Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short Order

South Beach meets Shockoe Slip.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Kai, a new club beside Sam Miller’s, brings a lot of blue and a very different feel to Shockoe Slip. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Kai, a new club beside Sam Miller’s, brings a lot of blue and a very different feel to Shockoe Slip.

It takes a little bit of crazy to build a 42-foot bar out of clear acrylic that weighs half a ton. Crazier, fill it with water rushing through at 300 gallons a minute. But when you’re trying to transform an 1860s warehouse into a bar that will attract a bunch of millennials, it’s an idea that suggests South Beach meets Shockoe Slip. And yes, those are bubbles beneath that drink.

The place is Kai, set in the former Taphouse Grill at 1212 E. Cary St. The project is the latest for longtime Sam Miller’s operator Tom Leppert and technology designer Loring Wiggins. Kai has a 32-foot bar back that’s a seamless flat screen, ready to show whatever images a crowd might want to see — themselves, a game, video from the club the night before, or the default bubbles that drive home the water theme represented by the name Kai, which means ocean in Hawaiian.

With more screens set against the original brick walls, “it’s a cool contrast,” Wiggins says, “and not something you’re used to seeing in the Slip.” The space sat empty for 18 months but Leppert predicted a club could help Sam Miller’s gain traction with a younger crowd. DJs will work from a mirrored booth in back, the club’s social media is being manned by Max Duchaine, and manager Steve DeSantis is been busy testing drink recipes and ordering local beers such as Hardywood Park, Legend and Starr Hill.

Chef Rhian Pryor, with more than a dozen years in the Sam Miller’s kitchen, will serve appetizers and black truffle fries, and eventually hopes to add an early-morning breakfast spread to appeal to late-night drinkers. With the demographics of the area showing some 8,000 new, young residents moving in within the past few years, it’s open season for clubs and their potentially significant revenue. Kai operates Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. At other times it’s a private party space.

Blue lights, bubbles, a water-filled bar, and the pulse of a new club in the Slip — “this is what the market is about right now,” Leppert says, “and we have something different to offer.” Kairva.com.

Bean still blazing: Don’t be fooled by the “for lease” sign hanging in front of Baja Bean Co. in the Fan. (Style Weekly incorrectly reported last week that the business was closing.) Jeff Allums says it’s the space upstairs, and not the longtime watering hole, that’s available — although for $5 million, he’ll consider selling. The business at 1520 W. Main St. is thriving, he says, and VCU basketball has helped bring in crowds for Tecate and Legend brews. A sister location in Charlottesville is closing, Allums says.

Meet the neighborhood chefs: A savory twist comes with the West Grace Street candlelight house tour Feb. 11 from 4-8 p.m. In addition to an evening view of six historic homes, there will be wine tastings from Cooper Vineyards and snacks with local chefs. Manny Mendez of Kuba Kuba, Josie Flemotomos from Gus’s Bar and Grill, Melissa Barlow of the Empress, Xavier Beverly from the Camel, Augusto Lopez of the Republic and Chad Stambaugh from Emilio’s will share food and conversation with guests. Tickets are $20 in advance and on sale at Strawberry Fields Flowers and Gifts, Strawberry Street Vineyard, Lucille’s Bakery and Lift Coffee. Westgracestreet.com.

Chang in progress: Peter Chang Café, featuring the Chinese cuisine of the acclaimed chef, opens Feb. 9 at 11424 W. Broad St. Its location, next to the Miss Yu salon in the former Rainbow Buffet space, is relatively unassuming. Chang’s reputation, however, isn’t. He’s the subject of a Stanley Tucci-directed feature film in the works, and gained fame after a Calvin Trillin piece about his peripatetic ways and his memorably spicy Szechwan creations. Chang is reportedly gauging diner interest here for potential expansion downtown.

Coast cleared: Lavish, an apothecary of fine beauty products, is moving into 5806 Grove Ave. where the former seafood restaurant Coast had been. Amy Grigg, owner of the shop, says she signed a lease in December and expects to open in February.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Short Order

Richmond Becomes Taco Town.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Hamooda Shami brings years of restaurant experience in Washington and elsewhere to his next Carytown opening, Don’t Look Back, across from sister business, the New York Deli. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Hamooda Shami brings years of restaurant experience in Washington and elsewhere to his next Carytown opening, Don’t Look Back, across from sister business, the New York Deli.

