The Jefferson Hotel has been a Richmond institution since opening in 1895, and Lemaire has been its culinary go-to since it opened in 1986, in the space that was originally the ladies’ parlor. Lemaire, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s White House maître d’hôtel (he is said to have introduced Americans to the art of cooking with wine), has been under the guidance of executive chef and native Virginian Walter Bundy since 2001. Lemaire’s stated philosophy is to offer “extraordinary Virginia ingredients in an affordable and delicious format,” featuring upscale Southern cuisine that honors traditions while providing a modern, fresh approach. Bundy, who once worked at The French Laundry, has transformed Lemaire from a place for special occasions to a more casual venue that allows guests to enjoy a fine-dining experience in a less formal setting, thanks to a six-month renovation and a reimagining of the restaurant’s mission.
Those extraordinary Virginia ingredients include Tom and Ann Gallivan’s Shooting Point Oysters, Jo and Rob’s Manakintowne Farms lettuces, Jamerson Farms rabbit, Byrd Mill grits, and Kite's Country Hams. Look for dishes like chicken-fried Chesapeake bay oysters; rum-scented jumbo sea scallops with parsnip-coconut ravioli, romanesco, chile oil, and blood orange butter; and coffee- and brown sugar-glazed pork loin chop with Anson Mills polenta, slab bacon, and bourbon jus. Keep an eye out for alligators on waiters’ ties, barstool upholstery, and even in the restaurant’s logo, a reference to the baby alligators that Richmonders wintering in Florida brought back with them to live in the marble pools in the Palm Court lobby, off of which Lemaire is located (the last alligator lived at the hotel until 1948).
— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Restaurants, April 1, 2015