Voilà, in the Freemason section of downtown Norfolk, continues to be a little gem.
Located on the other side of the light rail tracks from where Botetourt Street meets Brambleton Avenue, the restaurant sits tucked away in one of the city’s oldest historic neighborhoods, complete with cobblestone streets and some of the few surviving antebellum houses on this side of the Elizabeth River. It bills itself as “cuisine internationale” but is at heart predominantly French, with a little bit of Greek incorporated by the newest owners.
This room would not be out of place in Paris.
Relatively small, the space provides a cozy intimate setting to its evening offerings. Sound and light are muted by fabric hangings, and cloth-set tables sit among various pieces of impressionist art and Virginia Opera posters.
On the evening of our visit we had our choice of the regular French-inspired menu or the evening’s three course fixed price meal ($30). I really like that some places are offering this sort of option at times other than Restaurant Week. It provides the opportunity to enjoy the arc of a meal and sample more of what a chef has to offer.
The chef began our meal with an amuse bouche of honey-braised leek served on thin crostini with a dab of goat cheese. Drizzled with honey, the little bite served its purpose by whetting our appetites for what was yet to come.
Up next was an enjoyable Salade Roquette ($9). This fresh arugula salad was adorned with dried apricots, candied walnuts, goat cheese, and slices of sour apple. A light dressing of ginger vinaigrette rounded off the experience.
The Moules Provencale ($11 for a regular portion) were an appetizer selection of the fixed menu. These mussels were prepared in a light wine cream sauce with garlic, Bermuda onions and tomatoes. The preparation hit the spot and the provided bread made the sauce all the more enjoyable.
Our second appetizer from the fixed menu was the escargots ($9 for a regular portion). This dish did not work for me. While the snails, themselves, were tender and cooked well, the accompanying white wine sauce with butter, parsley garlic and red peppers was overly thickened. The resulting texture and flavor muted that of the snails.
That same sauce was used to similar effect on the Poulet Cordon Bleu
($19 for a regular portion), which started our main dishes.
The thinly pounded chicken breast was stuffed with prosciutto and gruyere, then breaded, sauted and sliced into medallions. These were arranged with red pepper and broccoli over garlic mashed potatoes and sauced. Despite the previously mentioned problem with the sauce, the chicken was tender and the preparation flavorful.
Also enjoyable was the Solomos Exohiko ($22), a wonderful menu nod from Voilà’s Greek chef. The salmon was seared, topped with spinach, feta and dill, and then baked in a filo dough crust. This was then sauced with Avgolemono, the classic Greek egg- lemon sauce, and served with asparagus. This dish worked all around.
Voilà’s version of bouillabaisse ($22) was hearty and very tasty. Shrimp, clams, mussels and fish were cooked in a darkly rich and wonderfully spiced broth. My only issue was with the menu calling out the fish as “fresh catch.” The tilapia identified by our waiter does not fit this advertising as it is a commercially farmed fish. Seasonal rock or anything from the ocean would have fit the moniker.
We also went with the Steak Frites from the fixed menu ($16 for a regular portion). In this classic bistro dish, seared flat iron steak was served with French fries and a side of demi-glace. The fries were crispy, and the lightly seasoned, flavorful steak was perfectly cooked.
We finished off our very pleasant evening with two wonderful desserts.
The Galaktoboureko was a traditional greek filo dough pastry baked with a custard interior and drizzled with honey. I loved it that night – and as a breakfast pastry with coffee the following morning.
Our last dessert was the chocolate mousse. In this version a martini glass is filled with the light, delectable chocolate concoction, then finished off with shaved curls of white and dark chocolate and a caramel drizzle.
I liked Voilà. The service was attentive without being overbearing. The prices are reasonable for the food, and I enjoy that they offer two- and three-course fixed price meals. It was cozy, comfortable and reminded me of traveling in Europe.