Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cru Cut

A well-known French winemaker celebrates at Secco.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 4:00 AM

When winemaker Quentin Paillard comes to Richmond next month to celebrate his family's champagne at Secco Wine Bar, it's an event. All five bottlings of the Pierre Paillard house will be poured at a meet-the-winemaker evening Dec. 13, 6:30 - 8 p.m. The $35 tickets are nearly sold out.

"I want people in Richmond to know what good champagne is," says owner Julia Battaglini, who chose Paillard as Secco's house bubbly and admits geeking out on the qualities of this line. Paillard is known for its rare, eight-generation family business in Bouzy, France, and defines its values as independence, daring and humility. Read more at champagne-pierre-paillard.com. And, because Battaglini is always quick with a quip, a final inducement: "A hot 25-year-old Frenchman is not friction when it comes to sales."

For information on the tasting, see seccowinebar.com. 2933 W. Cary St. 353-0670.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembrance: Michael Ripp

Burger Bach's owner loses his battle with cancer.

Posted By on Sat, Nov 23, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Word spread through the local restaurant community Saturday that longtime owner Michael Ripp died after an extended battle with cancer. Just weeks ago, he opened the second unit of his Burger Bach franchise in Short Pump and had been working on plans for expansion of the concept in other states. Although hospitalized, he was able to see the new location through Skype just last Thursday, a co-worker says.

Ripp, who was 51, came from one of the city’s most successful restaurant families. His brother Chris owns Can Can Brasserie in Carytown. His father Richard Ripp owns nineteen high-performing Arby’s stores as part of The Restaurant Company holdings.

Michael Ripp became enamored with the New Zealand lifestyle and traveled there frequently, modeling his burger business on the bachelor pads of that country with craft beer and beef in a sports-oriented setting. He entertained New Zealand ambassador Mike Moore at the Carytown restaurant in March, dining on lamb burgers and discussing farm policy and tourism.

Michael Ripp created Havana ’59 in Shockoe Bottom in 1994, and operated City Bar and other restaurants including O’Brienstein’s, Chico’s Mansion and Wildcats, which closed a decade ago. Tax problems at Havana made headlines during a turbulent period, but Ripp resolved the issues and pushed forward with other projects. Staffs at his former and current businesses remembered Ripp via social media and with personal tributes.

“He was a creative visionary and it is amazing what he has done,” says Michelle Elliott, general manager of Burger Bach. “He gave me an opportunity to present the best that I could do. He was caring and kind-hearted and he lived his life. Down to the smallest detail he was involved. Now we just want to make him proud.”

In a 2003 interview with Style, Ripp expressed frustration with complacent diners. His goal was to improve the quality of the local food scene. “If there’s one thing I’d like to see in Richmond,” Ripp said then, “it’s that the diners not settle, because it’s just going to make the restaurants better.”

UPDATE: A mass is scheduled for Saturday at St. Benedict Church.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Short Order

RVA Food News: Level's lamb pops, more Krispy Kreme + more.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Sandy Wang of Level Restaurant & Bar pairs a sweet potato with grilled lamb lollipops at her new business, which is capturing attention for its colorful bar and sociable service.

Hole in Two: Krispy Kreme is bringing its "Hot Now" sign to the South Side. A new store in the doughnut chain is about to break ground in the former Cloverleaf Mall recently reclaimed by Kroger and other retailers. No timeline has been established for the build-out on Midlothian Turnpike, a company rep says, but onsite signs are an official step forward. The chain's long-standing location at 4910 W. Broad St. gets steady traffic at its 24-hour drive-through, where fans respond Pavlovian-style to the red neon sign.

Healthy lunch: Good Foods Grocery now offers its cafe menu on Saturdays at Stony Point Shopping Center, featuring fresh salads, sandwiches, soups and classics from chef Michael King's repertoire at the former Grace Place. The cafe, with coffees, smoothies and fresh juices, operates 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Weekday lunch hours continue at the Gayton Crossing location. goodfoodsgrocery.com.

ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel

New sage: Legend Brewing Co. celebrates its 20th anniversary all year, and an event this week features a Style Weekly beer. Editor in Chief Jason Roop has worked with cellar man Aaron Sanders and David Gott, vice president of operations, to create a beer with sage, orange, cranberry, cinnamon and nutmeg notes to go with Legend's Belgian-style seasonal Winter White. Roop invites you to come have a taste while it lasts. He'll tap the pin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20, which also happens to be ladies' night at the Manchester pub. See details and other anniversary events at legendbrewing.com.

