Knocking on the Red Door
As a youngster, Chow, Baby roamed the wilds of the Cityview area with a Lewis-and-Clark-like ardor, watching that part of town grow from an ill-advised development in the middle of a flood plain to a beacon for lame chain restaurants and heavy traffic. I wrote off the whole ’hood as mall outgrowth and McMansionville, and stopped paying attention. But right under my nose some cool mom-and-pop restaurants sprang up over there. And one of its newest is also one of its best.
Before I even set foot in The Red Door Bistro (4938 Overton Ridge Blvd.), it had a ton of credibility with me. “The Red Beast” is the brainchild of Bobby and Donna Albanese of Ruffino’s and Piola Italian Restaurant fame. Though Ruffino’s closed its doors almost two years ago, Piola remains a personal favorite.
The Red Door is a departure from the upscale Italian fare that Chef Bobby Albanese perfected at his previous two places. The concept is a little scattered. It bills itself as a Mediterranean restaurant, but the cuisine is all over the map. The menu offers classic Americana like catfish sandwiches and hamburgers as well as grass-fed tenderloin and quail.
As is true with most places in the CV, the Door is located in a generic-looking strip mall, in this case next to a medical office and car rental place — a far cry from the tucked-away neighborhood setting of Piola or the swanky environs of Ruffino’s Forest Park site. But inside, the atmosphere is cozy, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a tiny dining room.
My guest and I started with the simple but appetizing beignets with feta, olives, and honey ($8). The salt of the little pastries begged to be chased with a glass of sauvignon blanc or pinot noir.
The entrée chicken roulade ($16), sliced chicken stuffed with mushrooms, shallots, ricotta, and mozzarella, sitting on a bed of pesto couscous with a spicy red pepper sauce, was moist and perfectly seasoned. The chicken slices wrapped around the veggies like a sushi roll. It was a sight to see and delicious to boot.
The only near-miss was the shrimp risotto ($18), which was a little bland. The red pepper and asparagus risotto was a tad chalky and too thick. Another ladle of stock might have saved the texture, but the dish’s fatal flaw was that it didn’t deliver on flavor.
The service was excellent, if hovering. I attributed that to the size of the place — in so tiny a space, it was easy to feel as if I were under a microscope.
The ’View desperately needed something like Red Door. Now maybe other cool, independent restaurants will follow them into that neck of the woods. It’s a destination type of place. But heck, if you happen to need a doc-in-the-box and a rent car, make a day of it and stop in for lunch too.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org