Platinum Plates 2011 - Dishing it Out with the Best local restaurants

FEATURES January 2011

Platinum Plates 2011 - Dishing It Out

It's a good time to have tastebuds as we explore the best restaurants in the region, recognized in our annual Platinum Plate Awards.

Compiled and written by Patrick Evans-Hylton

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People dine out for a number of reasons—sometimes it's just to grab a bite, but often there is more to it than that. Sitting down and enjoying a good meal is not just about eating; it is an experience, an occasion.

Sometimes it is a celebration, and sometimes it is just enjoying the company of someone special. But especially in the current economic times, it seems even more special. We all tend to have a critical eye towards things, and dining out is included in that. We look for not only good food, but also good service and a good atmosphere. We also look for value for what we receive, whether the price point is high or low.

And the experience often goes beyond the meal—it carries over into our conversations with others around the water cooler, and it lingers in our memories. We take food—and restaurants—seriously here at Hampton Roads Magazine because we know they are part of the fabric of our society, not only on a large scale, but on a regional scale, too. For the eighth year, we offer our Platinum Plate Awards, a ranking of restaurants in Hampton Roads. Let's raise a glass to the owners, the chefs, the waitstaff, the bartenders and to the food, for it is a very special thing indeed.

The Top 10 Restaurants in Hampton Roads

Rank 1
Score– 98.4602

Vintage Tavern
We've followed Chef Sam McGann's career over the years and have always been pleased with the intense—almost obsessive—attention to detail he gives to food. Good food isn't good enough for McGann; it has to be great. Along the way, McGann has surrounded himself with others that share the philosophy of offering outstanding food, as well as outstanding service. Need further proof? Not only is his Vintage Tavern our top pick for best restaurant in Hampton Roads, but his other two properties, River Stone Chophouse and The Blue Point, also won Platinum-Level status. The chef wows diners with his cuisine, which he dubs "seasonally Southern," and dishes as simple as pimento cheese and she-crab soup, sweet onion spoonbread and grilled belly bacon are pure art. The restaurant's sophisticated interpretations of rustic regional classics bode well in this comfortable restaurant, resplendent with stone walls, exposed ceiling beams, hardwood floors and spectacular wooded views. McGann operates the business with his wife, Cindy McGann, and business partners, Brian and Teresa Mullins. Together, along with his Chef de Cuisine, Harper Bradshaw, and his general manager, Gary Whittington, they have crafted something very special.
1900 Governor's Pointe Dr., Suffolk 757-238-8808

SCORE – 98.1723

Terrapin Restaurant
Chef/owner Rodney Einhorn brings a sophisticated approach to dining by using local ingredients prepared with classic techniques; the same sophistication resonates in the tidy dining room, well-appointed in soothing green hues, exotic woods and lush textures. A wonderful bar menu and in-house sweets takethe cake. 3102 Holly Rd., Virginia Beach 757-321-6688

SCORE – 98.0358

Chef/owner Jerry Weihbrecht offers a varied, ever-changing menu with seasonal and sometimes playful ingredients; regardless of what comes from the exhibition kitchen, it is always wonderful. In addition to the chef's charm, the dining room itself is charming with lots of wood accents and plush pillows and seat coverings. Wine selections from sommelier Marc Sauter are incredible. 713 19th St., Virginia Beach 757-437-3636

SCORE – 98.0199

Stove, the Restaurant
We've long loved chef/owner Sydney Meers and his quirky, eclectic take on food and life in general. This intimate dining room is his stage, not only for his folk art that adorns the walls but also for his always impressive array of neo-Southern cuisine. Attention to detail shows in every bite, from Smoochie Bear Ham to Sextuple Truffle. 2622 Detroit St., Portsmouth 757-397-0900

SCORE – 97.8141

Blue Talon Bistro
Chef David Everett produces wonderful classic French bistro fare in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere. Blue Talon Bistro offers what one calls "serious comfort food," and we seriously agree; intense attention is given to each and every delicious morsel, and service is always outstanding. We love to start with Everett's charcuterie. 420 Prince George St., Williamsburg 757-476-2583

SCORE – 97.3872

Fat Canary
Contemporary, creative seasonal and fresh offerings from the kitchen of chef/owner Tom Power Jr. always impress. The beautifully appointed dining room is upscale but comfortable and relaxed, much like the plates that come from the kitchen. Put Fat Canary on your must-dine list of Williamsburg restaurants. 410 Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg 757-229-3333