Now Serving

Level Restaurant & Bar: Sushi, Asian snacks and soups, seafood and Angus beef entrees, hibachi and full bar in contemporary cafe. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 2007 W. Broad St. 353-8885.

Cask Café & Market: Local meats, cheeses and beer to-go or eat there, with pressed sandwiches, salads, meat boards, soups and sundries. Growlers, expertise and low-key charm, plus parking. Daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 206 S. Robinson St. 355-2402.

My Noodle & Bar: Asian appetizers, soups and fusion veg, meat and fish entrees in family-run cellar cafe and lounge. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 1600 Monument Ave. 308-1613.

American Tap Room Classic Grill: New location of Virginia-based chain with burgers, chicken and waffles, sandwiches, steaks and 100 beers. Wine and cocktails. Patio with fire pit, party room, kids' menu. Lunch, dinner and bar daily, Sunday brunch. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, unit 840. 308-9013. americantaproom.com.

Max's on Broad: Belgian-French brasserie with seafood, crepes, chowder, sandwiches, entrees and spirits. Lunch, dinner and bar daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. 305 Brook Road. 225-0400. maxsonbroad.com.

Game Changer

Preview: The Pig & Pearl is a new breed of sports bar.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Bacon is the first thing on the menu at the just-opened upscale sports bar The Pig & Pearl in the Fan. It’s a “bitty bite” priced at $3, in four versions – regular, churro, jalapeno or millionaire’s (maple syrup and pepper.)

The pork theme continues with cracklins, deviled ham cubes, pork-chili cheese fries, bacon burgers, a Philly-style roast pork and bacon sandwich, pork belly tacos, pork shank osso buco and even the fool’s gold loaf – an Elvis-inspired bacon, peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich on sourdough.

But oysters are front and center in a shucking station at the bar, with four mignonettes and toppings of pickled watermelon and apples and, naturally, bacon bits. Suppliers include James River Oysters, Potomac River Oyster Co., Rappahannock River Oysters, and Kumamotos from the Washington coast.

This is a sports bar with manners: a five-figure air purification system keeps the cigar area, called Burn, less smoky. Kids aren’t considered a nuisance in the dining room. Desserts are so exclusive that maker Shyndigz won’t sell them at its own store. There are TVs for the games – 11 in all – but they’re only one aspect of the new green-accented décor. Bathrooms are an upgrade from the old days. Kitchen equipment is new, and the spirits list needs several pages to define all the bourbons, ciders and brews – there are 140 beers alone. A cigar menu ($7-22) is curated with tasting notes, and servers took a training class to properly cut, hold and light cigars for customers. Fine-tuning is evident throughout, but the vibe is approachable and friendly.

It’s the work of a new restaurant power couple, Season and Mathew Appelget, whose business experience from television casting to recycling and real estate gives them a detail-oriented perspective. They own the building – it’s where the Republic folded earlier this year and a series of restaurants from Cabo’s and Fifth Avenue to Benjamin’s thrived and flailed – and decided that running the business themselves in the high-visibility spot was a more promising strategy. Nothing was left to chance, they say, including some $6000 worth of oysters sampled, to be sure they serve the best available. They sourced free-range pigs from Lockhart Farms, smokes from Richmond Cigar Factory, and produce from local growers.

They redid the floors, wrapped the bar in stainless steel, laser-etched logos on the clipboards that hold the menus. They hired 30 staffers and pulled in executive chef Will Gravely from a stint at Eurasia. He got the Pig gig after a two-day tasting trial with the owners, running through 33 dishes in a borrowed kitchen. He replaces Rich Gunter, who had been tapped for the project months ago but who will remain in Washington DC.

Now Gravely introduces the restaurant’s first menu with plans for more items – house-cured meats, sausage, pork cheeks, trotters – and a changing list of comfort dishes, salads and snacks. “I don’t want people to be hunting for flavors in my food,” he says. “I like flavors to be bold, to stand out, and to use the best ingredients I can get my hands on. We want to be known for high quality food.”

“We hope this will be a place everybody wants to come to, that’s comfortable and has what they want,” Season Appelget says, whether it’s a business meeting over cigars and whisky, a family meal or game day. The Pig & Pearl opened over the weekend and offers lunch, dinner and bar hours daily from 11 a.m. The kitchen serves its late menu until 1:30 a.m., targeted at industry folks and night owls. 2053 W. Broad St. 447-2016. Thepigandpearl.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Home Plate

Three local chefs show NYC why Richmond should be on its radar.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

He’d barely finished last night’s successful Ideas in Food dinner at Heritage, when chef Joe Sparatta hit the road today with chef Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt for a power gig in New York City. They’re joining Jason Alley, owner of Comfort and Pasture, for a showcase of their food tomorrow evening at Astor Center in lower Manhattan.

