LFM: Balkan Restaurant


Cold Appetizer Platter

Cold Appetizer Platter


I’ve kept to the West End for the past year or two and usually ate at home. Whenever hubby and I do go out, Balkan Restaurant, is often suggested. Most of the time though, we’ve just come off a meat fest at home of steaks or kebabs, so we’re guilty of having not gone here for a while. I’m so glad the place seems to be doing well — there was a steady stream of customers when we went there on a Friday night. They even recently renovated their interior.

Their charcuterie platter above is unpretentious, and there’s no other word except it’s damn tasty. I would be happy to have this as a meal with a loaf their lepinja bread.

However, it’ll be a sin not to order any of their grilled meats because they’re seasoned and grilled to perfection. The chicken has a hint of lemon, their ground beef is juicy, and all of them have that fire taste that probably come from a charcoal grill (I’m not certain of this).


Grilled meat platter


For the winter months when grilling is not possible and you crave this kind of food, Balkan is a good option. They specialize in Bosnian fare. Of course if you prefer hearty stews, they always have their Hungarian goulash.

Hubby ordered the sausage and bean special and he absolutely loved it. Simple and satisfying.


Sausage and Beans plate


Balkan Restaurant

8905 Patterson Avenue

Richmond, VA 23239

Closed Mondays


previous review here: http://kitchenmusings.com/2010/12/29/lfm-balkan-restaurant/






Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen NYC: Fully loaded ramen with fresh and dried seaweed, bamboo shoot, shredded pork etc.

I know, I haven’t posted in a while because nothing interested me for the longest time. I was tired of the RVA food scene because it’s always about the next new restaurant and then the ones I really liked started closing. Case in point, Rocoto Chicken. I realized I’m more of a purist rather than a fusion type cuisine eater. I know I probably need to go to a larger city or maybe keep to the Near West End where most of the Asian restaurants don’t give a damn about Americanizing their cuisine.

On a recent trip to NY, I made it my mission to find the best ramen place. I’ve already been to Momofuku. I’ve tried Ippudo  in HK and didn’t like it too much so I was hesitant to try their NYC branch. Then I find out my favorite yakitori place, Yakitori Totto opened Totto Ramen. I didn’t waste time hauling ass over there at the first chance I got. Fifteen minutes before opening for their lunch hour there was a already a very long line. You sign yourself up on their clipboard and it is a cash-only place. I could quite possibly say, the ramen was life-altering. I finally understood the hype of an awesome ramen. The broth, the noodles, the egg . . . everything came together to deliver that piece of Nirvana. I left the cramped restaurant sated and fulfilled in more ways than one.

Totto ramen bowl 1

Totto ramen bowl 1

I returned with the hubby on another evening and this time I was prepared and we were the first customers to be seated.



Returning to Richmond, I see on my Facebook feed that a ramen pop-up has come to RVA. These were from people I trusted to know good ramen, so I was very excited. I tried to keep my expectations level after coming from a ramen high in NYC, but I am happy to report that Shoryuken Ramen delivered a satisfying bowl of goodness. The broth was fantastic, the pork that came with it was better than Totto Ramen, the noodles were cooked right … although I detected a floury taste.

Shoryuken ramen bowl

Shoryuken ramen bowl

From my own ramen experiments, I’ve noticed this when I had coated the noodles with too much flour because the dough was damn sticky.

Edited 12-30-2014 – returned on 12/30, the flour taste was gone. Clean tasty al-dente noodles!

I would love to have more options like additional: seaweed, egg, meat and noodles. But I understand that being a pop-up, this can prove to be a challenge. I would love to see a brick and mortar location, hopefully with easy parking please and I don’t care if it’s in a strip mall.

Shoryuken Ramen pop-up

Monday and Tuesday, 5pm to 11pm

1213 Summit Avenue (@ Lunch and Supper space)

Ever wondered why Peter Chang opened in Walmart shopping center and Pho So 1 opened their second location where it was? I, for one, don’t want to worry about where to park when I want a quick bowl of ramen. Just some consideration when thinking of location and target clientele. 😉

Tribute to the Queen of all Daring Bakers, Lis


The world has lost a great person, I have lost a great friend. I have never met Lis in person, but we have exchanged countless of long, funny emails over the years. I first “met” Lis when the Daring Bakers was formed. And through the months and years we both laughed and exchanged emails about our baking triumphs and disasters. Lis was such a great writer, I told her she had some Bridget Jones feel going on in her writing.

