Raw Foods to Relish at Coastal Virginia Restaurants

Coastal Virginia Chefs are Serving Up Exquisite Options for Meat and Seafood—Unrivaled in Quality and Untouched by Flame

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Crudo We Crave

assorted crudo, crudo nudo
Photo by Ilsy Serrano

Assorted Crudo, Crudo Nudo

Asking Eric Nelson to pick his favorite dish is akin to asking someone to name their favorite child. And like children, the chef-owner says, “They’re all fun. They’re all mine. They all change.” Take the Alaskan halibut (and you should, it’s fabulous), cut from a whole fish of impeccable quality flown in from the 49th state. He adorns it simply with salt, pepper, chives, olive oil and toasted black sesame for subtle nuttiness (one of said changes: he ramped up the seeds and ditched an original olive oil crumb for a more evocative flavor). There’s a strewing of micro-arugula and, imparting a fresh lemony burst, dots of rhubarb juiced into salsa as pretty a punctuation as a “cherry on top.”

Of course, his customers have no qualms in playing favorites. By far, the bestseller among his sushi-grade fish is himachi (Japanese amberjack) with finger limes and vanilla. Nelson explains that none of his dishes is inspired preciously “by that little hole-in-the-wall in Barcelona” but conceived in his mind, a spinning hamster wheel that stops on “Hey, let’s do this!” For the himachi, he knew vanilla would work with the citric acid but imagined vanilla oil. His sous chef suggested unsweetened vanilla crème anglaise. He agreed, the sauce lending the dish custardy richness. And popularity.

Dishes morph depending on harvests, too. When strawberries peak, Tierra del Fuego salmon, from the end of the world, twinkles beneath a relish of Brothers Farms’ berries and fennel. And just as seasons change, Nelson’s restaurant evolves. Finding that most guests share his dishes tapas-style, he’s decided to lean that way. Starting this summer, he’ll continue to offer these crudo faves and his nudo (splendid housemade pasta) but will inject more Spain into his expanded offerings. Expect such as croquettes and sliced ham, and lunch with bocadillo-esque sandwiches. OK, like the ones at that hole-in-the-wall in Barcelona. 727 W. 21st St., Norfolk. 757-351-6080. CrudoNudo.com



Scallop Crudo “Al Pastor”, Becca 

We adore Becca at The Cavalier for its picturesque scene, from the vibrant splashes of art inside to the bright terrace, reminiscent of a year-round garden party. Dining here is akin to being whisked away on vacation, even for just a meal, and it’s often while traveling to a new destination that we enjoy trying something a little unconventional. This scallop crudo fits the bill. Served in a scallop shell with scallions, cilantro, radish slivers and pineapple bits, the scallop is slightly charred on the outside and raw in the center, giving just enough sear for flavor but very much still encompassing the aspects of uncooked. An unexpected component: a popcorn and chicharron crumble for fun. 4200 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-965-9899. BeccaVB.com



crudo at merroir
Photo by Melissa M. Stewart

Crudo, Merroir

Merroir’s Crudo exemplifies its stunning style of simple, small-plated, beautifully cooked seafood. A daily fish selection (cobia on our recent visit) is complemented by the acid from pickled onions and a tangy ponzu-style sauce made with soy and sesame oil. The mild and firm cobia provided a velvety mouthfeel brightened with a crunch from fresh cilantro micros and a crack of coarse sea salt and pepper. When the ingredients are this fresh, less fuss is very smart. 784 Locklies Creek Road, Topping. 804-758-2871. RROysters.com/Restaurants/Merroir



Crispy Crudo, Terrapin

Much like the vibe of this Virginia Beach upscale favorite restaurant itself, Terrapin’s Crispy Crudo offers pure elegance. We have a raw romance with this newly updated menu item featuring uniformly sliced squares of yellowfin that work wonderfully with the contrasting balance of crispy rice. Each bite explodes with flavor from shoyu ponzu, scallion and wasabi, but these embellishments don’t take away from the pure joy of the subtle and buttery tuna. 3102 Holly Road, Virginia Beach. 757-321-6688. TerrapinVB.com



Carne Crudo, Blanca Food + Wine

Sometimes Chef-Owner Courtney White runs steak tartare on her ever-changing menu at Blanca, her singular Riverview restaurant sparked by her time traversing and cooking in Europe, but deems her carne crudo a more exciting incarnation. She dices tri-tip steak from Franklins’ River Road Farm into little shimmering cubes, dressing them with red wine vinegar, egg yolk and olive oil, adding toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese, minced shallots and chopped capers. There are grace notes of chives and Maldon sea salt and, naturally, baguette slices to lavish it on. Sip 2016 La Soeur Cadette Chénas from Beaujolais, France with it, and Blanca’s patio becomes the “Riverview Riviera.” 4117 Granby St., Norfolk. 757-390-2405. BlancaVa.com



