Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Create Bistro

Many a diner has come and gone in Hilton Village over the past few years. The corner of Warwick and Post has a decidedly different vibe these days, when it opened last October in the guise of Create Bistro. Partners Chad Martin and Andrew Hyatt, well versed in the local dining scene, split back and front-of-the-house duties in this strikingly redesigned space.

The layout is intimate, with golden-hued European-style seating. Aubergine walls and white tablecloths provide contrast, while the bar separates itself in a scarlet blaze. Part of the kitchen peeks out onto the dining room, where a flurry of chefs can be seen hustling gracefully in the narrow space.

The menu is divided simply into three categories: mouth amusements, greens and main events. The food itself is grounded in pleasing standards that feature a unique spin — think scallops with red miso coconut milk, pickled beets salad with limoncello-honey vinaigrette and roasted Peking duck breast with smoked gouda cauliflower mash and yellow pepper ginger coulis. Luckily, we were dining with friends that night, and had the opportunity to sample several dishes.

My husband Dave and I started with the pork carnitas ($8). Juicy chunks of pork mingled with buttery lashings of Campo de Montalban, a blended Spanish cheese similar to Manchego. A lighter-than-air basil scallion crepe floated atop, miraculously supporting a caramelized tower of sweet, piquant onion apple relish.

Rebecca chose the coconut-marinated calamari ($7). Presented in an oversize martini glass, the jumble of golden calamari proved perfectly crisp, then tender. It took some time to work towards the bottom, where a cool tomato escabeche flirted sweetly with the sour, sharp tang of cider vinegar.

Jeff, having visited previously, was inexorably drawn to the tuna tataki ($10). Generous slices of sautéed tuna are rimmed with a peanut crust and served rare. The bok choy slaw provided a zip of color and fresh flavors, while the furikake dipping sauce was a touch sweet, yet infused with the unmistakable hallmark of umami.

Lest you mistakenly think we were teetotalers, we all shared a Shaps & Roucher-Sarrazin Cote de Nuits 2003 ($45). This smooth, supple red is medium-bodied and pleasingly ripe. The frequently changing wine list holds a plethora of whites, reds, and everything in between — several wines are also available by the glass.

We all skipped salads in order to asses the hot promise of the main events. Both of the men-folk ordered the caramelized onion bison meatloaf ($19). This ain’t your mama’s meatloaf, and it sure ain’t your daddy’s arid foray into buffalo burgers. It was tender and juicy, with a luscious “beefier-than-beef” taste. A rich mound of mashers provided the foundation, and incidentally, did wonders at drinking in the rich steak sauce. This was all so good that my husband, who holds a certain distaste for Popeye’s favorite green vegetable, consumed every bit of wilted spinach from the plate.

After much rumination, Rebecca settled upon the blackberry glazed organic king salmon with lo mein ($23). I don’t usually care for the dull ’pink’ taste of farmed salmon, but one bite has me yearning for another even as I write this. The blackberry glaze was the perfect accent on this perfectly plump portion.

You’ll never believe what I had: the pan-fried crab cake ($23)! In a word, “woof." In several: the thick patty of crab was intensely sweet, rich and fresh, aided and abetted by the creamy, piquant peppedew tartar sauce. Sweet potato-jicama coleslaw cradled the crab, and a frizzy head of fresh micro greens made for an impeccable crown.

We were full and ready for the bill, but when the waitress came to ask if we wanted dessert, I simply had to inquire what was available. It all sounded excellent! Luckily, the chef was willing to do a sampler-style dessert platter ($15). There was the mouthwatering combination of a coconut-white chocolate blueberry bread pudding, topped with a scoop of Bailey’s chocolate-chunk ice cream. That perennial favorite creme brulee came garnished with berries and a perfectly crisp sugar crust. Full-bodied Frangelico bittersweet chocolate truffles were tempered by the light styling of a baked Alaska key lime pie. I finally had to throw down the napkin in glorious defeat.

Create Bistro — the secret’s out now.

Create Bistro
10417 Warwick Blvd., Newport News
Phone: 240-2776 Fax: 223-1026

Specialties: upscale bistro
Price range: mouth amusements: $7-$11; greens: $7-$9; main events: $19-$28
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bar open late night
Alcohol: beer, wine, full bar
Smoking: no
Vegetarian: yes; vegan dishes also available upon request.
Wheelchair accessible: yes, but quarters are rather tight
Payment: cash, credit cards, checks
Noise level: conversational to noisy
Atmosphere: upscale casual
Additional Information: catering, daily specials, wine dinners, private parties, gift certificates; reservations highly recommended.

Star rating: food 4 3/4-5, atmosphere 4 1/2, service 4 1/2
(out of five stars)


Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

OMG! This sounds incredible, and the kind of meal I go out for. My son worked with Chad a couple of years ago and besides being an inspired chef, he is a nice person,too. You've sealed my fate- I need to go have my own first-hand experience!

3:44 AM  

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