The event is a promotion of Richmond Region Tourism, which selected the chefs to represent the city’s food scene. The guest list includes two dozen writers from national publications.

Sparatta is bringing his house-made charcuterie and a popular dessert at his restaurant, a pastry play on bacon and eggs. Gregory will serve a variation on Brunswick stew with duck, foie gras and truffles, and a roasted scallop dish with sweet potato puree. Alley will prepare Carolina gold rice grits with fresh and pickled Virginia mushrooms, house-cured ham, and snacks of pimento cheese, bread and butter pickles and crab-spiced peanuts. Hardywood Park brews are the featured beverage, signaling this city’s surge in craft beer production and consumption.

Invited guests write for influential sites and publications with a national reach, but organizers hesitate to confirm attendees before the event. The prospect of impressing them is nerve-wracking, Sparatta says, but adrenaline remains high after a sell-out plus (110 guests) for his Maximum Flavor five-course dinner Monday night.

At that event, guests dined on beef heart tartare with rice crepes; pepperoni ramen with octopus; grilled lamb shoulder with gnocchi, lamb heart ragu and charred scallions; a Reuben-flavored composition of Brussels sprouts and crisped provolone; and chocolate cake with coconut cream cheese filling and walnut brittle ice cream.

Acclaimed food writer Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food introduced his cookbook, and chefs Owen Lane, Randall Doetzer, Winburn Carmack, Bobo Catoe, Mike Yager, Craig Perkinson and Bill Foster assisted Sparatta and Gregory in the kitchen.

Restaurant industry folks, a large contingent of young professionals and self-described food geeks came out for the $75-plus evening and evaluated each dish with gusto -- another indicator that Richmond’s food renaissance is gaining traction here and beyond.

Short Order

RVA Food News: My Noodle preview, late-night vegan tacos + more.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Joe Kiatsuranon shows one of his favorite dishes, the love boat noodle bowl, at his new business, My Noodle & Bar, which opened last weekend on Monument Avenue in the Fan. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Joe Kiatsuranon shows one of his favorite dishes, the love boat noodle bowl, at his new business, My Noodle & Bar, which opened last weekend on Monument Avenue in the Fan.

Anyone who's eaten at Mom's Siam in Carytown will recognize Joe Kiatsuranon as the smiling son who worked the counter. Now he has his own place, My Noodle & Bar, which opened last weekend at 1600 Monument Ave. in the cellar of Stuart Court apartments.

Kiatsuranon says he's bringing a new concept to Richmond, focusing on authentic and fusion noodle dishes from Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

With a redecorated interior and all new kitchen equipment, My Noodle is poised to fill a niche while helping others. A portion of entree sales will be used to support English-as-a-second-language programs here.

"I used to be one of those students," Kiatsuranon says, "and some of them come to this country with $2 in their pocket, and a lot of them are refugees, so ESL helps them" get established.

The business is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and an hour later on weekends. It will begin serving an Asian brunch on Sunday mornings in December. 308-1613.

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Late-night tacos: RVAVegan owner Ed Edge brings tacos to Shockoe Bottom when they're needed most, Thursday to Sunday, 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. at Café Verde at 1810 E. Main St. Edge uses all of the proceeds from his food truck and the new cafe to support Have Heart, his health-oriented nonprofit. Cupcakes and vegan street food are his specialty, served from a bright pink food truck, catering service and now the green storefront in the former Cobblestone Bakery. rvavegan.info.

Beer dinner at Rowland: A four-course feast highlighting the beers of Parkway Brewing Co. is set for Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. at Rowland, 2132 W. Main St. Dinner is $45 and includes seafood, braised lamb shank and chocolate, among other flavors. Brewery owner Mike "Keno" Snyder will play host, with chefs Bruce and Virginia Rowland running the kitchen. rowlandfinedining.com.

Weatherproof farm: Cooler temperatures don't hamper the Byrd House renegade market, which runs Tuesdays, 3-6 p.m., with vendors including Agriberry, Deer Run Farm, Faith Farm Foods, Byrd Farm, Bill's Produce/Health Farm, Epic Gardens and Phal's noodles and spring rolls, among other artisanal purveyors. Find out more on the Byrd House Market Facebook page. 239 S. Linden St.

