Monday, February 2, 2009

The Black Sheep and Café Diem


I know some of you might be wondering what The Black Sheep and Café Diem have in common. My response…not a thing other then I will be talking about both in this post.

Yet again, the restaurant scene in Richmond never ceases to amaze me. Richmond, for such a small city, has a bounty of restaurants. Even more, a bounty of truly wonderful and amazing restaurants. What perplexes me about Richmond is why, WHY, in such a small city, with such bountiful and amazing options bad restaurants not only exist, but make it and at times even thrive.

Most of you know Joel recently opened an insurance agency. His office is in the old “flatiron” building at the triangle of Patterson and Park. Right by his office is a multitude of restaurants. All the ones we have been to so far have been great. Today, finally, we headed to Café Diem. I had checked their menu out on-line and was excited to try it. We walked in and it was super smoky and even worse smelled of old, stale bar. I am pretty adaptable and don’t get put off easy, so I put what looked more like a bar out of my mind and focused on the menu. The menu looked great from Panko encrusted fried oysters to tarragon chicken sandwich, not typical bar fare. I ordered a lunch special it was a tuna steak and Joel ordered a sub. We waited 30 minutes before we saw the waitress again. Other then folks at the bar, we were the only people in there. At that time she came with our food. At first glance I was a little relieved, it looked nice. Nice plate, nice presentation…not typical bar at all. I dived in. Plthh. The fish was not fresh, it was actually a bit fishy. It was dry as all get out and despite being “blackened” had no flavor (other than fishy). It was served with mashed potatoes and green beans… both cold. I will say despite the cold, the mashed potatoes were good. They still had the skins, which I like and where chunky, which I also like. The beans, were not canned. I am sure of this, because they were tough. They were also awful. I don’t know what was done to them, but they had a horrible taste. My husband had the “Studly Italian.” And just like every self proclaimed stud before it… it was not so studly at all. It had 2 slices of ham, and maybe 6 pieces of pepperoni. When it came out I actually reached across the table, opened the sub and looked in, because it looked like all she had just brought my poor fellow was, some crusty bread with no innards! If I were to name it, it would have to be the Wimpy Italian. I will say his French fries were very, very yummy, crispy, thin, salty. Great.

To add insult to injury the bill came. Now my tuna was a lunch special, it was a small filet (the right lunch size), and there was about a ¼ c. each of the mashed potatoes and green beans. We both had water and the bill was $24. Not worth it.

So what does this have to do with the Black Sheep? As I posted earlier, we had a great brunch there a week back. This Saturday, we got a sitter and headed there for lunch. Despite being told, the subs where gynormous…we each order one. My husband got the chicken livers and I got the Swedish meatball. When these hummers came out, they were no joke 18 inches long. It took me about 5 minutes before I dug in, to plan a strategy of attack. My sub was simply perfect. The bread, it was on was beautiful, airy, not too crusty, not too much bread to overwhelm the sub, just right…just wonderful. My husbands sub was wonderful. They only thing he said he would have preferred is either more apple slaw or a touch of mayo, but he will definitely be getting it again. He also got a side of corn pudding. I typically don’t like that sort of thing, but can I say…swoon! Since I had heard their desserts were to die for, we both ordered one to bring home. He got the peanut butter pie. It was wonderful. I got the white Russian brownie. I got it because the table next to me had. It looked SO good. It was so dense it looked like fudge not, brownie. I knew that was what I would get. I took it home and heated it just a bit (per a tip from the waitress)…it sadly fell flat. I know there are folks that will love it. It is super moist and not very sweet. However, for me, it is not what I want when I want a brownie. I want a chocolate explosion in my mouth. I want dense, and sweet, and gooey. This was dense and moist, but not chocolaty and not sweet. That is okay though, next time I am going to try the banana pudding, it was a close second and sound heavenly. I don’t expect that everything on a menu will always please me, everyone likes things different ways. My mom, for one, would have loved that brownie. I do expect, especially now in our economy, when I go out to eat, to get a quality experience and quality ingredients. The Black Sheep has bowled me over again with their quality and value for the dollar. Joel and I had 2 18inch subs (the leftovers which we had for dinner so really we got 2 meals out of it), 3 drinks, corn pudding and 2 desserts, all for $37. If we had just had just the subs and water, our bill with tax would have been about $ 20. Now, come on...you can't beat that.

So Richmond, tell me when Café Diem is literally surrounded by great restaurants and less the 2 miles from a place like Black Sheep…why, WHY is anyone still going to eat at Café Diem?

7 comments:

Joie de vivre said...

I get to go to restaurants so infrequently that I hate when they don't live up to expectations.

Chef E said...

Man, there is nothing like a totally disappointing eating experience, and I know because I am more critical than most!

Sometimes these places thrive on night time bar life, and lunch is just a joke...

Mommy Gourmet said...

It HAS to be the night life, cuz it sure isn't the food. My thought, is....then just serve BAR food. Don't try and serve "real" food??

5 Star Foodie said...

So sorry you had such a bad dining experience. I was wondering if you ever had dinner at the Tobacco Company?

invinoveritas said...

i think diem is terrible. absolutely terrible. we went and wrote about it a while back. blech. i have no idea why someone does not do something about the food there.

scott said...

MG:

Diem isn't really a place that the hip kids go to 'cause the food's good and The Black Sheep is a place that seems to be slowly building a reputation on having a simple but solid set of offerings. It's also a quiet place, the way that a lot of the standouts in Richmond dining were back when they began (think Zeus Gallery, Millie's, even Mama Zu's way back when).

Cafe Diem on the other hand is a place to go hanging out and drinking. If memory serves, the other restaurant kids (folks who worked in other places around the Fan) would show up there after work. I'd bet that as twentysomethings who went there 'cause it was cheap and open started to grow up, Diem started serving (or at least trying to serve) food like the other places those folks might frequent.

I'm sorry you had such a bad time but since you were nearby, did you pop in to The Black Hand? I understand that there's killer coffee to be had there.

Kate McHugh said...

Never been impressed w Cafe Diem other than as a bar w live music... totally unfortunately am NOT surprised about that tale. I had a horrendous experience recently at 3 Monkeys for dinner - so FYI...
Glad you liked the subs - if I recall they get them specifically ordered/shipped in daily from some special bread company. And I can see why! I am stoked to hear of this new side of corn pudding!