Richmond Restaurant Dining

Slowly getting back into blogging again. Soon, I will have more time to write about food (and eating) – more about that later.
Anyway, my brother and sister-in-law came for a 10-day visit and I was excited to show them how the Richmond dining scene has evolved since 2008.

Hubby and I did our best not to eat out in the weeks preceding their visit because I know if it’s anything like my vacations to the Philippines, it’s going to be non-stop “see food” diet.

First place we whisked our guests to:


Our favorite burger joint in town, besides what says “Welcome to the USA” than a great American burger. Ordering can be confusing with so many options but I always go for the bison, bacon and mushrooms. Hubby loves the S.O.B. 

The S.O.B at Burgerworks


One place we couldn’t wait to take my brother M and his wife M – I’ll just call them 2Ms – was Cinebistro. My family are movie buffs and we were sure they’d get a kick out of watching a movie in style. The food at this theatre is actually good considering that orders needed to be placed and served within a 30-minute window. They are also dinner-sized portions. Hubby and I always had leftovers before, so now we share an appetizer and an entree. My favorite is the popcorn trio which is popcorn shrimp, chicken and calamari with some popcorn at the bottom to soak up the grease. 🙂

Theatre entrance
The bar area to order drinks while you wait
comfortable seating


Mall shopping is a pre-requisite of my out-of-town guests and I’m glad that we have a great Indian restaurant right smacked in there. 2Ms loved Lehja and we went there twice, once for brunch and the second time when a cousin and his family drove through from Chicago and was able to join us for lunch.


We were so thankful Stella’s was open on a Monday. All our dishes were fantastic. They have truly the best moussaka. Brother was ecstatic over the braised lamb shank although he kept on hinting that he wanted the hubby’s grilled lamb chops. The standout that night was the pan-seared branzino which tasted so fresh.

lamb shank
Branzino – european sea bass

Pho Saigon

I am always hesitant to take my family to Asian restaurants because everything appears sweetened up for the American palate. Brother made a comment about the pho broth being too sweet and having too much cinnamon – well there you go.
However, this special of pork belly in clay pot blew our mind away. So good!

Clay-pot pork belly

Williamsburg Cheese Shop (Merchant’s Square)

After spending most of the morning shopping at the outlets we were all ready and hungry for lunch. My brother and I gobbled up our prosciutto and provolone sandwich from The Cheese Shop – the roasted peppers and house dressing were a great complement. This sandwich, as simple as it sounds, remains to be one of my brother’s most memorable meal of his visit. We actually bought a half-pint of the house dressing to bring home so we could replicate the sandwich.

The Cheese Shop

My brother, a professional photographer, loved Williamsburg and wanted to shoot some photographs while I took my sis-in-law to the little shops.

The weather was stifling hot and by the time our photographer was done, his shirt was soaked. I told 2Ms they should try come visit during cooler weather.

One of my favorite photos from the trip, it’s like he waited for the shadows and light to be perfect


12506 River Road Richmond, VA 23238
(804) 784-4800
This gem on River road is a showplace to take out-of-town guests. Tucked away in an affluent neighborhood, we felt out of place with the perfectly-coiffed crowd, after all we were grungy from a day of shopping. But hey, we’re here for the food.

Gorgeous patio
seared tuna appetizer
Lamb and risotto

So I tentatively asked if the 2Ms were ready for Japanese food. Their face actually lit up. My family is not big on sushi. Nope, we prefer straight-up sashimi. Why bother with all that blob of rice?

Sashimi platter – the escarol, salmon and yellow fin were outstanding

On a side note: We watched the documentary “Jiro dreams of Sushi”. The preparation of the rice is an integral part of sushi-making. A lot of establishments get this wrong. The rice needs to be served at room temperature and not cold.

Though I prefer sashimi, Umi’s maki is a dish not to pass up and the first thing I noticed is how their rice is at the right temperature for serving. We loved the Richmond roll.

Umi’s richmond roll

Okay, we’re at the home stretch. We’re actually almost reaching eating-out saturation. In fact, 2Ms were just begging to eat at home and we did on several occasions but that would be a separate post.

The Roosevelt
For a taste of inventive Southern cuisine.

perfectly-seared scallops

Amour Wine Bistro
Rounding up our dining-out experience we headed to Carytown for a cozy evening at Amour Wine Bistro. By this time the 2Ms and I were having trouble feeling hungry (after days of eating – who could blame us?), luckily the hubby was starving.
It was also “educate with taste” week, so three of us ordered the $25.12 three-course menu and my sis-in-law had the tarte flambée. 

refreshing watermelon and tuna tartare
Chocolate sea salt caramel creme brûlée – always a winner at Amour

I ordered the pear tarte tatin for my dessert which was absolutely delicious. It’s a perfect example of a well executed simple dessert. 

