I often end up going to lots of locales not known for their fine dining possibilities. On a recent trip to Richmond, CA I tried dinner at the Salute E Vita restaurant at the Marina. Overall a very good place, very good food at a fair price: nice service and very good setting. If youre in the neighborhood and dont want to put up with going into San Francisco or further afield, definitely recommended.
Now the details:
On the road the AAA guide has been a fairly consistent, if often unimaginative, source of recommendations for places to try. The three diamond rating or better gives consistently good experience though some areas of the country tend to have rating inflation.
Salute had a three diamond rating in the Richmond area. The directions to get there were clear but the street signs werent. After a couple of false turns and a few minutes lost the destination was eventually found.
Dinner was on a Wednesday night around 7:30 PM. The restaurant looked nice with a good setting and view over the Richmond Marina. The view is more Marina than Bay but nice even so.
The interior is the result of a converted house pulling the back patio into the main body of the restaurant. The seating was a mix of chairs and benches. Seats were nice, but the tables with the benches were a little high, even for a 6ft plus person, smaller people and children would probably want to use one of the interior tables. A good to reasonable view could be had from nearly everywhere.
Service was prompt and professional. No maudlin muck such as My name is xxx and I will be your server tonight was allowed to mar the evening.
Dinner included a standard house Insalata Sorrentina, the daily risotto special, and a berry cream pie/cake. The wine list was small but well selected. A very good selection of wines by the glass was available. I had one glass of the waiter-recommended red (nice) plus a glass of champagne (Mumm) with desert. The wine was good but not so good that I remember the name of it off-hand.
The Insalata Sorrentina was butter lettuce based with gorgonzola, nuts, and vinaigrette. Solidly done and with plenty of cheese, but the lettuce leaves were left too big. This was the weakest part of the meal as the overall dish lacked some imagination.
The main dish was a choice between a sole and the risotto. I asked the waiter recommendation between the two and he recommended the risotto. This dish was very good. The risotto was a mixed shrimp-scallop-tomato-spinach combination. The rice was correct, not overcooked to a mush. The shrimp was firm and would have benefited with slightly less cooking. In contrast the scallops were near perfect. The combination and balance with the tomatoes (not to acidic) and the spinach were excellent. At times I thought a taste of fennel was in the dish, or perhaps I just wished it was. A slight adder of fennel would have made the combination near perfect.
The desert selection included the obligatory tiramisu and crème brulee. Out of curiosity the waiter was asked for his recommendation. The answer: the berry cream pie/cake. Id already decided on this myself as it looked really good. Nevertheless, after the earlier success with the main course I was interested in his opinion. The desert was very good verging on excellent. Fresh berries, sugar topped, on a cream cake filling and with a decent crust under it all. Simply great!
The total bill was correct for the meal, location, and service: around $55 (including tip) for one.