Salmon Crudo, Atlantic on Pacific

Though The Atlantic is lauded for its raw bar featuring a rotating list of upscale oysters, cold weather lobster tail and middleneck clams, there’s another reason to go raw here: their crudo. As bright in color as it is flavor, this small dish features slices of perfectly pink salmon wading in white soy, dotted with cubes of cucumber, slices of avocado and sprinkles of dill. It’s fresh, refreshing and just enough of a tease to whet your appetite for course two. 3004 Pacific Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-422-2122. TheAtlanticVB.com



Chartreuse bistro
Photo by Ilsy Serrano

Cocktails & Crudo, Chartreuse Bistro

If a rough day at work leaves you raw, wend your way to Chartreuse for Cocktails & Crudo, the most civilized, sophisticated of happy hours (Tuesdays through Fridays from 5–6 p.m.). The same spontaneous creativity Chef-Owner Christopher Corrie bestows upon what’s freshest and best at lunch, dinner and the occasional Sunday brunch, he applies to miraculous small plates, so selections vary. A fish is always promised, perhaps sleek slices of Faroe Islands salmon spliced with orange sections, capped with delicate fennel ferns. He and his wife, Manager-Owner Karine Varga, elaborate upon the raw theme, introducing the divinest of raw milk cheeses and natural wines. 205 E. City Hall Ave., Norfolk. 757-965-2137. ChartreuseBistro.us




Stunning Ceviches      

casa pearl ceviche
Photo by Melissa M. Stewart

Ceviche, Casa Pearl

Casa Pearl made its Williamsburg debut last fall and has since gained significant traction for its playful seafood plates. Among the eatery’s raw bar offerings is a rotating ceviche played up Peruvian style. The shareable dish is simple yet refreshing. Raw, locally sourced fish is diced and tossed in a citrusy blend of lime, cucumber, torn herbs, cubed avocado, yucca and a touch of jalapeño. A handful of purple radishes crown the plate too, and a smattering of earthy taro chips are served for dipping. Unlike other ceviche heavy in fish flavors, Casa Pearl’s creation is crisp, crunchy and the perfect summertime eat. 722 Merrimac Trail, Williamsburg. 757-208-0149. EatCasaPearl.com



classic fish ceviche, cholo's peruvian
Photo by Marisa Marsey

Classic Fish Ceviche, Cholo’s Peruvian

Simplicity is part of the magic of ceviche at Cholo’s, an authentic Peruvian restaurant by Lynnhaven Mall. That and the fact that this perky Peruvian dish is part of Chef Kevin Cabrera’s heritage. The Lima native marinates tilapia in lime juice and salt—clean and unfussy, just as fishermen on the beach do—adding evaporated milk to counterbalance sourness, red onion, cilantro, potatoes and Peruvian corn (choclo) two ways: boiled and toasted (cancha). The result? A dish that sparkles like Inca gold. (Cholo’s also offers a shareable ceviche mixto with fish and shellfish and leche de tigre, a “cocktail” of tilapia in lime juice.) 2728 N. Mall Drive, Virginia Beach. 757-416-5817. Facebook.com/CholosPeruvianRestaurant



Avocado and Salmon Ceviche, Water Street Grille

This seafood platter kicks things up a notch by pairing its South American roots with Asian zing and Mexican twists. Served up riverside, Water Street Grille’s Avocado and Salmon Ceviche arrives on a simple white platter embellished with tricolor chips and a hearty serving of ceviche. Perched atop a guacamole-like cucumber and avocado salad are forkfuls of brightly colored salmon coated in a tangy teriyaki glaze and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Pleasant fish flavors emerge from beneath the glaze and are complemented tastefully by a side of salty tortilla chips. If you’re looking for some extra heat, take a dive in the seafood dip with a slice of jalapeño. 323 Water St., Suite A-1, Yorktown. 757-369-5644. WaterStreetGrille.net



Nouvelle, Kinilaw
Photo by Marisa Marsey

Kinilaw, Nouvelle

Rina Estero admits that when she started serving kinilaw (Filipino ceviche) she toned down the heat to avoid disconcerting her and husband Luke Brigham’s customers. “But I wasn’t being true to the dish,” she realized. So, she upped the spiciness and, lo and behold, they rejoiced. She briskly marinates cubed ahi in calamansi (a Filipino citrus), soy sauce and coconut milk, adds ginger, Thai peppers (“in the Philippines it’s siling labuyo”) and onion and places it atop Asian slaw. Though it’s a bar snack in her native island nation, she elevates it here, serving it for lunch, dinner and brunch held the first Sunday of every month. 4110 Colley Ave., Norfolk. 757-248-3712. Facebook.com/NouvelleRestaurantNorfolk