Pictured above was the epic croissant challenge

She was such a staunch supporter when I decided to go full-time baking macarons and other little desserts. She was one of my test subjects when I tried shipping the macarons. She even had them for her wedding way back in 2008.

After both of us sort of fell off the blogging bandwagon, we found another common interest: True Blood! So we spent endless emails drooling over Eric and Alexander Skarsgaard and then bashing Bill Compton. And when Alcide showed up, well, we drooled all over him too.

Oh, Lis, I don’t think I ever told you, but I’ve finally watched Sons of Anarchy and you’re right, Charlie Hunnam is yummy.

And Lis was my biggest supporter when I told her I was writing a book. It was kind of funny how that went actually. Late last year, we were both exchanging emails about what books to read and I told her I’m writing my own book. So I sent her five chapters of a shitty first draft telling her I had no expectations of her reading it since it’s not her usual genre. She emailed me back and said she really liked what I had so far. So I think nothing of it and then a month later she emailed me again and asked: “Where’s the rest of the story?”

So I sat down and finished the manuscript and sent it to her. She said she loved it! Mind you this was an unedited final draft with all the horrendous grammatical errors and all. She became my beta-reader before I even knew what a beta reader was.


I’m so sad you won’t get to read Viktor and Marissa’s story (although I have a feeling you’ll be reading over my shoulder as I write). But know that I’m thinking of you when I write them. You were my cheerleader—always. And somehow I know that wherever you are you’ll continue to give me that little nudge when I’m stuck.

You sent me an email the day before you passed, and I was wishing I had responded immediately, but if you’re reading this right now, I agree with what was in that email too.

I‘ll always remember you as the sister of my heart.


Your Sis

RVA Fried Chicken Crawl

Dixie Chicken

Dixie Chicken

If there is a type of food I take seriously, I would say it would have to be fried chicken. Therefore, when it comes to fried chicken, I’m very hard to please. Most folks scrunch their noses up when you say your favorite thing to eat is fried chicken because they think it’s greasy and disgusting. But the truth is fried chicken, done right, is anything but disgusting.

L and I met a couple, who I shall call A and R, at a Kimchi dinner last year and for some reason we started talking about fried chicken and not just fried chicken but really good fried chicken. It is quite lamentable that this is hard to find in Richmond which is ironic because Southern Fried chicken is one of the best. I say one of the best because I still believe that Asian-style fried chicken is the BEST (deep fried whole and chopped, garlicky soy taste). The idea of a Fried chicken crawl is born.

We all become friends on FB and for nine months nothing happens until A says that it looks like Dixie Donuts is never gonna do fried chicken so we might as well go ahead and plan the crawl.

Our initial line up was: Lee’s Famous Recipe, Dixie Chicken, Croaker’s Spot and Korean Garden

“Hungry Hubby” thought we were crazy. How could we eat so much fried chicken, right? Anyway, I lasso him to participate anyway. So our group of four become five.

Then a week or so before the crawl, A FB messages us and tells us that their friends, Keith and J, are coming into town and joining our crawl. And Keith is going to cook us fried chicken (apparently the man’s specialty) the night before to kick off the crawl. Fantastic, right?

I’ll say straight out, Keith’s fried chicken kicked ass and was the best, so I’ll leave that discussion for last and head to the fried chicken we had on the Sunday crawl.

Score Card

Score Card

We even had a score card handy, courtesy of A. We agree to both try white and dark meat.

Our first stop was Lee’s Famous Recipe

Lee's Famous Recipe

Lee’s Famous Recipe

When you ask Richmonders where to get the best fried chicken, everyone says Lee’s. So you all can understand how excited we were. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. The crispness was there but it was slightly greasy and the flavor was all on the skin. The chicken itself was moist but it was tasteless, thus tasting ordinary.

