Chopstix Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 3129 W. Cary St. 358-7027 Having never been to Vietnam, I do not purport to be a great connoisseur of Vietnamese delicacies. But I am a somewhat adventurous soul so I am willing to try most anything. Though I grew up here and developed an early appreciation for Mrs. Fearnow's stew and Bill's limeades, after being indoctrinated into the wonders of ethnic foods in the great dining city of New York, I grumbled for years because Richmond did not have a Thai restaurant and to make matters worse, I'd heard that Roanoke did! Ever since my northern enlightenment, I've been on a mission to expand my culinary horizons. And Vietnamese food is one of my favorites. On a recent Wednesday morning I called a friend and invited her to join me at Chopstix in Carytown. They'd recently changed owners the chef bought it from the previous owners who also own Cafe Mosaic, as they wanted to make room on their plate to open a new eatery on River Road. I was curious as to whether or not, given the reins, the chef had changed the place at all. I arrived at Chopstix around 11:30 a.m. and asked for a table in the back just in case my friend's 2-year-old son decided to act like most 2-year-olds. The waitress obliged and even had a booster seat on hand pretty great for a place that really isn't all that kid-friendly in appearance. Small, a bit dark, and mirrored to add the illusion of space, the place seems to beckon to informal meetings, lunching ladies and romantic liaisons. With new menus in hand we began to assess the changes. The lunch menu did not appear to be drastically different. Separated into starters ($3.50 and under), entrees, salads and noodle soups all for $6.95, and miscellaneous soups ($3 and under), Chopstix is reasonably priced. A few items did seem new to us: Rocket shrimp, chips and BBB (when asked, the waitress said BBB was barbecue), Oriental wraps offered with a choice of six stuffings, and green papaya salad with a choice of beef, chicken, pork or shrimp. Feeling a bit wrapped-out, I decided to try the more traditional Hue noodle soup rice noodles in clear broth with shrimp and balls of pork and crabmeat. It came with a fried or fresh spring roll and I chose fresh. I'm telling you, those fresh spring rolls are to die for. Chock full of bean sprouts, rice noodles, shrimp and cilantro and containing no visible fat, I could dine on them forever. Plus, they come with a delectable peanut sauce for dipping and a marinated carrot slice that's really a garnish but one totally worthy of eating. The soup was steaming hot, served in a beautiful blue and white oversized bowl. This is the remedy for all ills, I've decided. The tasty broth would cure any ailment, physical or spiritual, and the featured extras were plentiful and savory. For once, my vegetarian friend had plenty from which to choose. Unlike many restaurants where there's one token veggie dish, at Chopstix items sans meat abound. She chose the lemongrass entree and picked tofu as her main event (beef, chicken, pork and shrimp are other options). Entrees come with a soup or small Vietnamese salad, and she picked the salad. Between mother and son, not a morsel remained at the end of lunch. Her salad was composed of shredded cabbage tossed in vinaigrette dressing with carrots, chopped peanuts and lots of cilantro (this is also available as an entree salad). The plate of lemongrass and tofu was encircled in steamed broccoli florets and topped with a light brown sauce, served with rice. Whatever changes the chef may have in mind, the current menu is superb. We took a glance at the dinner list and it tempted us to come back for shrimp on sugar cane, house specialties served on bamboo skewers, salmon four ways, Vietnamese pasta or a stuffed rice crepe. With the most expensive dinner entree topping out at $13.95, this is a great choice for pre-Byrd Theatre dinner. We certainly appreciated the quick, friendly service at lunchtime and, even more wonderful, the waitress didn't even flinch when a glass of water spilled all over our table (need I say who perpetrated the deed?) So, as far as I'm concerned, Chopstix is as tasty as ever with promise of innovation and continued
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