Virago is a very cool place. So cool that they kinda hide the door from you. The entry to the restaurant is down a little alley and to the left, with only a tiny sign giving any indication you're in the right place. I'll be honest and say that we scoped out the wrong end of the building before doing a face-plam and walking down the alley to find the actual door. On the way we walked passed this beautiful outdoor patio which I can only imagine is blissful in the summertime.
The decor of Virago has major sex appeal. Everything is dark with low lighting, warm tones and comfortable seats. Everyone looks sexy in low-light and I realized that this is a perfect date spot. Why in my many years of dating in Nashville did no dude ever take me here? WHY? Overall, it reminded me of some of the fancier hotels I have been in. This place is very hip and I thought I wouldn't be cool enough to get a table or get the staff to look at me. I was quite wrong about that. The clientele were just regular people out for a nice meal. There were regularly dressed people my age, some bedazzled ladies ready for a night on the town, and a table that looked like my parents. I guess I shouldn't stress about stuff like this- but I do.
The cocktail list was very impressive and many of the drinks sounded good, making it a tough choice. I ordered the pear-lavender cocktail made with gin, lavender syrup and pear nectar. I really loved this drink and I might come back just to sip it at the bar. It had a gentle floral flavor that enhanced the notes in the gin. Steve ordered the ginger and lychee mojito and it was very sweet from the lychee flavor. But it was a subtle, light sweetness. It was good, but I liked mine better.
For an appetizer we chose the ninja bacon, which is a crispy pork belly covered in squid ink after it's been cooked sous vide for 40 hours. It's served with red curry and coconut milk gels and dehydrated pineapple powder. YOWZA! That's a lot of flavors but it all worked really nicely together. The dehydrated pineapple was light and fluffy and added just a bit of sweet before it melted away in your mouth. I especially liked the mixture of the sweet coconut milk gel with the saltiness of the pork belly.
We went all out on the sushi. The first roll was the Phantom (tempura calamari, poblano pepper, cucumber, and avocado wrapped in black rice with soy tobiko, balsamic soy, sriracha). This roll was really soft on the palate and it seemed to melt in your mouth. I was quite happy that the soy didn't overpower the roll, making it taste like salt and nothing else. Everything blended well together, and I love the sushi chef's attention to detail in the presentation.
Next up was the honey fire (tempura shrimp, eel, Asian pear, jalapeño and honey fire sauce), which had a pleasing sweet and tangy heat that was very addicting. This sauce would make some killer chicken wings, just saying. I loved the crunch of the fresh roe on top but I wish the eel was just a tad bit warmer. I like my eel warm because it creates a nice opposition to the cold rice and veggies.
Next up was the white dragon (shrimp, tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled onions, cilantro and wasabi mayo, wrapped in hamachi and topped with sesame). The hamachi was very fresh and of very high quality. I loved the addition of the fresh scallion which added a fresh cooling flavor to balance out the heat of the sriracha.
For dessert we got a sweet sushi roll: The Hawaii Five-O (soy wrap, hamachi, escolar, hearts of palm, avocado, cream cheese and mango inside, rolled in toasted coconut, wrapped in kiwi, topped with honey fire sauce and macadamia nuts). There was so much going on here, but again the complexity worked out nicely. This roll also used that amazing honey fire sauce, but mixed with the fresh fruit and cream cheese it became more sweet. The toasted coconut covered the rice and was amazingly delicious. The only sad thing here was that the taste of the fish itself got buried under all the other flavors.
I loved my dinner at Virago. Every dish was well prepared and beautifully presented. The cocktail list is outstanding and the service was topnotch. Now that I know Virago is amazing and not "too-cool-for-school," I'll be back for sure.