Read our newest Alexander’s restaurant review.
You never see an advertisement for Alexander’s, yet the small downtown restaurant, specializing in French dishes, is usually crowded.
The first Saturday night we visited was no exception. Not only was it full of patrons, but there were servers everywhere, skirting from table to table, delivering entrées, filling drinks, inquiring about the food. The atmosphere was cheery and bright with nice music overhead.
We were seated immediately, and drinks were brought very quickly. Shortly after the menus arrived, our very hospitable and somewhat shy waitress asked if we were ready to order. Appetizer choices included cauliflower bisque with a gorgonzola croute (small piece of toast on top), linguine with sautéed shrimp and artichoke cream, which could also be made into an entrée, and Louisiana crawfish cake, with cilantro aioli (garlic sauce), lemon oil and chopped tomatoes. Kevin ordered the soup and I opted for the crawfish cake.
The appetizers arrived in a few minutes. The soup was exceptional, rich yet not overwhelming, and the crawfish cake was superb. The crawfish was put together on the plate like a work of art, with the sauce, oil and tomatoes delicately arranged around it. Crawfish, which can easily taste too fishy, was fresh with a crisp breaded coating and soft inside.
The salads, which quickly followed the appetizer, featured mixed greens, apples and mushrooms, and fresh-grated parmesan. The combination blended sweet and sharp flavors and provided nice texture. Delicious mint couscous was served on the side.
The night’s specials were herb-crusted salmon and a mixed grill of lamb chops, shrimp and chicken breast served with rosemary jus. Alexander’s gets points for creative blends for everything – shrimp sautéed with spinach and white truffle butter sauce; sea scallops with citrus vinaigrette; grilled beef with gorgonzola butter, horseradish cream or wild mushroom sauce; pork chop and blackberry ancho chile glaze.
Many of the above dishes were partially written in French which for many translates into a lot of questions for the server or surprises when dinner arrives.
Our dinner soon followed the salads. I opted for a dinner-sized portion of the linguine with sautéed shrimp and artichoke cream. This included a generous portion of shrimp and a mild artichoke sauce. The dish was tasty, though it lacked a distinctive flavor outside the artichokes. On the side were asparagus, squash and carrots. Kevin tried the pork chop. Alexander’s specializes in combining opposing flavors – the tangy blackberries played off the spicy hot ancho chile sauce, bathing the meat in a savory medley. The entrée was, however, unusually fatty for a chop. More than expected went to waste.
The wait staff was highly attentive, filling water glasses as soon as they dropped an inch, and checking on us regularly, though our plates sat in front of us a bit long after we’d finished.
Dessert choices included tiramisu cake with espresso custard, lemon Napoleon with raspberry sauce and coconut cream “tart” with pineapple sauce. Though tart indicates a wrapped pastry in English, in French it simply means pie. Although I was expecting something finer, it was basically coconut cream pie – coconut cream filling on a pastry crust, whipped cream topping with coconut flakes, and a chunky pineapple sauce. It was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The second visit was also on a Saturday night. This time there were four of us, which gave plenty of opportunity to enjoy a variety of dishes. We had the same waitress as the time before, and she remembered us.
The evening’s soup was southwest corn and shrimp chowder, which three of us ordered. The broth was a bit thin for chowder, but very hot and very good. Smoked jalapeno chipotles lent a unique flavor to the blend, and there was plenty of shrimp and corn as well. Kevin ordered the chicken, artichoke and spinach linguini as an appetizer. The dish was similar to the shrimp and artichoke entrée I’d ordered on our last visit. The sauce was light and creamy and softly seasoned, and the portion was perfect for an appetizer.
Our guests enjoyed the salads, though one didn’t get that tasty mint couscous with hers. We didn’t complain about the oversight – she just tried a little of her husband’s. Something we hadn’t noticed before: the basil-infused sea salt, which adds quick seasoning to the salad or main dish. A little goes a long way.
One of our tablemates ordered the mixed grill for his main dish. Chicken, shrimp and pork were drizzled with lingonberry and port sauce. The pungent sauce really made the dish, according to him. On the side were mixed veggies – a yellow baby carrot and squash, with a fresh rosemary sprig for accent. His wife opted for the grilled sea scallops sautéed and served with citrus vinaigrette and oven-roasted tomatoes. She described the scallops as savory and perfectly prepared. The sauce was tangy yet not overpowering.
Kevin ordered the chicken saltimbocca garnished with smoked mozzarella. The chicken had prosciutto sprinkled on top, along with the mozzarella. Aside from the cheese and ham flavoring, the dish lacked distinction but was enjoyable nonetheless.
I had the swordfish with carmelized onions and chevre. It was delightful. The pairing of the slightly-sour cheese and mild fish was unlike anything I’d tasted. The onions provided a honeyed coating to the mix.
The service was excellent.
Our table tackled three different desserts. The bread pudding with white chocolate and amaretto, stuffed with peaches, was a fun alternative to the usual apples and raisins. The crème caramel was similar to crème brulee but without the crisp top. Mangoes and strawberries were served on the side, along with a traditional European whipped cream – sans sugar. The pecan tart was stuffed with nuts and came with vanilla ice cream and the aforementioned whipped cream on the side. It was traditionally flavored – just like one might make during the holidays.
Alexandra's Advice: Make your desserts as creative as your entrées, stay on top of sitting plates, and keep on bringing a taste of France to Southwest Virginia – but stick in some English translations here and there. Your cozy ambiance and plentiful wait staff make visiting Alexander’s a guaranteed treat.