When my friend Dana and I walked into CAVU Kitchen Bar, the Hilton Hotel’s sleek new restaurant on Minoru Boulevard, one of the first things we noticed was that the ceiling was labeled “ceiling.” We found that both amusing and straight up odd; then we discovered they were not, in fact, worried they would misplace the ceiling if it wasn’t labelled. The restaurant’s name, CAVU, comes from aviation term meaning “Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited.” Apparently, it’s a term commonly used by pilots to refer to anything that’s desirable, and as far as food and service go, that’s what the CAVU staff are striving for. So, in a playful gesture, they labeled their ceiling!
Chef Alex Hancock and Sous Chef Edison Antejos have created a menu that manages to be familiar, and yet eclectic enough that it’s unique in Richmond. They call it “The best of the west….with a twist.”
The dinner menu features culinary influences from Europe (Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew), the east coast (Lobsta Burger), America’s deep south (Cilantro Baby Back Ribs with Jalapeno Cornbread), right here on the west coast (Pacific Salmon and CAVU Crisps), and many others.
It was difficult to pick – so much of the menu looked genuinely good. We settled on four items to split between the two of us:
Yam Waffle Chips
Who can say no to deep-fried yams? No one, that’s who. They were spiced with togarashi (a Japanese chili spice blend) and served with sesame mayo and kimchi ketchup. I’d never before experienced kimchi blended into ketchup (which was a housemade version, I’m assuming), and I’m pleased to tell you it’s a BRILLIANT idea. From now on, it’s kimchi ketchup or bust!
We needed a salad, and this one had me at “charred broccolini.” I love that stuff. Typically, a caprese salad features tomatoes, fresh cheese, and basil, but CAVU’s ‘moderno’ version added more to the mix; it also included marinated tomatoes, roasted red peppers, arugula pesto, Okanagan goat cheese (local, hurrah!), and toasted almonds. It was beautifully plated, light, and refreshing. The greens we needed before our GIANT PLATES OF MEAT arrived, the first being the…..
Cilantro Baby Back Ribs
These came with jalapeno cornbread, coleslaw, and a little bucket of CAVU crisps (shaved and fried cassava root), which were paper-thin, extremely crunchy, and seasoned with salt and a bit of spice.
If you order this dish, you’ll want to take advantage of the bowl of lemon water they bring alongside it, as well as a pile of wet wipes. The ribs – as all good ribs should be – are a sticky mess, their sweet glaze offset by the savoury meat. They’re like awesome, awesome meat candy.
Of all the dishes, this was the most gorgeously crafted plate. The lamb kofta (ground, seasoned, and BBQ’d lamb) and braised lamb shank were smartly paired with carrot hummus, fresh mint salad (the perfect complement), peppers, and a “sweet n’ sumac” jus.
I’m a complete sucker for sumac, the tart and tangy spice made of dried and ground red sumac berries. It’s extremely popular in Greece and the Middle East; I was first introduced to it by two Israeli friends, and have been hooked ever since.
We were too full for dessert. I’m not joking. That was a LOT of meat. However, the offerings did look tempting, and I would definitely wear stretchier pants and try them next time.
Congratulations to the team at CAVU on your recent grand opening, and your very impressive menu! I’m also pleased to know that whenever I visit, I’ll never been uncertain about which way is up.