SCORE – 97.2351

Swan Terrace at the Founders Inn & Spa
Amid an elegant colonial dining room backdrop, Executive Chef Eric Doarnberger offers seasonally changing menus that feature local flavors and foodways, prepared approachably using classic techniques. We also love the myriad of special events always happening at Swan Terrace. 5614 Indian River Rd., Virginia Beach 757-366-5777

SCORE – 97.0968

River Stone Chophouse
Set in a stunning two-story restaurant inspired by the American Arts and Craft movement, the food at River Stone is equally impressive. A fresh, seasonal menu with an emphasis on steak is offered. In addition to prime, aged beef, a large selection of seafood is also prepared deliciously. Outstanding wines round things out. 8032 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk 757-638-7990

SCORE – 97.0283

Todd Jurich's Bistro
A longstanding downtown favorite, namesake chef/owner Todd Jurich and his sous chef Kenny Scott continue to please with seasonal and sustainable upscale contemporary offerings showcased in a trendy, hip dining room. We also love nibbles and imbibes at the bar. 150 W. Main St., Norfolk 757-622-3210

SCORE – 96.9999

Coastal Grill
Chef Maureen Cucchiaro does fresh catch unlike anyone else in Hampton Roads in Jerry Bryan's classic Coastal Grill. Since 1989, this comfortable, contemporary restaurant has offered extensive blackboard lists of incredible seafood and other nightly specials, augmented with a tidy, well-rounded printed menu. 1427 N. Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach 757-496-3348

SCORE – 96.9999

Expansive views of the boardwalk and ocean add to the sexy, trendy dining room decked out in summer white and cobalt blue with dark wood accents. Fresh seasonal selections focusing on steak and seafood are offered. Outstanding service and wine list complete the picture. 3001 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach 757-213-3473

Platinum Level

The Blue Point
Thank your lucky stars if you live on the OBX. Otherwise, Hampton Roads is only a little more than an hour away. Absolutely fabulous is the best description of the Southern regional cuisine here, offered with a slant towards seafood. Great service and outstanding views of Currituck Sound round things out.
1240 Duck Rd., Duck 252-261-8090

Eat— An American Bistro
This jewel-box of a restaurant, located in the North End of Virginia Beach, offers fresh, creative cuisine with a focus on seafood and American regional. Relaxing, hip, fabulous service and outstanding food keeps us coming back.
4005 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach 757-965-2472

Luna Maya
Tragically hip, the vibrant orange dining room at Luna Maya reminds us of a cosmopolitan restaurant that would be equally at home in New York City or Buenos Aires. Good thing they are here. The South and Central American flavors are bueno, as well as service and the myriad of margaritas.
2000 Colonial Ave., Norfolk 757-622-6986

Still Worldly Eclectic Tapas
Creative and innovative, the food at Still constantly wows; the seasonally changing menu always has delicious surprises. Outstanding service and an intimate dining room round things out, and one of the best bar lists in the region doesn't hurt either.
450 Court St., Portsmouth 757-332-7222

Zushi Japanese Bistro
An open, inviting dining room with upscale décor and Asian influences provides the backdrop for equally sophisticated sushi and Japanese offerings. Service is attentive, and everything from cooked dishes to signature rolls are wonderful, as are the sake offerings and European pastries for dessert.
4540 Main St., Virginia Beach 757-321-1495

The Critics

Dedra Blount, former Johnson & Wales University culinary instructor and current proprietor of Now You're Cooking, a Chesapeake company providing cooking classes, demonstrations and boutique catering.

Peter Coe, founder of Taste Unlimited, a specialty food and wine retailer in Hampton Roads. Allan Fisher is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and operates Set For You catering with wife, Andrea.

Andrea Fisher is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and operates Set For You catering with husband, Allan.

Tammy Jaxtheimer has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, is a restaurant critic for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper and director of the local Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) chapter.

Marisa Marsey, recruiter for Johnson & Wales University nationwide and freelance food writer, frequently contributing to Veer Magazine.

Steve Marsey has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and coordinates judging at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction. David Nicholson writes about restaurants and food for The Daily Press newspaper.

Patrick Reed is a former Johnson & Wales University culinary instructor and currently teaches culinary arts at Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center.

Patrick Evans-Hylton, Johnson & Wales trained chef, senior editor for food and wine for Hampton Roads Magazine and executive editor for Virginia Wine Lover magazine. —PEH


For the rest of this article, see the January 2011 issue of Hampton Roads Magazine

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