By Olivia Overman, Contributing Writer
It was an unsuccessful search to find a unique restaurant to celebrate their wedding anniversary that led Gainesville couple James and Barbara McGillivray to open one of their own. While looking for a special place to eat in Gainesville, James McGillivray recalled a dining experience from a vacation in Singapore 12 years ago. There, he enjoyed a meal of healthful food cooked on a hot rock and seasoned with salt harvested from the Himalayas.
The pair decided to harness this concept themselves, opening Volcano Hot Stone Grill in Gainesville on Sept. 25, 2012. The eatery incorporates their desire to promote healthier eating and a fun and interactive dining experience, the McGillivrays said.
James McGillivray brings to their new business more than two decades of experience in the hospitality and restaurant industry. He has operated both fine dining and family restaurants, as well as cafeterias, resort bars and conference services. He was general manager for a number of hotels and resorts over the years,including the Westin Washington Dulles Airport, as well as Blue Mountain Resorts Limited in Ontario, Canada, where he worked for several years as a member of the executive team. Barbara McGillivray was also employed there.
Cook It to Your Taste
Volcano Hot Stone Grill’s interactive dining experience includes appetizers and desserts served fondue style, with small pieces of food that can be dipped into hot oil for cooking or sauce for flavoring. Main entrees arrive with an extremely hot volcanic stone slab upon which patrons can cook their own food.
“A server will bring a plate with a hot volcanic rock for each person. Each rock will be about 550 degrees Fahrenheit,” said James McGillivray. “To reach this temperature, the rocks are heated for approximately five to seven hours in specially designed ovens.” Depending on the entree, servers bring the meat partially cooked or completely raw for customers to cook to taste.
Volcanic rocks are thought to cook food in a healthier manner than conventional Western methods, the McGillivrays explained. “It is a pure form of cooking with no marinating, no processed food used, with Himalayan salt used as the main seasoning,” Barbara McGillivray said.
The often-pinkish Himalayan salt is mined by hand and found deep within the Himalayan Mountains, she added. It contains several minerals and is believed to provide numerous health benefits, she said, making it preferable to cooking with iodized salt. “[Himalayan salt] is the main seasoning and it is used in a system that complements a high-quality, more healthier meal. It allows the consumer to try different meats in a simple manner, and, therefore, taste the real flavor of the meat,” she said.
This focus on healthier dining extends to other ingredients used at the restaurant. “We also serve a lot of salads and vegetable dishes. We choose lean meats, such as bison, which are also lower in cholesterol, and we trim the fat to create a [healthful] meal,” said Barbara McGillivray. “We create gluten-free meals by substituting the bread for dipping with our fresh vegetables.”
Executive Chef Marco Ortube has also created in-house dipping sauces, using ingredients such as horseradish and red wine. Each entree is served with these sauces.
Also Offers Taste of Exotic
In addition to American fare, Volcanic Hot Stone Grill’s menu offerings include a variety of exotic meats, such as rabbit sausage, kangaroo, elk, wild boar, camel and llama. These appear on the “Wild Plate” menu, which changes regularly based on availability. The McGillivrays use a New Jersey supplier, who ships their orders overnight, James McGillivray said. The restaurant’s volcanic rocks come from a supplier located in San Jose, Calif.
Tamer palettes can still enjoy burgers and the classic tenderloin steak, from grain-fed cattle and imported from New Zealand. “What sets it apart from other steaks is that each bite is equally as tender because you are cooking each piece individually,” said customer Kara Graham of Manassas. The restaurant also offers bison steak.
Manassas resident Travis Cox and his friend Camila Perez, visiting from North Carolina, followed the recommendations of friends to try Volcano Hot Stone Grill. “We had the cheese fondue for an appetizer, and it was very good,” said Cox, adding that they needed reservations for the popular dining spot.
“We have a lot of regulars now that have been built up through word of mouth,” James McGillivray said.
Plan Your Dining Adventure
The restaurant’s “Lava Bar,” adjacent to the dining area, offers $5 appetizers and cocktails from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. “It’s a place where people like to come for a drink after work or gather before their table is ready,” said James McGillivray. The bar also has specialty, sharable “erupting” drinks.
Volcano Hot Stone Grill, which is located at 14706 Lee Highway in Gainesville, opens at 4 p.m. daily, with the last seating at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Give a minimum of 48 hours prior notice, and the restaurant will open for lunch for groups of 10 or more. Private parties can also be booked. To learn more or make reservations, visit www.volcanohotstone.com or call 571-421-2710.
A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman writes articles for online and print publications. Overman can be reached at [email protected]