Wow, it’s been a whirlwind week, foodwise. However, I did things somewhat differently this week. I spent as much time talking food as eating it. While I prefer eating to talking, I’ll have to admit that I spoke with so many interesting folks, it made for a few fascinating hours and I didn’t gain any weight. I’ll be sharing a lot of the details of my conversations with you either online or in future articles, but I do have some newsy things to talk about.
GARDEN PARTING: You remember the old Joy Garden Chinese restaurant at 2918 W. Broad, which closed down about two years ago after nearly 60 years in business? Well, you gotta see what they’ve done to the place. By “they” I mean Richmond chef/owner Mike LeDesma and his team who have been laboring to turn the old Joy Garden into one of the most beautiful new dining spots in the entire region, Perch. Part of that team includes Helen Reed, the award-winning interior designer as well as architects Dave Johannas and Daniel Wassum with Johannas Design Group.
The restaurant is still several weeks away from opening, but I had the opportunity to meet Mike and Kristel Poole, who’ll be serving as the GM and beverage director at Perch. Kristel tells me that the restaurant will be a place where Hawaiian and Phillipino cuisines meet Virginia. The open kitchen area features a specially made wood-burning oven as well as a chef’s counter, which can be reserved for custom designed eight- or nine-course dinners, with pairings. . I’ll tell you more when we get closer to opening date. Remind me to tell you the story behind the 11-foot door leading into the restaurant.
JOINT EFFORT: I sat down with four of the coolest sommeliers that you’d ever hope to meet this past week. We were working on a wine piece in the upcoming River City Magazine.
The group of consisted of Lyne and Randall Doetzer, Donnie Glass and Brian Artis. Through the course of the conversation, I learned that two of these folks are working on bringing a couple of new restaurants to town. Randall, who is both a certified sommelier and a chef for the past 22 years or so, is keeping his restaurant plans rather close to the vest. Lyne will probably be working with him in that regard, but, currently she is a level two sommelier at The Stables at Belmont. Brian is the wine manager at Can Can Brasserie. I’ll be telling you a lot more about them in the next issue of the magazine.
But as far as new restaurant news goes, I was especially interested in the little tidbit that Donnie shared. He’s bringing what he describes as a neighborhood joint keying on the working class. “We in restaurants work for a living,” he says. “We want to be a restaurant with a price point so that people who work in restaurants can come in regularly.” Sounds cool to me. Maybe this will be one place that I can afford to go. Even the name of the restaurant, Grisette, pays homage to his appreciation for the working class. “Grisette,” he says, “has a handful of meanings. “ It primarily was used refer to a French working-class woman from the late 17th century. “Think Rosie the Riveter with guillotines,” Donnie says. The Church Hill restaurant will be located on Marshall Street and as for an opening date, Donnie says, “Absolutely by the end of the year. I hope sooner.”
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: I’ve learned to greet some of my Napali friends with the term, “Namaste.” It’s a regional greeting both in Napal and India. It’s also the inspiration for the name of chef Mel Oza’s new restaurant, Nama, which he’ll be opening along with Kunal Shah at 13-15 W. Broad St., probably in November. I had another interesting sit down this week with Mel. We shared a little wine and some delicious cheeses with Paul Heitz , owner of the now closed Amour Wine Bistro.
The new digs will actually consist of two cool dining spots sharing one vestibule. Nama, your not-so-everyday Indian restaurant will be on the left. On the right, you’ll discover a cool city bar named Switch. That name refers to the frequently changing décor and theme of the bar, says Mel, adding, “We’ll also have guest bartenders.”
As for Nama, it will be a definite switch from what you may have come to expect in an Indian restaurant in Richmond. “We’ll be doing things differently,” Mel assures me, adding that the menu will spotlight foods from other regions of india, which you don’t normally see. He shared quite a bit more about the concept, but since we’re still a few months away, I’ll save that for another day.
CRUISING FOR A BREWSING: It’s time to welcome a new Taste Bud, Joni Watling. Joni is an old friend, who has just recently moved from Minnesota to Richmond. And as any good Minnesotan girl, she can turn the world on with her smile. Joni files this TasteBudz blurb about a new brewery headed into town.
I cut my beauty sleep short Wednesday morning to get a sneak peek of Tabol (pronounced “table”) Brewing on the Northside. They are making good progress on converting the 8,000 square-foot former glass fabrication shop on Dawn street into an attractive, small batch brewery and tasting room. Unfortunately, because it was before 9 a.m., they were pouring Commercial Coffee instead of beer. It was a little torturous since I was surrounded in the front room of the brewery by towering oak barrels, aging soon-to-be released ales and sours. It felt like they were taunting me, but maybe I was just dreaming. With an anticipated ten beers on tap, the grand opening is projected for late September or early October, so stay tuned for more details.
Thanks Joni. Welcome to the imbibel belt.
MY THAI MOM: I did have one truly delightful meal this week and it was at what has been a
longtime favorite, Mom’s Siam. I stopped in, as I’m wont to do from time to time, to have a light lunch. I could not decide what I wanted. I was feeling daring and adventurous. I mentioned that to Haley, one of the newer servers there and she suggested I try the Spicy Garden. Wow, what a great suggestion. The dish is listed as a vegetarian entry, but I remedied that by adding the chicken (only a dollar more). The flavors of the stir-fried veggies melded perfectly with the spicy chili sauce to create an explosion of flavors that Mom (Sue Palaart) does so well.
DILL M FOR MEALTIME: Okay, I actually had two great meals this week. I was back out with some friends to the Pickel Barrel. Everyone that I take out there becomes a loyal and regular customer. If you’re looking for just plain ol’ good home cookin’, this is the place. I had the wings this visit. They were excellent. It’s nothing fancy. It’s just plain good.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Let’s take a look at our weekend entertainment picks
Friday, August 24
Side Track Band – Rare Olde Times (8 p.m.) The Soul of Rock and Roll plays music from the 70s to today.
Saturday, August 25
The Come Hears – Cary Street Café (2 p.m.) Acoustic Rock in the afternoon at this cool, almost-Carytown hangout.
Cha Cha’s Cadillac – Bears Hideaway (8 p.m.) This group has as much energy as they do pure unadulterated talent. If you haven’t heard ‘em, hit the Hideaway on Saturday night.
The Killer B’s – Rare Olde Times (8 p.m.) This 5 piece band plays danceable classic rock music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
The Taters – JJs Grille (8 p.m.) No, I won’t go one week without mentioning the multi-talented Taters. Whether they’re doing covers or their own stuff, the guys are great.
Sunday, August 26
Susan Greenbaum & Janet Martin – The Camel (Noon) Two of Richmond’s most talented and lovely songbirds (okay, I just kind of made that term up) will be together on stage as a Brunch-time treat.
Alrighty, that’s a wrap for today. I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any restaurant news, a juicy little tidbit or just a great dining experience? If so, email us at Tastebudz@RichmondNavigator.com.