Rating = 2.5 stars
Let's talk about BlowToad.
This was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings I have heard about in Richmond for a while. My guess is because: 1. It is located in Carytown right across from The Byrd Theater, and 2. because of it's name.
One comment on the name. While this probably gets alot of people curious about what your restaurant is all about, it is also very weird and kind of nasty sounding...so not sure which way you want to go.
The name actually comes from a type of fish, pictured below, alive, and cooked.
|Photo credited to Kendra Morris - http://fatbackandfoiegras.blogspot.com/|
BlowToad serves this gorgeous fish as an appetizer, which we of course had to try, since obviously it is delicious enough to name a restaurant after. Unfortunately after tasting it, it wasn't that obvious to me... It was pretty bland, the batter was kind of greasy, and you have to eat it like a drumstick. I don't know, I guess I just expected more.
Now, to be fair to this place, we went here on the second night they were officially open, on a Saturday, with a group of 7. Note: Do not ever do this...anywhere. A friend suggested we go and if I had known they had just opened, I would have argued against it, so I feel this review has been somewhat colored by those circumstances.
So we walk in a little before 8 to, of course, a packed house. And in reality this place is not very big, especially the way they have chosen to set it up. The bar is right up front, so anyone waiting is going to be standing in this area, which makes it a little overwhelming at first, and you have to walk through the bar to get to the hostess stand. Adjacent to the bar are two tall, yet very skinny bar tables, luckily we were able to eventually grab one of these to sit at while we waited out our 45 minutes to get a table. The bar tables are good looking but it would be very difficult for a group to actually eat at them, as there is definitely not enough room for every one's food, so sadly, I feel like there is some wasted space there. Also, there are two large screen TVs playing ESPN at the bar, definitely causing you to feel you are not in a really upscale or posh atmosphere. The main dining room is thankfully separated from the bar by a wall, so though we did not get to sit over there, I assume it is much quieter, calmer, and more spread out than the bar area.
About the 45 minutes, that is totally expected of a new place on a Saturday with a group of 7. Unfortunately it turned into more like an hour and a half, while we watched one large table be cleared and have no one seated at it for 20 minutes, and then watched our actual table sit empty and uncleared for another 20 minutes before anyone noticed and came to clean it up for us... Let's be nice though and chalk that up to it being just opened and working out the kinks. We got some wine from the bar and were able to chat for a while, so it was nice...right?
When we did finally get seated, I asked the table next to us what they thought of the pizza they had ordered, because, unlike what you would assume due to the name, this place is really a wood fired pizza grill (surprised?). They said the pizza was good, but was too salty. I said ok thank you and turned back to my table, but apparently it was really really too salty because they brought it up to me twice more before they departed, so, yeah.
Ok, time for dinner, finally. We ordered another bottle of wine, and then tried the blow toads (see above). Then it came time to order the meal. Apparently this place is trying very hard to be tech savvy. The waiters actually use iPads instead of paper pads to take your order. Cool right? And I assume this shoots your order right back to the kitchen, which saves on time right? Not so much. Our waiter had to wait several seconds for his iPad to unfreeze to take the order, and then of course it takes longer to punch buttons and such than write things down in short hand. And then, just as our final person ordered he got a message on his iPad that they only had 6 chicken wings left in the kitchen. Well we had two people ordering 6 wings. In the time it took to decide who would take them, another table ordered them with their waiter's handy dandy iPad, so booyah, no chicken wings! I don't know, I just see this causing alot more trouble in the future. Oh, they also let you know your table is ready by calling your cell phone, so make sure you bring one of those with you.
The menu is not very extensive I must say, which I was surprised by since it is not really upper scale food. And two of our friends were very disappointed that there was copy in the menu about a cheeseburger which come to find out that is only available at lunch. I would highly recommend that the burger be added to the dinner menu as well. After finally getting everything ordered we started to enjoy ourselves now that we were more comfortably seated. We were also close enough to the next table (very close) to be able to enjoy a conversation with them as well, so that is good, if you like that sort of thing.
Eventually the dinners came out, luckily the time waiting for food was not bad at all. I must say, my pepperoni pizza was very good, I did not find it too salty, and it was a generous size, though I am not sure $13-15 is that great of a price. (In my opinion Bellytimber's is better and cheaper) It appeared that everyone else also enjoyed their dishes. I did not hear many complaints. We chose not opt for desert since it was now almost 10:30 and instead opted for the check. But unfortunately we got someone else's, and once that was fixed we were informed they couldn't run but so many credit cards per table (5 or 6 was the limit I believe) so that added another 15 minutes to our evening at BlowToad. Can someone explain to me why you can call my cell phone to tell me my table is ready, and can use an iPad to take my order, but can't run 7 credit cards? So on that pleasant note we made our departure.
Honestly, I am not really sure what to tell you about BlowToad. I guess it was so hyped up I was rather disappointed, just by what it ended up being and the overall experience. I am sure they will work out the service kinks in time, but I am not sure the limited menu and confusing atmosphere will get any better. When we were there my friend made the comment "I am not really sure what this place is trying to be, is it a sports bar or a posh restaurant?" I am right there with him. Let me know if you figure it out.