Years ago when I lived in Boston I took my boyfriend out to a five star Italian restaurant. While I had an amazing dining experience taking in the cozy atmosphere, raving about how it was walking distance from my apartment so we wouldn’t have to hop on the T to get home, reveling in the fact that it was a mom and pop establishment and we were supporting local business; Ian was having the worst dining experience of his life.
He had ordered a dish with broccoli rabe. Now, in his defense, he did ask the waitress what exactly broccoli rabe was. “It’s like a stronger tasting broccoli,” she said in a beautiful thick Italian Boston accent. If by stronger she meant bitter and 10,000 times worse, than she was correct. That night we found out we both do not like broccoli rabe and I have been suffering for it ever since. Eight years later, unless it’s my birthday, I have been banned from picking the restaurant for date night. That is until now, when I suggested Stove in Port Norfolk.
Expectations were set very high, mine from trusted coworker reviews, his from internet searches revealing numerous magazine and newspaper write ups.
“You do realize this restaurant has been picked as one of the Top 10 restaurants in the area right?”
“Uhh yeah, that’s why I want to go so badly.”
Over the years we have both come to love Six Little Bar and Bistro in Phoebus and are very familiar with Tapas restaurants. We’ve learned not to go crazy with the ordering everything that excites us from the get go and to try as many things as possible when we eat out. We are also, unfortunately, extremely familiar with our budget. Because of this, we decided to try and take it easy and not rack up a $100 tab that everyone insisted we were going to easily plop down that night.
We ordered our alcohol, Ian a white wine and a craft beer for me. He immediately set his eyes on a scallop dish and I set mine on shrimp and grits because that is my go to dish if I see it on a menu (before Stove, Green Onion was my #1 for the region’s best shrimp and grits). Most of the dishes come with Appetizer and Entrée size options of the meal; we both ordered the app sizes assuming we’d treat them like tapas and get to try a few different options.
Our meals were so good that at one point we both completely stopped talking to each other so we could fully enjoy the flavors of each bite. I usurped his scallops while he stole my shrimp and grits. Our meal was phenomenal. Every bite was rich and flavorful. The half sized dishes completely filled us up and we didn’t end up ordering anything more, making our bill no more than $60, including the tip. In fact, our meal was so damn good while we were there the sea parted, the sky opened up and Ian proclaimed “okay, you’re allowed to pick restaurants again.”
The following week, we talked the place up so much that our friends decided they were willing to do the unthinkable: face the treacherous, blood pressure rising, finger-nail chewing, hair pulling arduous journey through Hampton Roads rush hour tunnel traffic to see what all our fuss was about.
Of course, Stove delivered. Within our group, some of us ordered app sizes and some entrees. To be honest, none of us could tell the difference in size. (Some of the seasonal specials only come in the entrée size dishes). While our meal was again fantastic, our waitress was not. But despite the service we still raved. Even my animal-obsessed friend said she’d be willing to face the Ace Ventura inspired trophy bar room again if it meant another fabulous meal.
This time around I ordered the salmon. As a true foodie, I can recall in minute detail all the best meals I’ve had and by category. The best salmon I’ve ever had was in Boston (sorry, Boston just happened to have some excellent restaurants). It was cooked in a lemon butter sauce and not cooked all the way through, making the center a dark, delicious pink. This is how Stove cooked my salmon. (That sentence should be read by imaging me saying it with my head held back in pure ecstasy because that is how I typed it). In fact, they actually went a step further and cooked the ends so that the skin had a little crisp to it giving the salmon textures that ranged all the way from crunchy outside to tender inside to a delectable undercooked center. Now that’s skill. I also like that they served it with just vegetables, a light vinegary tomato and cucumber medley.
I was, however, forced to realize my taste in uncooked salmon isn’t for everyone as Ian looked at me in disgust and told me my preference for undercooked meat was going to send me to the hospital one day. So I banned him from going with me to new restaurants. Well, at least we got the trust thing down.
*Results not typical for serious relationship trust issues.
For more of Stove, here is their website.