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The Daily Kitchen and Bar in Carytown Photo by Ash Daniel
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Maple chipotle glazed seared scallops with pomegranate and sweet potato puree Photo by Ash Daniel
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The Daily's créme brûlée Photo by Ash Daniel
You might think from eating at The Daily Kitchen and Bar that Richmond is a town populated primarily by yoga enthusiasts and über-friendly Adam Levine lookalikes. Or that we really like kombucha, the fermented, probiotic-packed tea that tastes like sweetened vinegar. It's on tap at the bar.
Owned by the Richmond Restaurant Group, which also owns The Hard Shell, Europa, Pearl Raw Bar, Water Coastal Kitchen and The Hill Café, Carytown's latest patio-dining option bubbles and buzzes like a sourdough starter. Enjoyed equally by gaggles of runners in still damp nylon and women in skinny jeans, The Daily's early success could be attributed to savvy branding and a stunningly designed dining room.
One thing the Richmond Restaurant Group does well is stay on message. Check out The Daily's dining room, a deciduous forest planted in a rock garden with cauliflower-shaped, moss-colored wall art hanging above the kitchen window. You'll feel the wellness by just having the fit hostess, in a ballet top and yoga pants, walk you past green booths, her innate sashay of salubrity leading the way.
There are varied interpretations of healthy eating and what exactly constitutes local produce. What's in season is a little less open for debate, unless you're talking about another time zone. The Daily's carefully worded website reads: "We use organic, all-natural, local and sustainable ingredients as much as possible while still keeping our prices fair." They fulfill that truth-in-advertising on their lunch, brunch and dinner menus 99 percent of the time, although I take umbrage at the seasonal strawberries I was served out of season in October.
Some of the organic ingredients, such as the field greens and Genesis Organic Farms potatoes on the brunch menu, aren't shouted out by farming practice at all. Prudent, considering it may not always be economical to buy organic potatoes for hash browns. A chalkboard in the dining room lists the pedigreed ingredients, with local love shown to Virginia's Twin Oaks Tofu.
I'm differentiating here, because I imagine unconscious ordering could get a little sticky at The Daily. Because the room is so green and some of the most visible ingredients, like the hardboiled organic egg at the top of the brunch menu, are listed as such, one might assume that all the eggs served at The Daily are organic. They aren't. Otherwise, this restaurant would be off the charts expensive. And it isn't. Dinners are priced in the teens and low $20s. When it comes to buying organic, use your noodle. If cage-free, organic or local eggs, meat and dairy are important to you, then you'd best ask before ordering.
One dish I don't think to ask about is the half chicken. I assume that it'll be the standard, vertical cut, offering both white and dark meat. Wrong. At The Daily, the chicken is sliced horizontally and only the top half, the white meat, is served. The crisped skin of the airline breasts and deliciously lumpy mashed potatoes would make any home cook proud, as long as they had a handful of herbs and a salt shaker nearby.
I'm not sure if under-seasoning is a deliberate choice, but many of the main courses that I try border on bland. The tuna encrusted with sesame seeds is surprisingly so, except for the sharp addition of pickled ginger. A saffron seafood pasta, its overcooked strands the consistency of white bread, lacks salt.
However, the curried lentil bowl of nutty quinoa adorned with minted peppers, dressed in tamarind and sporting a fluffy bread beret, is dubbed outstanding by my carnivorous companion.
The Daily serves a menu as long as a yardstick and with almost as many divisions. I recommend trying the vegan pizza topped with grilled asparagus and zucchini. You'll never miss the mozzarella. For the truly abstemious, there's a gluten-free option. Notable too are the number of vegetables offered as side dishes. According to our server, the crispy Brussels sprouts and sesame-steamed kale are the best-sellers.
The wine list is composed of classic California favorites, such as Rombauer Chardonnay, that you'll recognize from the Richmond Restaurant Group's other lists.
Start with a kombucha-laced martini, toss in some Edison light bulbs that no city restaurant opens without these days, and mix. Yields one trendy blend that won't scare the money or the honey out of Carytown's newest hotspot
The Daily Kitchen and Bar
2934 W. Cary St., 342-8990 or thedailykitchenandbar.com
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Prices: Lunch $8 to $15; dinner $9 to $25