Growler Central

There's a Czech saying, "It is better to be in the pub with a beer than out in the world," and it's one of the mottos at the new business the Cask Café & Market, at 206 S. Robinson St. Another is "We're a coffee shop for beer," and a social hub with the lure of a side parking lot, friendly staff and a prime selection of cheeses, bread and cured meats from Sausage Craft. David Garrett, Jason McClellan, James Talley and Shawn O'Hearn bring years of beer and wine experience to the enterprise.

Customers can fill growlers (the restaurant has 1,000 ready to sell) and buy hot dogs and sausages by the link to go, or order from a concise menu to dine inside. Salads, sausages, Czech potato salad, pressed sandwiches and cheese and meat boards are designed to complement the flavors of beer. Soups are coming this winter, and Lamplighter coffee is available, with most items in the $5-$10 range.

The partners took a former gas station — later a hair salon — and refurbished it themselves, adding windows that fold open, tables for about two dozen guests, and simple wood floors and furnishings. Offering a dozen taps and room to expand, they hope to be an off-premise market for the neighborhood and a place to try new brews and brats in an open-air setting. 206 S. Robinson St. 355-2402.

Now Serving

American Tap Room Classic Grill: A new location of the Virginia-based chain opened Monday, serving lunch and dinner daily. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, unit 840. 308-9013. americantaproom.com.

Postbellum: In the former Mulligan's, a diverse lineup of snacks, sandwiches, burgers and entrees from chef Jen Mindell. Daily 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. 1323 W. Main St. 353-7678. postbellumrichmond.com.

Divine Creperie and Wine Bar: Seasonal small plates and entrees with fine wines for weekday lunch and dinner nightly except Sunday. 13127 River's Bend Blvd., Chester. 571-6383. divine-rb.com.

Kobe Sushi at Stony Point: Specialty rolls, tempura and Japanese classics, with lunch and dinner specials daily. 9200 Stony Point Parkway. 323-3333. kobesteakandsushi.com.

Big's BBQ: Dry-rub barbecue and sides in counter-service cafe. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 931 W. Grace St. 257-5460. bigsbbqva.com.

Crustacean Boil N' Grill: Crab, clams, oysters, catfish and other specialties, including a classic crawfish boil served in a bag. 8906 W. Broad St. 404-2412.

Burger Bach: Raw bar, New Zealand beef and lamb burgers and fries, craft beer and wines, sports on screens. 2225 Old Brick Road. 716-6748. burgerbach.com.

Max's on Broad: Belgian-French brasserie with seafood, crepes, chowder, sandwiches, entrees. Lunch, dinner and bar daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. 305 Brook Road. 225-0400. maxsonbroad.com.

Taste Testing

Three Richmond restaurants just opened and hope you notice.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Over the weekend, three restaurants opened in Richmond within four miles of each other, and that’s where the similarities end. One is a corporate heavyweight with public relations teams and an eye already on expansion. The other two are small, first-time ventures where Facebook is the marketing plan and soft openings are considerably more free-form. All of them hope to find an audience starting now, and here’s what they’re pitching:

American Tap Room hosted more than 700 guests over its trial weekend in the Willow Lawn shopping center before opening to the public on Veteran’s Day. The 6,500 square-foot space once was an Old Navy store, and well before that, a Miller & Rhoads. Now it’s an upscale pub with a firepit on the patio, an open-air bar on one side and a big, boothy dining room on the other. There’s a 100-item beer list of craft brews from Afton to Petaluma, on draft, in cans and bottles. An appetizer of fried deviled eggs with spicy aioli sets the tone– rich and improbable, beer-friendly and talked about.

Beginning last Thursday, lawmakers, business folks and neighbors poured in for the invitational roll out. Food writers got an ample taste-testing, and corporate owners Thompson Hospitality gauged early customer interest. Some of the company’s other concepts, such as Austin Grill and a pizza-and-salad kitchen, are in the running if things go well here. (A competitor is opening a similarly large wine bar next door, next year, and other chains are paying notice to the neighborhood. With residents moving in, the area is transforming and potentially lucrative.)