Ceviche, Terrapin

In this refined rendition of the Peruvian dish, raw flounder is cured leche de tigre (“tiger’s milk") to give it ample flavor along with just the right amount of fragrant cilantro. Flaky fried tortilla chips served here are more than ordinary and allow diners who have wisely selected this Terrapin star starter a seductively salty way to scoop up the classic mix of citrusy fish. 3102 Holly Road, Virginia Beach. 757-321-6688. TerrapinVB.com



El Korita ceviche
Photo by Arielle Patterson

Ceviche, El Korita

Transport your tastebuds south with El Korita’s authentic ceviche. El Korita prepares their ceviche the traditional way, by marinating raw seafood in a refreshing lime juice. The restaurant has four types of ceviche, including fish, shrimp and a seafood medley with shrimp, octopus and crab meat. El Korita’s made-to-order ceviches also include onion, cucumber, tomato and cilantro as colorful add-ins and are served with crispy tostadas. Perk up your senses with the flavorful and mouth-scorching aguachile, a shrimp ceviche in a spicy lime juice, topped with avocado to tame the heat. 200 E. Washington St., Suffolk. 757-809-4712. El-Korita-Restaurante-Mexicano-Seafood.Business.site



Ceviche, Merroir

Merroir’s take on ceviche uses tender bites of North Carolina shrimp and scallops that are evenly diced and blended with tomatoes, onion, carrots and just a touch of spicy jalapeño for kicks. Going light on the acid lets the fish shine, and colorful chips add even more punch and plenty of needed crunch. Make sure to order this and more if you have the chance to visit this worthwhile tasting room on the banks of the Rappahannock. 784 Locklies Creek Rd., Topping. 804-758-2871. RROysters.com/Restaurants/Merroir



Slice It Nice: Carpaccio

le yaca carpaccio
Photo by Ilsy Serrano

Le Saumon Cru at Le Yaca

Just about everything at Le Yaca is nothing short of lovely, including the Le Saumon Cru, a carpaccio of paper-thin salmon marinated in lemon and then dotted with briny capers, a drizzle of olive oil and a smattering of chives. We suggest you incorporate this palate-pleasing course into one of many at this impeccable restaurant with a well-earned reputation. 741 First Colonial Road, Virginia Beach. 757-500-4773. 1430 High St., Williamsburg. 757-220-3616. LeYacaWilliamsburg.com



Beef Carpaccio, 456 Fish

Gather your carnivorous companions and begin your 456 Fish meal with an ornate display of meat. While the restaurant specializes in seafood, diners can delight in a beef carpaccio appetizer: crimson-colored beef tenderloin sliced paper thin, fanned onto the plate, drizzled with olive oil and topped with capers and shaved parmesan. At the center of the carpaccio is a neat pile of steak tartare, bursting with garlic, salt and pepper and dressed with seasoned greens. Add a forkful of the tartare and a slice of carpaccio to a toasted garlic crostini for a crunchy complement. 456 Granby St., Norfolk. 757-625-4444. 456Fish.com



Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio at Eurasia Café & Wine Bar

Venerable eatery Eurasia has been wooing new patrons and a growing entourage of regulars for years with inspired cuisine and its attached boutique wine shop. Knowledgeable staff can help pair the ideal vino too with the must-order carpaccio, a large square of tenderloin pounded so thin that you can nearly see through it. In one corner of this geometric masterpiece sits a scoop of truffled egg salad, across from a mound of baby arugula dressed with balsamic mustard vinaigrette. Some may say it’s too pretty to eat … but not us. 960 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. 757-422-0184. EurasiaVB.com



Aldo's Ristorante New York Strip
Photo by Grace Silipigni

New York Strip Carpaccio, Aldo’s Ristorante

The carpaccio at Aldo’s Ristorante is nearly identical to the Venice original crafted by famous restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani in the mid-20th century. Like its Italian predecessor, the Virginia Beach antipasto is comprised of transparently thin cuts of raw New York strip sprinkled with brackish capers, shaved Parmesan and a spritz of fresh lemon juice. The cheese adds texture to the meat’s delicate mouthfeel and helps to cut the assertive flavor of the Dijon mustard smeared beneath the fan of meaty strips. To cleanse the palate, Aldo’s offers fresh greens drizzled in a fruit-forward dressing. 1860 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach, 757-491-1111. AldosVB.com



River Stone Chophouse carpaccio

28-Day Aged Beef Ribeye Carpaccio, River Stone Chophouse

Like a fine wine, there are some things that only get better with age. Take, for instance, the beef ribeye carpaccio at River Stone. Aged for 28 days, this nearly paper-thin carpaccio comes dressed with fried capers, pickled shallots, cherry-infused EVOO, Parmesan and anchovy dust (pause to swoon). Appearing on River Stone’s summer menu starting in July, this raw gem is much anticipated but won’t be around forever, so head to Suffolk to get it while it’s cold. 8032 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk. 757-638-7990. RiverStoneChophouse.com


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