Food Phobias 

Chicken hearts and fish cheeks? Conquer your fears to break the restaurant rut.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

The squeamishness Americans can have for foods that are popular in other parts of the world is regrettable. Sure, to the uninitiated these dishes may sound creepy. But once you squash your fears, you'll find they're quite delectable. Here are some local favorites to try:

1. Sweet shrimp at Akida. In most areas, when shrimp is ordered at a sushi restaurant, it's cooked. But sweet shrimp is a raw body with a lightly fried head. A light, sweet sea taste is projected from the body punctuated only by the delicious goodness in the head. 814 N. Robinson St., 359-8036.

2. Panchito's cow's head and tongue tacos. Mostly made from the cheeks (cachetes). While the phrase "cow's head" can be unappetizing, the flavor most certainly is not. Restaurante Taqueria Panchito, 6531 Midlothian Turnpike, 447-1003.

3. Veal tongue at Dinamo. Veal tongue is quite common in other parts of the world. Bold and rich, it can be describes as similar in flavor to brisket. 821 W. Cary St., 678-9706, dinamorichmond.com.

4. Fried corn with gusano (ground-worm) salt at Saison. Typically, this is salt blended with desiccated worms. This could be the least frightening and most versatile way to enjoy caterpillars in your corn. 23 W. Marshall St., 269-3689, saisonrva.com.

5. Chicken hearts from Bistro 27. Often overlooked, this part of the chicken is tender. Done in a Brazilian style, these offer a juicy and slightly tangy bite. 27 W. Broad St., 780-0086, bistrotwentyseven.com.

6. Chicken feet from Full Kee. Often called phoenix talons or claws, these gems can be a little off-putting in texture. But once you settle in, the feet, mostly skin, show their appealing nature. 6400 Horsepen Road, Henrico, 673-2233.

7. Pigskin noodles from Comfort. If you are expecting a flour texture, these might present an obstacle. These noodles are a little like a thick, more gelatinous tagliatelle with a nearly neutral flavor with a hint of swine. 200 W. Broad St., 780-0004, comfortrva.com.

8. Fish cheeks from the Roosevelt. Really and truly, the best part of the fish. 623 N. 25th St., 658-1935, rooseveltrva.com.

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