i have to report an outstanding visit in terms of foods sampled, restaurants visited, etc. i'm only going to hit highlights. thanks again for all the info.
1. fifth floor: i thought the food was excellent and the service exceptional. i was surprised to see that the restuarant was not nearly full on a thursday night but i digress. i don't really remember the amuses but the apps were amazing. the lobster cappuccino was everything people said and more. i like that the FF focused so much on prepping the food tableside. i think the armagnac in the lobster broth added a nice dimension and when it was added to the slightly whipped cream and lobster the three turned into a hearty velvety combination that was so satisfying. my friend had the ceviche which was also good but IMHO nothing like ceviche. i thought it was more of a sashimi dish with some acidic accents. for my main course i had the pork belly with the black truffle sauce which was super crispy on the skin side and then warm and succulent thoughout the rest of the slice. when you took a bite there were so many textures going on, which i really liked. my friend had the venison medallions and seeing as how there was orange in the sauce i couldn't try it (i'm allergic to oranges) but the medley of winter vegetable purees was both pleasing to the eye and to the palate (four different colors). the best part was dessert. i had the strawberry-4 ways dessert and he had the meyer lemon souffle with grapefruit sorbet. the sorbet was good and not too tangy and the meyer lemon souffle was super light, airy and just floated off of your spoon. the sauteed strawberries were nice with the sprinkled sugar and cinnamon and the strawberry preserves over greek style yogurt was also good (but nothing too special, as you can get really good preserves and a tub of total at the grocery store) and i didn't care for the strawberry guava smoothie. HOWEVER, the doughnuts with the passionfruit filling were ridiculously good. they were so light and fluffy with no hint of the oil they were fried in and there was the perfect amount of filling in each one. pretty ironic that the best aspect of strawberries four ways was made of passionfruit. but whatever.
2. mayflower: this chinese restaurant in richmond was very authentic and offered many things i had never tried before. my friend and his parents (all are chinese) took me there and we sampled snake soup. this is a winter soup that has shredded bits of snake meat in a translucent thick soup with lots of julienened vegetables. the consistency and amount of vegetables reminded me of hot and sour soup. it was mild in flavor and salted just enough. then we had these gigantic prawns that were fried much like salt and pepper shrimp. the seasoning was minimal as the prawns were so flavorful on their own. for the main course we had a whole steamed fish (sea bass i think) which was cooked with scallions, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. the base of the sauce was the soy sauce and mirin. also tasty. we also had baby bok choy boiled with fried garlic cloves. appparently it's a specialty of the house. enjoyed very much. i think we had something else but i can't remember. for dessert he had warm tofu with a sweet syrup on top which was a first for me but pretty good. i had the grass jelly with sweet syrup on top. i think it's honey based. the grass jelly was a real treat since i was used to canned grass jelly and this was made on premises.
3. yank sing: yes the food was great but i thought it was very overpriced and i didn't like that everything from the teapot to the chili sauce on the table was for sale. the beef chow fun was excellent and not overly greasy like it is at many chinese restaurants and the steamed pork buns were exceptional.
4. kitaro, richmond: not the best food but a great value for quick, decent japanese food. they had these great lunch boxes and everything was super cheap.
5. v. sattui vineyard, napa: this vineyard doesn't offer a standard wine making tour like mondavi does but they had some great wines (only available at the vineyard) and this fantastic deli/groumet shop on the premises. my friend and i shared a lovely bottle of a dry riesling, a baguette, brie with black peppercorns, duck pate with truffles and cognac, prawns in mustard sauce, german potato salad, and mediterranean salad. ok so the german potato salad was cold and didn't have any bacon, but it was decent. the pate and prawns were so delicious. i had never thought of pairing mustard and prawns together (especially cold) but it was surprisingly good. eating the pate, the baguette and the wine together, facing a beautiful vineyard on a sunny napa afternoon was a slice of heaven.
6. helena olive oil company: i picked up a great bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a cabernet sauvignon vinegar (milder than regular red wine vinegar), and a cherry accented balsamic vinegar (i love cherries and balsamic vinegar so this is a wonderful union of flavors).
thanks again for all the help.