensive. Whether you like wine, beer or cocktails, don’t be afraid to ask the staff about pairings. I enjoyed Mattias Hild “Elbling Trocken” with the shrimp, then Laurent Cazottes “Marcottes” Bordeaux blend with the meatier dishes. However, our server Charlie, told me he’s happy to help people pair cocktails, beer, cider, whatever they enjoy.
Restaurant Adarra is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Go visit soon! I can’t wait to try more of the menu.