Short Order 

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Indochine, long beloved as one of the city's first and best French Vietnamese restaurants, has given way after a long interval to the new Carytown Sushi, opening this week at 2923 W. Cary St.

"It's not just sushi on the menu," says manager-partner Justin Chu, "but also a full kitchen," with prepared hibachi dinners like steak and scallops, and other cooked meals and entrees.

The redesigned, nonsmoking space has a large sushi selection and full bar, with a line of Japanese sakes and cocktails like the Tokyo Sunset and Blushing Geisha.

Carytown Sushi is a new business with a different menu but is connected to the well-regarded local sushi house Akida, whose owners are also partners in this venture.

Lunch and dinner are served daily, with weekend hours running continuously. The spot's diverse menu and confident staff add another dimension to an area that's thriving with some of the city's best dining options. 355-0058.

Is some of downtown's architectural charm made just a bit tacky by the new banner signs outside Becky's, the venerable breakfast and lunch café on 100 E. Cary St.?

At least some of the restaurant's fans say the corned beef hash is a better marketing tool.

Pinot noir sales have gone through the roof locally, but Doug Zerbst, director of fine wines for Republic National Distributing Company, says there's a backlash effect.

"Now that pinot noir is so mainstream, it's actually cool to be drinking merlot again," he says. Syrah is one of his favorites now, though it tends to linger instead of move on some local wine lists. "For food, syrah is one of the best wines going. People think they like shiraz but not syrah and are surprised to find out they're the same thing. And the current horse we keep flogging in the business is rosé, but it hasn't hit Richmond even though the price points are low and Wine Spectator says so.

"A little trend that we're seeing is even restaurants that might not ordinarily think they can sell a $10 glass of wine, they're putting them on and people are buying them," he says. "It doesn't have to be a $3 Inglenook Chablis anymore. People are willing to spend if it delivers quality for the money."

Jake Wollner, a wine rep for Associated Distributors, says local trends include un-oaked chardonnays out of New Zealand and Australia, and South American wines, "where the best value in the bottle are malbecs from Argentina and Chile, which are intended to drink now rather than store," he says.

One wine most likely to appear on lists here is Salmon Creek, which is not available for retail but is usually marked at the low end of the price range in local restaurants. Not surprisingly, the more adventurous wine drinkers are asking for rarer bottles, like the carmenier called Purple Angel, made from vines thought to be extinct.

"Wine is culture," Wollner says, "and it always makes the food better. Food makes the wine better too." S

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