When fresh black mission figs from California arrived at his Nine North Fourth restaurant in September, he roasted them and paired them in salads with chicken or proscuitto, Brie and sherry vinegar. He made fig chutney and offered a fig tartlet for dessert.
"It's about using things at the right time with the right ingredients," says Barradell (pictured), the 31-year-old chef/owner who took over what used to be Tony's 4th Street Grill in March. When Hanover tomatoes were ripe, he slow-roasted them and served them with his own fresh mozzarella. During peach season, he served caramelized Virginia peaches with ice cream. And when a friend's father caught a 40-pound rockfish in Delaware, he says, "We had fresh rockfish 12 to 14 hours after it was in the water."
Originally from England, Barradell is here because he married Henrico County resident Danesha Roberts, whom he met while she was in a study-abroad program at the University of Nottingham. Barradell began working in restaurants at age 15; his résumé includes stints with English country-house hotels and Hilton International. At Nine North Fourth, "I put my fine-dining background into simple, good eating for a reasonable price." When he bought his downtown restaurant, he says, "It was basically a sandwich shop, with chopped iceberg lettuce salads and burgers and hot dogs — I can't handle that." Too run-of-the-mill. He gradually started offering more daily specials and fewer regular menu items. Nine North Fourth is open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, and it recently added dinner hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Asked again about his attraction to figs, Barradell dashes to the back of the restaurant and returns with a roasted fig in sherry-vinegar dressing. The fruit has a plummy texture and a mildly sweet, refreshing taste. By using minimal enhancements, "that natural flavor comes out," Barradell says. "My whole philosophy is that good taste is about freshness and flavor. Those two things inspire me to cook."