Stealth Ninja Gourmet 

Surprisingly strong fusion food in a quirky Fan bar.

"Sticky" is a fun place to eat, a classic Fan corner joint livened up by upside-down parasols and a wall of graffiti-inspired art. Energy bounces around the room in the form of friendly and efficient servers like Robin, who sat at the table next to us to take our order. Her casual attitude was balanced by her precise knowledge of specials and entrees. She checked back often enough to let us know we hadn't been forgotten in the chaos of the Friday rush, refilling drinks and dropping off each course right on time. It's a pleasure to be served by someone who negotiates the fine line between friendly service and obsequious pandering with such good sense.

The food is good. Entrees run $7 to $17. The menu rides the line between fusion and eclectic, with some distinctly American items like a good burger and some distinctly Japanese items like most of the sushi options and the shrimp tempura platter. The real fusion dishes consist of custom rolls featuring such multicultural inspirations as smoked salmon and avocado cream cheese or the Godzirra with tempura-battered shrimp and spicy aioli sauce. The entrees include Asian-flavor-infused American classics such as the sambal-basted spareribs with scallions, and the New York strip steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare, with shiitakes in sesame-soy glaze and Sriracha hot sauce paired with garlic mashed potatoes.

If we really want to take this fusion-thing seriously, we could consider the intensely tangy lime-wasabi vinaigrette and the slightly more traditional ginger-miso dressing that complement the simple tossed salad. The cuisine is well-rounded and carefully prepared. The spicy dishes are really spicy. The steak and potatoes stick to your ribs. The tempura is crisp yet tender and paired with a savory sauce. The noodle dishes are enough for two to share.

Lots of vegan and vegetarian options from noodle bowls to sushi rolls to falafel keep Sticky a favorite among the vegetarian crowd. Couple that with good drink specials, karaoke on Tuesday night and trivia night on Sundays, and you've got a seriously entertaining hangout. The Bucket o' Tots ($4), crispy fried tater-tots, might just be the best bar food in town.

It's not often that I feel old in a restaurant; depending on the digs, it's more often the opposite. I even have a few tattoos. But here the crowd is tattooed and pierced in the extreme. A fair number of trucker hats and ironic, rummage-sale T-shirts could be seen adorning this twenty-something scene, which regularly includes more than a few prominent local musicians.

That's not to say that you have to fit a certain dress code here. Anything goes. Be as formal or casual as you want to be. It's all about having whatever you want. Which actually makes Sticky a pretty good choice when dining with children (sit in the nonsmoking section to the left of the door). On Thursdays, children under 12 eat free off the kids menu. For adults, when it rains, ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon is just $1 until 9 p.m. Regardless of the weather, sushi is half-price on Monday starting at 10:30 p.m. and on Friday from 5-6 p.m.

Sticky Rice has mastered the art of cool fusion. It may not be the fanciest sushi in town and may not be the best burger either. But it's the only place where you can get both — and a bucket of tots, too. S



Sticky Rice ($)2232 W. Main St
Richmond, VA 23220
Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30.a.m. - 2 p.m. Dinner Daily 5:30 p.m. — 10:30 p.m.
(804) 358-7870
www.stickyricerestaurant.com (coming soon)





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