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Mike Ledesma, left, and Trevor Knotts are the chefs behind East Coast Provisions, opening next weekend. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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Cereal Milk panna cotta. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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The restaurant's new broiler can reach between 850 and 900 degrees fahrenheit. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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Chef Knotts brûlées bananas before adding them to one of his creative new desserts. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
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With its new, updated equipment, the former Water Coastal kitchen can now broil steaks in four minutes. (Photo by: Stephanie Breijo)
[3/16/16 Update: East Coast Provisions' opening has been rescheduled to Monday, March 21.]
Thick slices of banana blister under executive chef Trevor Knotts' brûlée torch in East Coast Provisions' Carytown kitchen. They're playing a supporting role for his new dessert's star: cereal milk panna cotta, also served with bright, tart, freeze-dried raspberries and fresh sprigs of Manakintowne Specialty Growers' French sorrel. He lifts an ambiguously labeled container out of the fridge, a piece of tape sporting the words "apple shit" the only indicator of what's to come — but it's a telling one in its playful tone.
“I don’t like to be too proper,” the former Betty on Davis chef says.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Mike Ledesma jumps in.
Knotts laughs. “Yeah. That’s how we achieve balance here.”
The rapport between the two chefs is jovial, almost familial, and you can see it on the plate. To be honest, it's what I believe will make East Coast Provisions — the Richmond Restaurant Group's new seafood-centric spot in the former Water Coastal Kitchen space — a success, and it's something we'll all get to experience when the restaurant opens at 3411 W. Cary St. next weekend. But that's not to say that they don't mean business.
Ledesma, the former executive chef of Patina, began his precise and informed tweaks to the entire RRG restaurant family when he took on the role of the restaurant group's corporate executive chef last year, overseeing The Daily Kitchen & Bar, The Hill Café, Pearl Raw Bar and both Hard Shell locations. Knotts, who helped open The Daily and returned to RRG last October, is bringing his own vibrant creations to the mix. (That apple concoction, for instance, will probably find its way into his take on an apple tarte tatin: house-made ricotta with local honey and apple granita on a crêpe cake.) Together, they're opening the first of two concepts that pay homage to the country's varied seafood traditions and offerings. Next weekend, the date as of yet undetermined, East Coast Provisions will open its doors and offer its wide-spanning menu, which travels from Maine all the way down to the Carolinas. Expect familiar dishes made from Northern and Mid-Atlantic ingredients but done with a colorful spin, such as a mahi dish that's served with black-eyed pea and corn salad, cilantro oil, pickled red cabbage and maybe some Thai chiles; salmon accompanied by Brussels sprouts, beet purée, apples, walnuts and maybe some pickled mustard seeds; and scallops atop squid ink Carolina Gold rice with a salad of kale, shaved Parmesan and lemon juice. You'll also find dinners for two, such as a full-bone tomahawk steak, or giant prawns, not to mention a full raw bar and sushi bar, and prices that land anywhere between a $10 burger and a $30 entrée (though the two-person-meal price point may vary).
“I want this food to be bright and beautiful and fun, especially with our seafood entrées," says Knotts. "I don’t want them to be super heavy. We want it to be light and fresh and just let the ingredients sing for what they are.”
Toward the end of 2017, the restaurant group hopes to open this concept's counterpart: West Coast Provisions. To be located somewhere in the West End, it's slated to offer seafood unique to the West Coast, plus its own raw bar and sushi menu. (For instance, expect Dungeness crab there, as opposed to East Coast Provisions' king crab legs.)
“I see this as — you know how Hard Shell has been around for 20 years?” Ledesma says. “This is like the grown-up version, 20 years later. They’ve seen, they’ve learned, they’ve eaten at so many places over the years — and now, what do we want to be the next benchmark for dining?”
The 120-seat interior, completely revamped from that of Water Coastal Kitchen, offers up blue-green booths against reclaimed wood; a downstairs bar back-splashed with Moroccan tile; an upstairs lounge with its own bar and a fireplace; a downstairs small, sunny dining room with a fireplace; upstairs seating; downstairs seating; and a small banquet room available for private parties. And, of course, Water Coastal Kitchen's patio is getting a revamp, which should offer roughly 20 seats once it's completed. The new restaurant will be open daily, and dinner-only to start. Brunch will launch very shortly thereafter, and lunch will be soon to follow; the goal, Ledesma shares, is to offer all three meals by the end of March.
“We’re super excited about it, for sure," Knotts says.
"And I really like working with Trevor,” Ledesma smiles. “It’s kind of fun.”
“Mike and I work well together. We kind of feed off of each other," Knotts adds, "because we both want the same thing: We both want to do high-end food, but we still want it to be accessible and the kind of thing people can just get. It’s not a fussy affair.”
East Coast Provisions is located at 3411 W. Cary St. and is set to open over the weekend of March 18.