As a multi-year Shockoe Bottom dweller, I am privy to the fact that the area is in need of, and is slowly going through, a revitalization. Old businesses are moving out to allow new businesses to move in. An exciting, diverse crowd is starting to influx into the formerly run down, often dangerous, part of the city. It’s an exciting time for the place that I call home!
Being the foodaholic that I am, I’m always happy to see new restaurants popping up every couple months. The Fan and Carytown had their fun, it’s the bottom dwellers turn now!
A few weeks ago I was stoked to learn about yet another new eatery opening up a few blocks away from my apartment. Behold Castanea, a quaint little Mediterranean spot located at 1814 East Main Street! Named after the beloved chestnut, Castanea brings bold European flavor to a market that desperately needs it.
After initially visiting the establishment for late night drinks and house made gelato with friends, my fiancé and I were so impressed that we decided to go back for dinner a few nights later.
We started out with some drinks. A Hardywood draft beer for Jonathan and one of the new signature cocktails for me. I present to you the honey, lemon, and basil mojito. This was one of the best cocktails I have ever had in my life, no exaggeration, and at only $8 it was a steal! Fun fact: the dust around the rim is bee pollen which added a pleasant, natural sweetness to the beverage. I can’t stop thinking about this drink.
For our appetizer, we decided to split the Arancini ($8) which were two large, breaded, fried saffron rice balls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella. They were moist and flavorful with a delightful punch of saffron throughout. The only thing lacking was the amount of mozzarella. Maybe it’s just because I’m a huge cheese gal but they could have used a bit more in the middle in my opinion. Delicious start to our meal though!
For our entrees we went in complete opposite directions. Jonathan ordered the Tallegio pizza ($13) which boasted a whole wheat sourdough crust covered in stinky, creamy Tallegio cheese. It was greasy and delicious! I opted for the Mahi Mahi which was served with sautéed veggies and zhug sauce on the side ($10). The fish was cooked perfectly, the veggies were way overcooked but the zhug sauce blew my mind. I would compare it to a chimichurri but 100 times better! Jonathan even ended up dipping his pizza in it. That sauce made the dish.
Keep in mind that the entrée plates, unless you get the pasta, lean more on the side of tapas and are probably not enough to fill you up. That being said, my ever looming hunger led me to order the Panzanella Fruit de Mar ($8). This was everything. If you are going to try one thing on the menu, this should be it. The salad boasted mussels, calamari, shrimp, sardines, toasted Billy bread, red onion, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and seafood drippings as the dressing. It was fresh, flavorful, and a huge portion for its meager price tag.
All in all, Castanea was great! We look forward to going back and trying more of their unique menu. And don’t even think about stopping by there without trying their gelato! It will knock your socks off.