There are days when I get sick of the over populated commotion of campus and desire to dine at a place offering more than just over-baked cheesy college-kid munchies. So I set off to explore more of the Richmond area and came across a tiny sign offering dinner specials with an arrow pointing towards a basement door, written in bright orange letters it read “The Cellar Door”. Apprehensive at first, I entered. To my surprise, I found myself entering a foodie explorer’s paradise.
The Cellar Door is exactly what its name suggests; a hidden food gem fit in a space the size of a Cellar. It is a small cozy restaurant located on Monument Avenue in the Basement of the Stuart Court apartment building. It is only three blocks away from Monroe Park and far enough to feel the privacy and seclusion from the busy dining scene around campus.
Upon entering the restaurant, the diner enters a place of old world exploration showcased by the decor of European paintings, international currency, and elegant mahogany accents. Despite being quite small, the space feels airy and clean which is always a plus in a great food experience.
The restaurant is an eclectic composition of culinary influences from Europe and South America offering a menu of tapas, small plated appetizers for sharing. The Cellar Door entrees are changed daily and are on a chalkboard that’s displayed at the front of the restaurant and is elaborately explained by the server. There is also a full bar with a selective choice of beer that is served on tap or in bottles. As well as a well-put together wine list that compliments the restaurant’s worldly theme.
I arrived at before the dinner rush and was seated immediately in a booth by a very enthusiastic server. The service was very friendly and attentive, a breath of fresh air. I ordered two tapas, sautéed mushrooms and prosciutto wrapped sea scallops. Unfortunately I did have to wait about 20 minutes for the first tapas. However, considering the attention the chefs needed to cook the seafood correctly, it did not bother me because once they came out, it was worth it. The scallops were cooked to perfection and the white wine butter sauce underneath complimented them perfectly. I found myself dipping my fork in just for the sauce. The mushrooms were also very tasty and were served with seasoned olive oil and miniature toast. I felt like I was in Spain and after finishing my first courses, I did not want to leave.
For my entree, I ordered pork tenderloin with seasonal vegetables. The presentation of the dish was vibrant and colorful. The most impressive part of the dish was that a knife was not needed. It was nice to know the chefs paid attention to detail on the dish including adding colored potatoes which brightened up the dish as well as my taste buds. My only complaint is that some of the vegetables were a bit undercooked but it was not a big problem. I still overall enjoyed my meal.
After being recommended desserts by the server, I chose to end my experience with a Godiva Chocolate Bombe. I never had a bombe before so once it came out, I was instantly excited. It is pretty much a dark chocolate dome filled with a light milky cocoa mousse. For any chocolate lover, like myself, it was the perfect ending to a great experience.
The Cellar Door is a place that is great for a once in a while outing because it is a bit pricey. Going alone is not the best way to enjoy a time in The Cellar Door, so I advise you bring a partner or a couple of friends. The whole atmosphere that the restaurant is achieving is a European style of eating which is supposed to be shared with a group. Price range of the menu is from little as $5 to $20. If you are expecting to visit the restaurant any time soon, make sure you have a lot of time to pace yourself since the portions are of large quantity and quality. The Cellar Door is a great place to come to appreciate food and the international ingredients that make it.
The Cellar Door Restaurant is located at 1600 Monument Ave. For more information visit www.cellardoorva.com.