The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Deconstructed Shepherd's Pie
One of my favorite things about being a Coastal Virginia transplant is that nearly every dining experience I have is a new one. With a literal plethora of eateries in the region waiting to be patroned, I am able constantly to expose my culinary preferences and taste buds to new experiences.
On Monday, I celebrated my 25th birthday, as well as my one-year anniversary of my first Virginia Beach Restaurant Week. My dear friend and fellow food enthusiast Anne and I met at EAT American Bistro of Virginia Beach to observe both occasions. It was there that I had the “best thing I ate this week.”
As a participant of Virginia Beach Restaurant Week, EAT offered 3-course dinner options that all sounded equally delectable, however, I already knew what I wanted. Of course, I looked at the menu beforehand.
The entrée that caught my eye was the Deconstructed Tenderloin Tip Shepherd’s Pie.
As an avid Top Chef viewer (I’ve got a weakness for Tom Colicchio—so sue me!), the rule seems to be that deconstructed-anything equals destruction. But as an optimist, I decided to have faith in the concept and in Executive Chef Erick Heilig.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Following a delicious first-course of Kirkpatrick Oysters, our server placed a fragrant, warm and inviting plate before me. Sous vide beef tenderloin, potato arancini, pan jus, French beans, baby carrots and Roquefort blue cheese were perfectly—almost tediously—laid on a long, white, rectangular plate.
Based on sight alone, the dish certainly possessed all of the elements of your traditional shepherd’s pie, but I wondered if it would have the comforting taste of one as well.
I cut myself a piece of the tenderloin, and then layered it with a bit of the arancini, carrot and blue cheese. My first bite was tender, savory and enveloping. Somehow, it was a contradiction unto itself—both refined and cozy. Simply stated, it was incredible.
As our meal continued, I tried each element of the dish individually and then combined them to my liking. I was impressed to find that each piece was strong enough to stand alone, and that the components served only to elevate one another to different level of flavor.
More impressive still, the homey goodness was all there. But, as I went for another piece of the potato arancini, I found myself scoffing at the thought of regular mashed potatoes. (I don’t know if there’s any turning back for me now.)
And yet the, the arancini wasn’t the star of the dish. That would be the beef tenderloin.
Because the sous vide method was used, the beef achieved a succulence that is nearly impossible by traditional means.
Sous vide is a cooking method which involves sealing ingredients in a plastic bag and placing them in a water bath to hold a target temperature. When the food reaches the perfect temperature or time, it is removed then seared or finished. The tenderloin I enjoyed that evening was done to perfection—seared and juicy from edge to edge.
I finished my plate without leaving a bean behind, but managed to rally for dessert. It was my birthday, after all. It was an all-around delightful evening.
Another one of my favorite parts about being a Coastal Virginia transplant is establishing my own local favorites. Suffice to say, EAT has made the cut, and I’ll be back.