2nd stop: Dixie Chicken

The Intrepid Fried Chicken Crawlers

The Intrepid Fried Chicken Crawlers

This stop was rather bittersweet, because the owner told us that they were closing for good that Friday. 😦 I don’t know if that news just hit us in a way that set off emotional eating because the fried chicken tasted freaking delicious. It was crisp and the spices used in the chicken were tasty and complementary, there was flavor clear through the moist meat. Some of the crew thought that the flavoring was a tad salty but hubby and I thought it was perfect.

Dixie Chicken had no tables  so we decided to tailgate it and it was fun!

Fried chicken tailgate

Fried chicken tailgate

Our next stop was supposed to be Croaker’s spot out on Hull Street. It turns out they do not always make fried chicken, but the man at the door gladly told us where our disappointed crew could find some.

3rd stop: Mama J’s

Mama J's Fried Chicken

Mama J’s Fried Chicken

I would say Mama J’s fried chicken was middle of the line. It was crisp, tasty and moist but could use more flavor. They had this barbecue sauce you could top on it that was the perfect mix of spicy, sweet and sour. Too bad they don’t bottle that stuff. What impressed us more than the fried chicken was the fried cat fish nuggets below.

Cat fish nuggets

Catfish nuggets

Cornmeal coated, crisp and moist. Perfect.

We never made it to Korean Garden. Our crew got sidetracked by the sight of cake.

mama j's cakes

mama j’s cakes

We all shared slices of lemon pound cake, pineapple coconut cake, german chocolate cake and rum cake which was my favorite. We also tried their peach cobbler.

And by the end of that meal, it would be irrational to go to Korean Garden. And the guys were satisfied because they finally got their beer. 😉

* I noted earlier that Dixie Chicken was proclaimed the winner, but it turns out some in the group preferred Mama J’s! 

When I used to work downtown, the secretary always got fried chicken from this place called Chicken Box and I remembered it being quite tasty too.

So let’s talk about the Keith’s homemade fried chicken. The man set bar quite high.

Carolina Fried Chicken

Carolina Fried Chicken

The secret to Southern fried chicken is: cast-iron pan and crisco. What impressed me with Keith’s—it was not greasy at all. Now, I have not learned all his fried chicken secrets, I think cooking the perfect fried chicken warrants another post, but getting the oil to the right temperature is very important. Keith held his hand above the screen covering the pan, so I guess it’s experience also. When I asked him how he knew the chicken was done, he said he “heard” it … whatever that meant.;) So I guess I really need to try it out myself although Keith has promised the crew that he will return and give us fried chicken lessons.

Keith's Carolina Fried Chicken

Keith’s Carolina Fried Chicken

Man, I can’t tell you how good this was. If you look closely at the chicken you will notice that the breading was very light , actually almost non-existent. What the seasoned flour did for the chicken was give it flavor and crispness. I hate having to peel off thick breading from fried chicken. Even if the chicken was not marinated or salted ahead of time, the taste of the chicken you get is the “chickeny” flavor of the chicken.

When I bit into the chicken, I thought: This tastes like the chicken I get from Whole Foods. I found out the next day that the chicken was from Whole Foods! Whole foods sell this air-chilled chicken which is far superior to most other chicken because air-chiling preserves the integrity of the flavor rather than the more common ice-water chilling which accounts for why most commercial fried chicken is only tasty on the skin.

Anyway, I’m off to buy my 12-inch cast-iron pan!

Ground Turkey kebabs (stove top version)

Ground turkey kebabs (kubideh) topped with chopped green onions and parsley.

Ground turkey kebabs (kubideh) topped with chopped green onions and parsley.

I’ve got a delicious recipe for you and it’s quite simple to make once you’ve gotten past grating the onions. 🙂

The best dishes are the recipes you get from friends. I had a photoshoot with a friend one day and she prepared this for lunch. It took 15 minutes for her to whip this up. Ofcourse, the meat was already seasoned and prepared ahead of time and so was the topping. This could be served with flat bread (lavash or pita) or rice.