Though it is corporate, Tap Room management describes the menu as chef-driven and local, with gluten-free options, seasonal soups, two dozen sandwiches and entrees, and burgers weighing in at half a pound. Red wing chairs and plaid carpeting are safe but comfy throwbacks to tradition. Historic black and white photos are conversation starters, especially those of Prohibition cops and the shiny Willow Lawn archway. A so-named governor’s room in the front corner displays photos of Virginia chief executives from Wilder to (presumably, eventually) McAuliffe, framed and arranged by political leanings from left to right.

Although it's a tap room, the customer base starts well before drinking age, with targeted Mommy and Me programs and community fundraisers, marshmallow dipping sauce for the pretzels, and the suburban familiarity of a diner that keeps the taps out of view. The $20 Sunday buffet will have meat carving stations, omelets to order and hot doughnuts, with a separate kids’ section for make-your-own sweets and a bounty that “rivals the Jefferson,” one manager predicted.

If the opening weekend is any indication, customers can expect a phalanx of newly-indoctrinated servers, large and well-executed portions, and a bit of surprise at how this mid-century shopping center has morphed yet again. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, unit 840. 308-9013 americantaproom.com

Level Restaurant & Bar turned a former insurance agency into something flashier at 2007 W. Broad St. A bubble wall and colorful interactive bar top set the tone for a lounge-y spot with private party space in the loft. Beyond its sleek décor, Level wants to be known for its food and drinks, manager Sandy Wang says, plus the hospitality of a social-minded staff.

Wang hired 14 employees for the venture – college-student servers, sushi chefs from New York and a kitchen crew that makes sauces and meals from scratch. “Nothing is frozen, we do everything ourselves,” Wang says. The menu is expansive and moderately priced. Starters include Peking duck wrap, gyoza (pan fried pork and chicken dumplings), grilled lamb lollipops and seafood. Noodle soups and salads with a ginger dressing “so good I could drink it,” Wang insists, are among the mid-range choices. Steaks, chops, bento boxes, sushi and sashimi round out the options, along with cocktails, wine and beer. The 117-seat cafe was packed with young revelers over the weekend, and in the usual ritual of soft-opening etiquette, guests began posting praise online within hours.

“It’s very important to go out, have a drink, meet your friends,” Wang says of the need for a properly stylish setting and customer mindset. To help guests take in the atmosphere, chairs and booths are positioned for views of the light-animated Sauer’s sign across the street, and into the restaurant’s modern mirrored interior, where things look very different from the office days. Open for lunch, dinner and bar daily, with a dozen parking spaces at the side of the building. 353-8885

My Noodle & Bar is the smallest of this trio and the only one to take over where other restaurants have fallen. It’s in the cellar of Stuart Court apartments, 1600 Monument Ave., and a first foray for Joe Kiatsuranon, familiar to Carytown diners as manager at Mom’s Siam. Now that he’s a husband and father, Kiatsuranon has coaxed his mom out of a short-lived retirement there to help with his Asian menu of Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese dishes in a place he calls “hip(ish) with amazing noodles.”

In its opening weekend, pumped through social media, My Noodle unveiled to family and friends a work enthusiastically in progress. The kitchen equipment is all new while the interior is a modestly redecorated version of previous businesses there (Cellar Door, Down Under, Artist Underground, etc.) Its chartreuse walls and dark wood booths are low-key but the music is upbeat, and the space is so small it’s full at 50 people. Customers also have started showing the love online, and the owners are offering an inducement to come eat: A portion of proceeds from entrée sales will go to local English as Second Language programs, a cause close to Kiatsuranon’s heart. He’s a former student whose success was made possible by ESL classes.

As with the other new restaurants, the owners promise “something different for Richmond,” an ever-harder claim in a city where even the jaded gape at the momentum of openings. One new-for-here focus at My Noodle will be its Sunday Thai brunch, debuting in December with unusual items and a starting hour of 8 a.m., a rarity in the Fan. For now, customers can get a kitty sticker for visiting, to “put on a stranger’s car” or elsewhere, their Facebook page teases. Open daily. 308-1613.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maximum Flavor

The writers behind the popular blog Ideas in Food are coming to dinner in Richmond.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Of the big-deal food events coming to Richmond this year, Monday night’s at Heritage is among the most anticipated by a certain set of local chefs. They’re followers of the influential blog Ideas in Food, whose authors are former chefs Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot.

They will present their new book in a multi-course dinner called Maximum Flavor (the book’s title) at their friend Joe Sparatta’s Fan district restaurant Monday with seatings from 6 – 8:30 p.m. About 20 spots are left, tickets are $75 and include a signed copy of the book.