Sometimes culinary news comes in trendy waves, and for Richmond, 2012 is looking very taco. We've reported the imminent openings of Tio Pablo in Shockoe Bottom, where tamales and tequila will compete with the new Margarita's Cantina and La Bamba a few yards east. En Su Boca is stirring up Scott's Addition with its dramatic reveal of a former car shop complete with painted signs and garage doors, long hidden by the cheesy exterior of Tri-Angle adult bookstore on the Boulevard. Tacos will be a key menu element.

Add to that influx the news that Nate Gutierrez, a local legend for his forerunning Nate's Tacos food truck, has signed on as chef at a new business replacing Viva Mexico in Carytown. With his following and last year's emotional farewell to his downtown to-go business, this is welcome news for a hard-working cook. The new restaurant is called Don't Look Back, a project from New York Deli co-owner Hamooda Shami; his partner at the deli, Demetrios Tsiptsis, holds a share in this spot across the street at 2929 W. Cary as well.

Shami describes Don't Look Back as a nostalgic neighborhood place with seating for about 100, a more prominent bar and a patio in back. The concept is open to interpretation, because Shami's "sick of one-dimensional themes," he says. "I think people will respond because we're not dumbing it down — it's abstract and that's intentional." Painting is in progress, and Gutierrez is developing the menu while Shami nails down the usual opening details. He expects it to be ready by March.

Richmond's share of Mexican eateries has perhaps quintupled in the past five years, from upscale chains to hidden gems along the city's busiest corridors and the expansion of Boka Tako truck territory. For those who used to complain that there was no such thing as authentic Mexican food here, and worthy Cali-Tex variations, this may be a year to reconsider that notion.

Café Ole's second location in Carytown has been closed for several weeks. Business at the mother ship downtown continues with its usual base of devotees.

Now open: Kai, a new club adjacent to Sam Miller's, hosts its grand opening this weekend at 1212 E. Cary St. It opens Thursday through Saturday, 9 p.m. - 2 a.m. We'll have details on the spot in next week's issue.

Correction: In the print version of this story we incorrectly reported that Baja Bean Co. was closing. It is the space above the restaurant that is for lease. Baja remains open and will host a VCU basketball Internet night on Wednesday. Style regrets the error.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Short Order

"Meddling" with a new pop-up. Plus, the newest RVA food news.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 4:00 AM

The new and now-open Phil’s Continental Lounge has a familiar vibe, the same owners, and classics such as the BLT. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • The new and now-open Phil’s Continental Lounge has a familiar vibe, the same owners, and classics such as the BLT.

Tim Bereika, the inventive and attentive chef at Secco Wine Bar, launches a two-night pop-up affair at a restaurant that's not his own. He and chef Collin Wagner are calling the thing Meddle. "It means to invade, in a fun way," Bereika says. "We're taking over the kitchen at The Roosevelt — with their permission, of course. They're just as excited about doing something different as we are." Roosevelt owner Kendra Feather and chef Lee Gregory are the willing co-conspirators.

Meddle runs Feb. 19 and 20, with staggered seatings from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 for food, tax and tip. Drinks (and drink tips) are extra. The menu was just announced via Twitter and the chef's blog, timbereika.tumblr.com. "It seems like a good time to do this," he says. "It's just a chance to bring something new to the Richmond dining scene that's fun."

Ready to go: Blowtoad is set to open Jan. 17 in Carytown, and chef and owner Jimmy Sneed says he'll run some regular promotions to drive business. Look for Byrd Tuesdays, when the special will be fried chicken served with two tickets to the Byrd Theater across the street. Pizza, craft beer, sandwiches on house-baked bread and Sneed's intensely focused management style will give this new restaurant a character like no other in the neighborhood. Happy the Artist designed the pizza box illustration, which features a smiling brick oven and the artist himself, a longtime Sneed devotee whose work has adorned all of the chef's restaurants.

Now serving: Phil's Continental Lounge is back in business a block west of its old Westhampton location. Specials include dollar tacos, burgers and dogs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. Karaoke is Thursdays at 9 p.m. 5808 Grove Ave. 288-8687. Philscontinentallounge.com.

Signs of silence: Coast, the seafood restaurant at 5806 Grove Ave., has been closed for several weeks. Signs on the door and voicemail messages have offered varying dates for a reopening, but calls for information were unreturned. Coastrva.com.

Coffee empire: Work is in progress for an expansion at Café Caturra's busy Short Pump location. The local chain has expanded its reach to seven units in three states, with catering operations on the way and more locations in the long-range plan. Cafecaturra.com.

Live from Manhattan: Slow Food RVA holds a viewing party for "Changing the Way We Eat," a webcast that explores sustainability and other food topics. Gallery5 at 200 W. Marshall St. is the setting for the Jan. 21 event, which runs 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. tedxmanhattan.org.

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