Glass Haus Kitchen.
It was a cold January evening when The Hubby and I scrambled to get the dog walked and fed. We rushed out the door breathless and exhausted because we had both worked late……….again. Reluctantly, we headed out to yet another Charlottesville Restaurant Week obligation.
Yes, I said obligation. Let me clarify before you slap hashtags #whinybitch #whitepeopleproblems and #waaahmbulance all over my blog. I know eating out is an expensive privilege. If I didn’t love eating so much I wouldn’t spend all my time writing about it. I am blessed beyond belief. It is my humble opinion, however, Restaurant Week is suffering from a lack of surprise. Which translates into a lack of excitement. I adore its mission and LOVE the fact I can translate my enjoyment of food into helping local charities. To me that’s the highest purpose on Earth. Give back, give back, give back. But after 4 years, I can almost predict with 100% accuracy what every Restaurant Week meal will be like. There will be chicken, beef, pork, and a seafood option, maybe. The appetizers will probably be more interesting than the entrées. The desserts will include a flourless chocolate something. The meat will be oversalted. The restaurant will rush you out in an hour or less. It will be loud and crowded. And the service will be uneven. It’s like dining in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Amateur night. If you know food at all, you stay well away.
It’s the reason you haven’t seen many, if ANY Restaurant Week reviews on this blog. Because while the goal is admirable, the meals weren’t exactly memorable. Until now.
The minute we stepped into Glass Haus Kitchen I had a hunch this night would be different. The interior is stunning. It hits you like a soft chuck under the chin. “Heeeeeey,” it says. “Stay awhile.” Uber modern which isn’t my cup of tea (look at my blog design), but the light is so golden, warm, and inviting you feel you just stepped into a 1930’s movie and you’re about to have cocktails with Nick and Nora Charles. Fabulous!
As the night wore on, at a nice, leisurely pace I might add, my suspicions were confirmed. The food was anything but ordinary, and the wine selection, while short by Charlottesville standards, was wonderful. I sipped on a sparkling wine from Alsace that was out of this world. The housemade country paté was exquisite and the ham & gruyere croquettes were smoky, crispy, cheesy. It made me glad we’d made the effort to get out of the house.
The Hubby’s pork shoulder main with spicy pork sausage hash and brussel sprouts was a comfort food wet dream. I kept stealing his brussel sprouts, whose roasted edges made me swoon. But the real star of the night were my beef short ribs. Served over tiny egg noodles (spaetzle?) and oyster mushrooms served alongside bok choy, the dish made me want to hibernate into a nice cave with a contented smile on my face. Seriously, this dish was amazingly good. The meat was tender as heck, and the nuttiness of the noodles blended with the beefy sauce and the mushrooms into a yummy bliss.
Dessert was spectacular as well. I adored my “fried milk” dessert (i.e., fried pudding) served over a dreamy coffee anglaise, but The Hubby’s blood orange olive oil cake was the real star. Tart orange blended with sweet cake. A perfect, creamsicle taste combination. Light and airy after such a deep, umami-filled main course. Lovely.
Beyond the tasty food, it was the service that made this night so memorable. Chef Ian Boden and his staff have really gone all out to make you feel welcome. All the small touches are there. The waiter was attentive but not omnipresent. There was a wine sommelier. There was true bread service. The butter was served at room temperature. There was a salt cellar on the table. The little touches that scream to every customer, “Hey you guys, we really give a crap about what we’re doing!” Wonderful, and sadly, not something you always see in Cville. We left feeling like superstars. And it made the rest of our hectic week go by so much more easily.
It seems we’re not the only ones who feel Glass Haus Kitchen is in a class by themselves. The day after our meal, Tom Sietsema published a glowing review in The Washington Post, also mentioning Zinc, the Farmer’s Market Taco Stand, and The Whiskey Jar. I’m thrilled for all of them, but particularly thrilled for Chef Boden and his team. Because the night we dined, the restaurant was half full. I have a feeling that won’t last long.
We’re already planning our next date night. Thanks Glass Haus Kitchen for reminding me what Charlottesville Restaurant Week *can* be. And I’ve changed my tune. I NEVER recommend people dine out on Valentine’s Day. But this year Glass Haus Kitchen is offering a $48 four-course menu. If you don’t go? You’re a damned fool.