The menu was finalized today. “I just got off the phone with Alex,” Sparatta says, “and it’s been an interesting collaborative process. It’s my third dinner with him so I know what to expect. Everybody’s so excited to have an opportunity to pick his brain, and it’s a privilege to do this. I can’t even tell you how much he’s helped me over the years.”

That help includes the couple’s free sharing of techniques, resources and philosophy on the cooking process. “I can call them with a technique question, and they have such a broad range of techniques to achieve deliciousness,” Sparatta says. He mentions as current examples the use of pressure cooking and the use of gram scales instead of free-form measuring, “having the mentality that you can create consistency” with that precision.

Sparatta has recruited other city chefs to share the experience – longtime Ideas in Food fan Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt, Owen Lane of The Magpie and more working the kitchen, “to establish relationships with other great chefs here” by connecting them to the Ideas in Food team. See more at ideasinfood.com and heritagerva.com

Short Order

RVA Food News: A Max's preview, Richmond Cider Celebration + More

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Max’s on Broad brings Belgian and French brasserie dishes to a striking two-story building downtown. It’s a sibling to Tarrant’s Café across Broad Street and owned by Ted and Frances Santarella. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Max’s on Broad brings Belgian and French brasserie dishes to a striking two-story building downtown. It’s a sibling to Tarrant’s Café across Broad Street and owned by Ted and Frances Santarella.

Customers will never notice the 800-amp electrical service, water lines and a year's worth of engineering feats that preceded the new Max's on Broad downtown. They'll be struck instead by the two-story treasure box of artifacts from New York and the borrowed beauty of French brasseries — a zinc bar, tile floors and antique mirrors opposite large, street-facing windows. They're likely to recognize the menu listings — fruits de mer, salads, hors d'oeuvres, sandwiches and entrees — that sometimes are called French soul food, presented here by chef Michael Ledesma.

Max's offers chowder, charcuterie, fresh seafood "and our ability to execute what anyone wants," owner Ted Santarella says, in terms of special requests and dietary needs. Other items include the turkey mushroom burgers ($8), omelets of the day with frites and fruit ($11), full- and half-sized salads, frites with 13 sauce choices ($7), chicken crepes ($8), fried chicken and Belgian waffles with a maple, pomerey and tahini sauce ($14) and tilefish, coq au vin and other classic French dishes. Belgian beer on draft, fine wines and cocktails show European and domestic influences.

Santarella, who also owns Tarrant's Café across Broad Street, doesn't consider this project a stopping point, and is more energized than exhausted by the complexities of a total renovation (already an award-winner) of a former ham shop.

"I had to get out of the realm of Tarrant's," he says of design decisions. "I would go to New York and see these architectural embellishments — the tile, the light fixtures," and collect them for the project. Helping give heft and a sense of somewhere else to the place are a 9-foot verdigris lion's head mirror, industrial pendants from Idlewild airport (later renamed Kennedy), reclaimed heart pine for walls and ceilings, a coffered ceiling treatment copied from Maymont's porte-cochere, woodwork from Caravati's and decorative vines and plantings behind the custom steel staircase.

Food arrives in sizeable portions "because Ted never wants you to be hungry," says general manager Liz Kincaid, who moved over from Tarrant's. The 135-seat business opened in late October and serves lunch, dinner and bar daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Breakfast hours will begin in December. 305 Brook Road. 225-0400.

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Core values: You can taste local apples the more adult way at the Richmond Cider Celebration on Nov. 16, from noon-5 p.m. at the 17th Street Farmers' Market. For a $15 ticket, guests can sample five hard ciders and a pair of apple-themed foods. There will be food and nonalcoholic beverages for sale, live music and family activities, with kids younger than 12 free, and ages 12-18 for $5. Cider-makers, all from Virginia, include Albemarle Cider Works in North Garden, Blue Bee Cider in Richmond, Bold Rock Cider in Nellysford, Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Old Hill Cider in Timberville, Potters Craft Cider in Free Union, and Winchester Cider Works in Middletown. ciderweekva.com.

Now open: Cask Market & Café, 208 S. Robinson St. See details in next week's issue.

Fall in the tub: New head chef Phil Lillard takes Strawberry Street Café into seasonal territory, with fried calamari with sauces, coconut-crusted rockfish, shrimp and grits, and autumn vegetables and sides such as smoked Gouda and sweet potato grits, collard greens and sautéed Brussels sprouts, in addition to the cafe's signature bathtub salad bar. Open daily at 421 Strawberry St. 353-6860. strawberrystreetcafe.com.

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