I love Zynodoa Restaurant in Staunton. I just do. Hubby and I have ventured there twice, and simply put, they’ve been two of the best meals we’ve had in the Charlottesville area since we moved here 3 years ago.
If you’re a regular reader of edible cville… you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted reviews lately. Winter and neck injury notwithstanding I have to admit it’s because the meals I’ve had, while good, just haven’t been “write” worthy. Food reviewing is tricky for me. Like Ruth Reichel said in her book, Comfort Me With Apples, (I’m paraphrasing) if you’re reviewing a restaurant and there’s no STORY, you’re just talking about food. And that’s boring. I’ve had some stellar meals in the past few months, don’t get me wrong, but that’s all they were. Good meals. We went there, ate, left the restaurant, and thought to ourselves, “Well, that was nice.” No story. Nothing to compel me to run home, make some notes, ruminate, then write with zeal about how great that restaurant made us fee.
Not so with Zynodoa. Our first visit was early last summer and we talked about the meal for WEEKS (I’m not exaggerating). Just went back in late February, and here it is a month later and I’m dreaming of Zynodoa. We talk about going out to eat and wistfully say, “We should go to Zynodoa.” Throw caution to the winds, fill the car with gas, venture over the mountain, and go.
Simply put, I haven’t had a fine dining meal anywhere in this area to even compete with them. And I’m not sure what it is. Hubby and I have talked about it, brainstormed, racked our heads to figure out what it is that places Zynodoa so above other restaurants. What makes it so special? Why is it now my benchmark?
Zynodoa serves what I like to call upscale comfort food in a modern but ultra-relaxed setting. They source all of their produce, meats, breads from local purveyors. Other very fine restaurants in the area make these same efforts. But Zynodoa contributes a little extra something.
Their servers are KNOWLEDGEABLE for one thing, and have a real enthusiasm for what they’re doing. You can tell many of them have been there long-term. The food is stellar, but more than that the atmosphere encourages you to linger, linger, and linger some more so you can fully enjoy your experience. The huge pillow-encased booth for 12 in the front SCREAMS linger. I’m still trying to figure out some sort of gathering to have just so we can reserve it.
So what’s “The Story” at Zynodoa? The word Hubby and I came up with was COMPLETE. Everything is just so complete. Each dish comes out and there is not one thing missing. Take Chef Harris’s Smoked Casta Line Trout appetizer for example. Simply put, the BEST appetizer I’ve had anywhere. And I love appies. Like Will Truman’s dad, I could make a meal of ‘em. One crispy potato cake sits on a plate surrounded with delicate slices of smoked fish. Atop the cake is an arugula salad with a mustard vinaigrette and chunks of hard boiled egg. Not only do you have tons of flavor in the bitterness of the arugula, the tang of the mustard, the smoke of the trout and the creaminess of the potato, but you’ve got a myriad of textures, crispy, smooth, the crunch of greens and the lingering mellow that is smoked fish. I dream about this appetizer. And paired with a nice French Xavier Gigondas? I’m floating on air.
Chef Harris’s Pork and Beans is another dream-inducing dish. Ayshire roasted pork with spicy baked kidney beans, coleslaw, and pickled onions to add some acid-y lightness to this meaty dish. After my first bite, I swooned. It’s gorgeous. The kind of thing you hope is simmering on the stove when you come home from a long hard day at work in the middle of winter. The portion was GINORMOUS! I never ask for a doggy-bag, preferring to “live in the moment” and only eat what I can, but with this dish I made an exception. And let me tell you something, it was even better the next day. All the flavors blended together to create something so bursting with umami, I lack to words to describe it.
Zynodoa is just so complete. I keep coming back to that word. No flavor or texture is left out. No point of service is left out. The portions are amazingly generous. You’re made to feel welcome, and you’re more than welcome to linger. It’s the COMPLETE blend of fine dining and gastropub comfort, embodied perfectly by the oil painting on a back wall near the kitchen. A finely done oil painting……of people picking crabs and drinking beer at a picnic table. Elbows up, nutcrackers everywhere, brown paper to catch the shells. Its subjects are smiling, content. The kind of content you get when you’re full of crabs and beer. It’s my death row meal scene. Beautiful and complete. Kind of like the scene you’ll find on any given night at Zynodoa.