Critics' Favorite Hot Spot: Pescados China Street 

click to enlarge A coconut-vanilla wafer crust, tuille, and red wine-cinnamon reduction accent the avocado tart. Photo by Scott Elmquist.
  • A coconut-vanilla wafer crust, tuille, and red wine-cinnamon reduction accent the avocado tart. Photo by Scott Elmquist.

Nine months into its run in Oregon Hill, Pescados China Street hits some high notes with Style reviewers. Snapper Cancun, lobster ceviche, avocado tart, roasted banana cheesecake, skirt steak chimichurri and a multitude of fish dishes have made a strong impression.

“Pescados stands out for me,” Tess Bosher says, “because it uses fresh, interesting flavors in ways that most other serious restaurants in town do not. It's rare around here to find that blend of Latin and Caribbean flavors in such a high-quality product. We have an overabundance of European restaurants in town when it comes to ambitious, high-end cooking, but my palate at least sometimes craves something different.” Don Baker agrees: “What I like most about Pescados is the wide selection of fresh-caught seafood, inventive starters and skillful plating. They are very accommodating, and the vibe is fun.”

Owners Todd Manley and Bob Windsor keep a visible presence out front, stoking relationships and sharing excitement over new food finds. Front-of-house flair catches Bosher's attention: “The servers are well-educated, eager to tell you all about the origin and flavor of the fish. What comes through is a real pride in the product.”

John Haddad's recent favorites include a triggerfish special and escolar that he says “was one of the best pieces of fish I've eaten in Richmond.” Pescados, he continues, “has attentive service, a good bar and wine menu, a funky atmosphere and a unique blend of dishes. There aren't many places that have beautifully fresh fish and one of the best tamales in town.”

Downsides are the size of the space and its often-crowded dinner hours. Happy hour pricing seems to have fallen off, and the experience can rarely be considered cheap eats. “One drawback is it's a tad pricey,” Bosher says. “You can run up a $100 tab in no time, but you're paying for quality.” The kitschy dAccor establishes a hang-loose tone with Marcia Germain's portraits of the owners in their glory days and a dreadlocked octopus as a logo.

Pescados China Street plans to extend its seating outdoors this year and introduce a Short Pump cousin while maintaining the mother ship on Midlothian Turnpike. The business owes its presence in the city neighborhood to a top dog in Richmond culinary circles, Mamma 'Zu, run by chef and owner Ed Vasaio with indelible success. (His other businesses, Edo's Squid and 8 A«, make every local food list worth trusting.) Diners who long ago figured out the one-ways in Oregon Hill for 'Zu have checked out the newcomer at the other end of the block. Business is good for both.


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