My one regret was not taking the 2Ms to Peter Chang’s. Brother was stuck in the HK airport for a few days (luckily sis-in-law was already in the U.S. visiting a relative) – maybe if they stayed a few days longer they would have started missing Chinese food. 😉

Most pictures taken by my brother on his Leica D-Lux except the clay-pot pork belly which was an iPhone pic. The leaf picture was taken with a Nikon camera.

RVA eats – Amour Wine Bistro, Peter Chang, Secco and more

tarte flambee

Oh… hi. This blog has not been abandoned. It’s just getting harder to write something when all has been said and done in other social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Sometimes I wonder if blogs are still relevant. Apparently, I think they still are because here I am updating mine, albeit less frequently. I think I need to find some sort of direction. I’d like to delve more into pastry experiments, after all I have a ton of cookbooks to do research.

Another direction is the local food scene which has gotten a bit more interesting and I thought I should get all those food pictures off of my iPhone.

Let me start with our recent dinner at Amour Wine Bistro for restaurant week

Selling macarons on Saturdays at Amour has its benefits. I don’t have to think twice about where to go for a special dinner after a long day (or week) and I’ve always loved the restaurant’s cozy set-up. 

As usual, it was an impeccably executed dining experience. We especially enjoyed the asparagus, garlic and bacon tarte flambée – an Alsatian flatbread that resembles a pizza. My chilled pear soup below was very refreshing.

Chilled pear soup, mango, creme fraiche

Our main course of lamb navarin (a hearty French lamb stew) was an ode to the flavor of lamb. I could usually tell if a lamb dish will taste good when I catch a whiff of that all-important lamb aroma – lamb aficionados know what I mean – I think it has something to do with how the fat melts into the muscle or maybe it’s just the quality of the lamb. We were surprised at the sizable portions considering it’s 3 courses for $25.00! We had enough leftover for lunch the next day because we knew to save room for dessert! 

lamb navarin

For dessert, I ordered the strawberry chocolate tart. A dense chocolate cake similar to a brownie. It was pleasantly bittersweet and did not cry “sugar overload”, I welcome such refined and simple desserts.

Chocolate tart

I challenge anyone who says there are better sorbets than what Paul Heitz makes. I must say he is obsessed with making them and I guess that is why they are so good.

sorbet trio – grapefruit, mango (hubby forgot the 3rd one which was hidden behind the wafer

As the hubby wouldn’t shut-up about the tarte flambee, I think it wouldn’t be long before we pay another visit to Amour. It’s also available at the bar and that flatbread paired with an onion soup gratinee would make a great meal in itself.

Peter Chang – living up to the hype

In an odd corner of a strip mall in the much maligned area that is Short Pump lies the new “It” restaurant. Peter Chang’s China Cafe opened with so much fanfare, it was bordering on the absurd. But I have not heard of him – I don’t know why he had flown under my foodie radar but I was not as psyched as everyone was. Maybe because I’ve grown up with homecooked-Chinese food – courtesy of fabulous Cantonese cuisine of my dad and grandma – it takes a lot to impress me. Plus, I thought I was not into spicy food…

Except … apparently I was. And it took Peter Chang’s Szechuan cookery to convince me.

To enjoy Szechuan cuisine, it is best to ask for help ordering or to check out this guide. On a recent trip with another couple, I made the mistake of ordering all spicy food, we had to put in a last minute order of Beijing smoked duck to seek relief from all those fiery peppers.

Everyone online or in reviews were raving about the dry-fried eggplant but I did not really care too much for it as I didn’t taste much flavor. Now the scallion-bubble pancake below, I loved.

scallion-bubble pancake

My favorite dish that evening was this amazing crisp bamboo fish. 

Bamboo fish

Also a favorite, was the szechuan lamb chops. I’m curious if all those peppers are really meant to be eaten. I usually brush them off because the meat is plenty spicy without them.

Szechuan Lamb

Another satisfying dish was the mapo tofu which I’ve raved about in a previous post.

And our palate relief as mentioned earlier was the duck dish that was served with pancakes, scallions, cucumbers and hoisin sauce. *Look at that skin!*

Beijing smoked duck

As I live near Short-Pump, I’m surely going to be a frequent visitor to Chang’s establishment.

Secco Wine Bar – restaurant week

Pork Belly porchetta

As everyone that have tasted this porchetta agree, it’s pretty darn amazing, I could probably eat two of it. Desserts were also very good. I liked my cream puffs but I liked the composition of hubby’s olive oil chocolate ganache and sweet basil more. I was going to order a scoop of the cardamom gelato but was told that it was only with a complete restaurant week menu.

Fried Chicken


Ever since I’ve watched “The Help”, I’ve had a craving for cast-iron buttermilk Fried chicken. Here’s Blowtoad‘s tuesday night special.  

Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Blowtoad

So for most of buttermilk fried chicken I’ve had, most of them seem to have all their flavor in the crunchy skin. The meat, though juicy, was devoid of much seasoning. Is this typical?

Pho Saigon

I’m so happy to have tasted these chicken wings from Pho Saigon. They’re flavorful all the way to the bone. And because they are not breaded, they’re not disgustingly greasy the next day and tastes just as good. I think they’re one of the best chicken wings in Richmond.

 Fried Chicken Wings


     Should have posted about this wonderful Branzino sooner. A bit pricey but delish!



Feta cheese and olive appetizer

Unfortunately this was the only picture I had on my phone that looked decent. I initially thought Zorba’s was a typical “Americanized” Greek restaurant in a strip mall, but after eating the leftovers I’ve decided it’s a place I’d like to put in regular rotation. The yogurt lamb kebab is not to be missed. 

Seoul Buffet

      Heading over to the Southside, there’s a Korean buffet restaurant. I’m not too fond of buffets but I think it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the offerings of an unfamiliar cuisine.

bibimbap bar

My favorite, as I’ve discovered, is the Jap Chae. It’s a sweet potato noodle that is stir-fried and doused with some sesame oil. I just love the texture and the crunchiness of the vegetables.

Jap chae

So that’s a few noteworthy eats I’ve had in Richmond from the past few weeks. Ironfish was way back in January but I felt it was so good not to mention here. 


West End Eats

I’ve always lamented the availability of good eats here in the West End. The trade-offs of better infrastructure and parking are box-shops and chain restaurants. Lately, I’ve noticed some mom and pop eateries taking chances by not “Americanizing” their menu – Balkan, for example.

There is also a growing immigrant population here in Richmond, and with that growth is the emergence of global cuisine. Immigrants like myself, though drawn at first to the popularity of fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC or restaurants like the Olive Garden, soon realize that food tastes better if it does not come pre-made or frozen from a processing plant.

Though I enjoy the creativity right now of Richmond chefs embracing trends like the gastro pub and using local ingredients, I confess to being more excited in seeing International cuisine gaining traction in the area. I think that in turn, it would make other more established restaurants break out of a mold of mediocrity in trying to satisfy the status quo and instead give Richmond something new to try. 

I’ve long ago noticed that the location of most Asian/non-American cuisine (trying not to use “ethnic” since it’s totally wrong) restaurants in the West End have easy access from Broad Street and more than a few are in strip malls. Starting with Pho So 1, Mekong, Full Kee, Dalat, Thai Diner,India K’ Raja, Pho City and many more. Again, from an immigrant’s point of view: easy parking and familiar streets.

Anyway, here are some of my recent favorites, starting from Broad and Dominion Boulevard at the Shoppes at Innsbrook, Thai Flavor.

I love stopping by this place on my way home for some great Tom Yum Goong. My favorite to order here is the Fried chicken rice. The rice tastes like it’s been sauteed from the drippings of Chinese sausage, plus it doesn’t taste greasy at all.

Thai Flavor Fried Chicken rice

Further down on Broad Street is the relatively new Pho Saigon specializing in South Vietnamese cuisine. Minh, their chef, does grilled pork dishes very well.

Pho Saigon’s Pork Bahn Mi
Pho Saigon’s Grilled Pork chop special

Now I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but other Latin American cuisine, I like. Which is why when I heard Jason, aka RVAfoodie, tweet about Peruvian Chicken near Broad and Parham…I didn’t waste any time in checking it out.

Rocoto Chicken, attached to El Jardin Latino Market, serves a mix of Latino food from Mexican, El Salvadoran and Peruvian culture.

I’ve only have had their Peruvian chicken but I’m sold on the clean, succulent rotisserie flavor. Their poultry is all-natural, hormone and antibiotic free and the seasoning can be tasted all the way to the bone. {also tried the pupusa after I wrote this}

Rocoto’s Peruvian chicken with fried yucca and plantains

Before any one of you think I don’t like American food, think again. I’m saving one of my favorites for last.  I love a great burger (and what’s more American than a hamburger) and Burgerworks does not disappoint. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve been there and living not too far from it could be dangerous.

I’ve tried their regular beef, turkey and bison patties. All were deliciously juicy and fresh tasting. Now there was one time we went there when my burger was overcooked and the fries were cold but every restaurant have their bad days.

The burgers are more expensive than most …but I don’t mind paying for such quality.

Burgerworks SOB burger with chips and jalapeno on a wheat bun
Burgerworks custom burger with beef pattie, bacon, swiss cheese, egg bun

Thai Flavor
4040 Cox Rd, Glen Allen, Va 23060
(804) 562-4105

Pho Saigon
10190 W Broad St  Glen Allen, VA 23060
(804) 217-7979

Rocoto Chicken
8046 W Broad St  Richmond, VA 23294
(804) 516-2687

10321 W Broad St Glen Allen, VA 23060
(804) 527-2747