IN YOUR HEART, YOU KNOW IT’S MOM: Who around here is old enough to remember Barry Goldwater’s campaign slogan from his 1964 presidential bid? “In your heart, you know he’s right”?Well, I got to thinking about that as I enjoyed some delicious appetizers the other day over at Ya Ya’s Cookbook in Downtown Short Pump shopping center. Mom’s Siam Authentic Thai has long been one of my very favorite restaurants. Often, I forget that right out in Short Pump, there’s another version of Mom’s great lineup of area restaurants – Ya Ya’s Cookbook. While the emphasis may be more on Thai street food, the cuisine, the tastes and flavors truly reflect the genius of the woman who, with her two sons, has built somewhat of a local restaurant empire. Ya Ya’s has a cool West End vibe, but basically, you could call it Mom’s Siam West. So, if you’re as big a fan of Mom’s Siam as am I, you know what to do.
A FRIENDLY FUSION: Longtime friends Eddie Liu and Philip Lin have put their restaurateur-like heads together to create one of Chesterfield County’s newest restaurants. The two men met about 20 years ago when both were working at Kabuto House of Steaks on West Broad Street. Both men went on to open restaurants on their own, but have now joined forces to create Ocean Blue in Westcheser Commons (15871 WC Main St.). GM Mitchell Younce says the menu features Asian fusion as well as sushi. The restaurant, which opened at the end of June, also offers a full-service bar and a Happy Hour daily from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
DOING IT YOUR WAY: You like extra garlic or extra sausage on your pizza. You got it. You want just a little onion. No problem. No problem, that is, when you make sure your pie is a Your Pie pie. Your Pie at 15720 WC Main St is another newcomer to the Westchester Commons dining scene. Robert Estevez and Steve Pearce are the lcoal franchisees. I spoke with Robert, who tells me that this is the first restaurant venture for either man. He says his wife discovered a Your Pie restaurant in Virginia Beach and told him about it.
Robert tells me that he liked the concept and that the founders of this Georgia-based chain put the focus on quality and customer service. “These are pizza people who started a franchise,” he says, “not franchise people who happened to be doing pizza.” Personally, there’s a lot that I found to like during my visit to Your Pie. First, not
only is the pizza delicious, but I had just what I wanted. The concept is you pick your personal 10” pizza, have it customized (dough, sauce, toppings) the way you like it and then you eat it. Simple enough. The same goes for the salads and paninis. Another thing I liked was their relatively small but well-chosen selection of craft beers. Robert says the company lets the local franchisees pick the beers that work in their particular area. I noticed a couple of brews from Coelacanth Brewing in Norfolk and Studio Brew in Bristol. I haven’t seen these beers in too many locations around Richmond. And they both do some great stuff.
Your Pie also offers delicious Italian getlato. A single scoop was about $1.80, which might make it the cheapest ice cream in town, not counting McDonalds. Bottom line: I like the place. Robert tells me that he and his business partner are searching for other locations in the Richmond area.
FORTUNATO COOKIES: While in Roanoke on a recent press trip, which was more of a brewery-hopping-tasting trip, I discovered what may be one of the best Italian restaurants that I’ve ever visited. My tastebuds tend to gravitate towards Italian foods. I’ve never had a bad Italian meal, but, then again, I rarely find an exceptional Italian restaurant that simply blows me away. There are a couple in Richmond that do. But Fortunato, a cozy, little place tucked away on a side street (104 Kirk Ave.) in downtown Roanoke did just that – blew me away. I was dining alone, which is the worst way to eat Italian. You need loud, happy conversation to eat Italian food and sip a little wine. I had neither, except for a very friendly and helpful server.
The worst thing about dining alone is that you can’t dip into everyone’s plate for a taste. I tried it
with the people at the next table and they looked at me like I was the one that was crazy. Anyway, I had to be content with my selections. I started with the bread and olive oil. They use their pizza dough to make the bread. I didn’t have the pizza, but I can tell you that the bread was delicious. I was so filled from the bread that I knew I couldn’t handle an entrée. I was about to go for the mussels and clams in a sauce made with white wine, butter, garlic, fresh herbs and calabrese peppers, but I heard the server telling the folks at the next table that the calamari was the best in the state. I’m easily swayed. He may have been right. The calamari is sauteed in a red pepper and garlic sauce. Wow, was it good! The Caprese salad was very fresh and very good. I want to go back with a group and try more from the tempting menu. Who’s up for a road trip?
WHERE’S RUFUS T. FIREFLY: If you are the first to explain why this allusion fits the dish, I’ll give you a $25 dining gift certificate. The first email to Tastebudz@RichmondNavigator.com with the correct answer wins. I enjoyed an amazing soup this week at Temple (2713 W. Broad).The restaurant offers delicious Laotian cuisine with an emphasis on soups. I had the Guay Teaw Pet. The huge bowl of soup features a roasted leg of duck cooked in a duck bone broth with rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, Thai celery, bean sprouts, cilantro and garlic oil. The tender meat just falls off the bone. To describe it as a sweet dish would be misleading, but there is a slightly sweet taste, which makes this a very unique and very tasty dish. I want to enjoy it again on a chilly fall afternoon. AN UPDATE: Someone won this so quickly, that I’m leaving the contest open for one more winner.
ON A FINAL NOTE: Before we take a look at the entertainment around town this weekend, I just want to mention our visit to the Wine Loft (4035 Whittall Way, in West Broad Village) last night to listen to the amazing Kari Smith. She appears there every Thursday night, starting at 8. The Wine Loft is the perfect spot to listen to her eclectic choice of songs. She’ll gladly take requests. Ask her to do Ben Folds, The Luckiest.
And, as for the food, no one does elegant small plates any better than the folks at the Wine Loft. We had the hot seafood dip. There must be a lot of delicious crab meat in that because that was the taste that stood out. It was excellent. The Baked Brie en Croute’ was also outstanding. It’s described on the menu as a “Triple creamed Brie wrapped in puff pastry and topped with roasted nuts, honey & balsamic reduction.”
Now, as for some music with your meal this weekend, here are my very subjective picks:
Friday, September 14
Gypsy Roots – The Iron Horse Resaurant (9 p.m.)
Clarence “The Blues Man” Turner – The Camel (5 p.m.) Presented by the River City Blues Society
Saturday, September 15
Diamond Heist – Cary Street Café 2 p.m. How about a Neil Diamond tribute show? Might be a good diversion for a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Motorvators – The Iron Horse Restaurant (9 p.m.) – A “kick-butt” classic rock band.
Sunday, September 16
Kari Smith – Rare Olde Times (7 p.m.) If you missed her at the Wine Loft, here’s your chance to enjoy her at this West End landmark.
That’s all I wrote for today. If you’d like to share your restaurant news or tell us about a pleasant dining experience, drop us a line. Our email is Tastebudz@RichmondNavigator.com. If you’re into the local food scene, check out our array of lifestyle magazines. We publish Chesterfield Living, Hanover Lifestyle, River City and West End’s Best. Read ’em in print or go to the RichmondNavigator.com homepage and read the complete magazines in digital format.