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Richmond-area native Danielle Goodreau, recently of kitchens in San Francisco and Chicago, now helms the kitchen of Rancho T. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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Another of Goodreau's dishes: house-made cavatelli with fava beans, snap peas, mint, pickled ramps and house-made ricotta all atop pea purée (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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Rancho T guests can now begin their meals with a selection of new sharable plates including house-made potato chips with sumac, a yogurt mousse and za'atar, or Castelvetrano olives in a Calabrian chili jam. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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One of Goodreau's new dishes is a springy pile of sautéed asparagus with pickled cipollini, salsa verde and burrata. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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Beer-battered mushrooms with malted vinegar remoulade are new on the restaurant's menu. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
[7/1/16 Update: Sadly, Rancho T is now closed, effective immediately. The talented staff and ownership is reworking the concept and name, and hopes to open a new restaurant in the space this fall.]
“At the end of the day, I just want her to be successful. She’s a really great chef. She’s one of the greatest chefs that I’ve ever met.” That's high praise coming from Tuffy Stone, a nationally renowned pitmaster and restaurateur who's worked in and around the Richmond dining community for, oh, nearly three decades. But it's praise he firmly believes Danielle Goodreau already warrants just weeks into her run as executive chef of his Fan restaurant, Rancho T.
Goodreau enters our dining scene by way of San Francisco's The Alembic Bar, Sonoma's Ram's Gate Winery and Marcus Samuelsson's now-shuttered C-House restaurant in Chicago, and she's sprucing up Rancho T with New American dishes that have already populated the menu and will eventually entirely reflect the restaurant's new concept. Gone is the Latin American focus from former executive chef Aaron Cross, who's now helping ex-Lemaire chef Walter Bundy open Shagbark. Though guests may miss Rancho T's chilaquiles and pillowy empanadas, they'll now find an eclectic and exciting selection of sharable, small and large dishes that span anywhere from pork rillettes with cherry, mint, almond and lemon, to rockfish with potato confit, maitake mushrooms and capers.
"I like to not pigeon-hole myself into any ethnicity, so I like to say 'New American' because that means I can play with any flavors I want," Goodreau says. "I can do Asian flavors, we can do Middle Eastern flavors. I think people will find flavors that they like, that they haven’t been exposed to yet.”
There's bone marrow with confit garlic and gremolata; shrimp gnocchi with roasted sunchoke and bagna càuda; and something that reads simply as "yogurt" on the menu arrives surprising, a fluffy, mousse-like, tart yogurt dip for house-made chips. "It's seasonally focused. That's really important to me," says the Richmond-area native, who isn't just new to Rancho T; this role marks her first job cooking within the River City's culinary community.
“Her food’s sublime," Stone says. "It’s got flavors and textures and delicacy and it’s just really refreshing. She comes here from very foodie places like San Francisco. I just hope we get the customer base in here that’ll [try it] because J. and I are blown away.”
The J. in question happens to be J. Frank, the longtime Richmond chef most notably of The Berkeley Hotel. He also has a hand in Rancho T's redevelopment, helping in the kitchen and lending some thoughts to the new lunch, dinner and brunch menus. Rancho T's owners — Stone and his wife, Leslie Stone, and Ed Vasaio of Edo's Squid, Mamma 'Zu, 8 1/2 and Dinamo — all saw Cross' leaving as an opportunity to refresh the restaurant and find a concept that may better work for the space. The cocktails will also evolve, better complementing the new menu, and perhaps the wine list will be tweaked as well. Stone even says he's been ramping up the spot's bourbon reserve. The name will remain, at least for now.
“I think the food is going to be something uniquely different than what it has been. I think it’s going to be uniquely different for Richmond," he shares. "The people who’ve been trying it have really liked it. I think we’re just reshaping our perception.”
Rancho T is located at 1 N. Morris St. and is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday, and for brunch, lunch and dinner on weekends.