Ground Turkey kebabs

1-lb ground turkey meat (I mixed dark and white)

1-tsp salt (or to taste)

pepper to taste

1/2 grated onion (yes grated)

1 egg

Mix the egg, onion, salt and pepper. Add the ground turkey and mix well. (I put on disposable gloves and used my hand to mash the meat into the seasoning)

Add a swirl of oil on a non-stick skillet. Add the mound of seasoned ground turkey.

ground turkey— flatten into a disk

ground turkey— flatten into a disk

Set on medium high. Now, my onions were too juicy and it started to water a lot. You can choose to soak up the sides with some paper towel so it would brown the bottom better.

When the disk of turkey is almost cooked, cut it into sections, let it cook a bit more and then flip.

Cut into sections

Cut into sections

Serve with green onion-parsley mixture (recipe to follow)

Green Onion-Parsley dressing

3 stalks of green onion, finely chopped

1/3 bunch curly parsley (or cilantro)

juice of one lemon

olive oil (drizzle to taste)

salt (to taste)

sumac (optional: to taste)

Green Onion and parsley

Green Onion and parsley

Benefit Dinner for Sub Rosa Fire victims

From the Roosevelt:
As you might know, we are next door neighbors with Sub Rosa. We were in shock when we heard about the fire there. We love Evrim and Evin and Sub Rosa and can’t wait to see them get back on their feet. One of our favorite regulars lived in the apartments above, and we want to help.
The Roosevelt will host a benefit supper on Monday, April 8th from 5:30-8:30PM to raise money for Sub Rosa and the residents of the apartments displaced by the fire. The buffet-style family supper is open to the public. Mark your calendar and come on out!
We will be asking for cash/check donations at the door ($20 per adult/ $10 per child), which will include iced tea and food by Jason Alley (Pasture/Comfort), Tim Bereika (Secco Wine Bar), Randy Doetzer (Mint/Julep’s), Joe Sparatta (Heritage), Phillip Denny (Aziza’s), Owen Lane (The Magpie), and Lee Gregory (The Roosevelt). We will also sell alcoholic beverages separately and add those profits to the kitty.
Kendra Feather and Lee Gregory’s The Roosevelt opened in July 2011 to immediate acclaim. Recognized by Style Weekly as Richmond’s 2012 “Restaurant of the Year”, named by Richmond Magazine as Richmond’s “Best New Restaurant”, listed by Deep South Magazine on “Where to Eat in the South”, and most recently profiled by Garden & Gun, The Roosevelt has quickly become known for chef Lee Gregory’s inventive take on Southern cuisine, the all-Virginia wine list, and the craft cocktails of bartender Thomas “T” Leggett. In 2013, Chef Lee Gregory was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Award (Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic).
Sub Rosa Benefit Dinner
Monday, April 8th from 5:30-8:30PM
$20 adult / $10 child
Kendra Feather / Lee Gregory / Thomas Leggett
623 North 25th Street
Richmond, Virginia 23223
The Roosevelt

Fire and Ice

Well, here it is. The reason I have not been posting lately. I’ve been cheating on my food blog with my new book, Fire and Ice. Now available on Amazon! But wait, you can win Amazon gift cards and Kindle-ebook versions of this book. Just go over to my book blog, Victoria Paige Books and click on the raffle link.

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice


Book Blurb:

Maia Pierce, a top agent for Artemis Guardian Services (AGS) and a widely known rule breaker, was good at her job. In her last mission, her risk-taking had finally caught up with her and she had now incurred the wrath of a Russian drug lord bent on destroying her. With assassins after her, one man had offered her his protection. But Jack McCord may be an other kind of danger, a danger to her heart.
Jack McCord had everything: a thriving defense company, sinful good looks and no shortage of beautiful women. But what he coveted the most didn’t want anything to do with him. Maia Pierce, his brother’s bodyguard, was the most exquisite creature he had ever laid eyes on and he wanted her. And when Maia got into trouble he saw an opportunity to finally seduce her and he is not taking no for an answer.
As they face-off with Russian mercenaries from the North Carolina coast to the depths of the Russian wilderness, they also finally face what may be in their hearts. But the danger that Maia finds herself in and the secrets she keeps from Jack threaten to derail their happily ever after.