Appetizers give chefs a chance to show off their skills and work with exotic and rare ingredients. Every now and then, that combination results in a dish that sticks with you and requires a return trip to sate the craving. These are a couple of my "destination appetizers."
If you ever spot Deep Fried Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto on Acacia's rapidly changing menu, it is a must-have. Perfectly crisp yet moist inside with a rich fatty flavor, it is the definition of umami. 2601 W. Cary St., 562-0138
Every day from 5 to 7 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m., Lemaire serves three appetizers for $20 at the bar. The Brandy Peppercorn Dusted Beef Tartare with a Horseradish Foam is a rarely found treat that is worth the trip. Pair it up with Saffron Steamed PEI Mussels or fresh oysters from the Chesapeake, and it'll be the best $20 you've ever spent. The Jefferson Hotel, 101 W. Franklin St., 649-4629
Avalon Restaurant & Bar
The specials here may include succulent sweetbreads or rich foie gras, but for a deep, thick flavor, go for the Duck Confit Cassoulet. The white beans soak up the richness of the duck stock to create a decadent feeling of comfort. 2619 W. Main St., 353-9709
The burek — hand-stretched phyllo pastry filled with meat — at Balkan is tender and crispy outside, with savory, perfectly seasoned meat inside. You can also get it stuffed with spinach or cheese, but why change something so absolutely satisfying? 8905 Patterson Ave., 754-2255
Julep's New Southern Cuisine
Locally sourced roasted quail has never been quite so finger-licking good. Add the sweet tang of Speckle Pear Apple Chutney drizzled with a Madeira reduction, and you'll be staring at a small pile of bones in no time. 1719 E. Franklin St., 377-3968