If there were a hashtag to sum up Virginia’s, it would be #squadgoals. That’s because the welcoming East Village bistro is the work of an all-star lineup that sculpted its muscles in some of the country’s grandest kitchens: former Per Se sous chef Christian Ramos, Locanda Verde alum Reed Adelson, Alinea wine connoisseur Conrad Reddick and Roberta’s head pizzaiola Lauren Calhoun, all of whom met while working at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. Together, those kitchen credentials give the intimate spot a little-engine-that-could ambition, a mark it shares with similarly small-but-striving East Villagers, like Oiji and Noreetuh.
In a split dining room—decorated with tawny leather banquettes, vaulted ceilings and framed vintage menus collected by Adelson from iconic restaurants like Chanterelle and Troisgros—Ramos and Adelson serve a tidy New American menu dabbed with global colors: seared fleshy cuttlefish gets a smart lick of peppery togarashi mayonnaise and green garlic ($14), and unfussy hanger steak gets a dressing of Argentine chorizo and bok choy ($26).
Despite a division of small and large plates, portions are uniformly petite—peach fragments that accompany an otherwise lovely starter of grill-smoked white shrimp ($15) are miniscule enough that they’re virtually unidentifiable. Domino-size slips of roasted duck breast, nested with fermented soy bean and breakfast radishes ($24), also have a size issue, with those morsels of meat overcooked to the point of all chew and no melt. (You’ll need to fill out the meal with satisfying sides including meaty mushrooms with sunchokes; $8.)
But forget those menu bumps. The vibe that Virginia’s is going for—namely, an elegantly easygoing neighborhood restaurant—is its real detriment, especially considering the surrounding area is rife with equally casual though more exemplary eating (Alder, Prune). Virginia’s could be a great neighborhood restaurant—in any other neighborhood.