Polished Spectacle 

Chez Foushee keeps pace with a changing scene.

click to enlarge food24.foushee.148.jpg

He also wisely chose to pass on the temptation to employ the French pronunciation (the street was named for Richmond's first mayor, a General Fou-shay), which would have made it Shay Fou-shay on Foo-shee street.

Hardie has twice renovated his elegant eat-in and carry-out establishment, which is surely the city's finest lunch-only spot, and now — cross your fingers — he is going to experiment with dinner.

Don't get too excited, though. Hardie insists that nighttime meals, which will be served once a month beginning Sept. 1, are not a trial run but merely a response to the increasingly popular First Fridays art walk, which is attracting hundreds of strollers to the galleries a block away on Broad Street.

But the main impediment to serving dinner nightly is Chez Foushee's flourishing and presumably lucrative catering business, which is centered on in-house events.

Meanwhile, Chez Foushee is the perfect place for a sophisticated lunch. The place has it all: an exterior that conjures up memories of a quiet corner in Seville, a bar that might have been rescued from New York in the roaring '20s and a noisy, multilevel dining room that ought to be featured in Southern Living.

Look around: Up there in the front corner are half a dozen smartly attired young women toasting each other with champagne and strawberries; leaning against the tiny, onyx bar are a couple of guys with shaved heads tossing back vodka rocks and ogling the nude painting on the wall; and throughout the bright 100-seat high-ceilinged dining areas are couples of various ages, races and genders, working professionals and a healthy contingent of ladies who lunch.

The food fits the décor: fresh ingredients expertly prepared and nicely presented. It isn't fussy or fusion, but rather standard luncheon fare cooked with flair by Chef Greg Johnson, an alum of the CCV (Country Club of Virginia to the uninitiated) now in his fifth year at Chez Foushee.

Main dishes top out at about $10.

Owner Hardie, a graduate of hotel and food management in his native Scotland, has tampered little with the basic formula since he opened the place in 1989. But a year ago he added seasonal dishes in addition to daily specials. The newly unveiled summer menu features more cold plates and salads.

Among them are a sautéed chicken breast alla Genovese (a pesto sauce is drizzled on the meat), topped with a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, and a grilled salmon salad with marinated green beans and homemade croutons.

Cold soups will augment the regular soups, which include a light, creamy crab bisque featuring strips of the crustacean topped with fried shallots, or a smooth asparagus bisque with parsley oil and Parmesan, and a roasted red pepper soup with orange cream and basil.

Foushee fanatics favor (forgive me) a plate of pimiento cheese, which combines chunky shreds of sharp cheddar, diced red peppers and onions melded with a piquant sauce with Bremner wafers or — my favorite — a warm, brandy-broiled grapefruit that also may come as a side with quiche.

In addition to the seasonal entrées, there is a daily special and a selection of wraps and sandwiches. One of the former is a version of a bacon-lettuce-tomato combo. Albacore tuna and tarragon chicken are available in either a salad or sandwich; the chicken would have benefited from a little more mayo.

Crunchy potato chips created a crust for a roasted salmon fillet that was dipped in a sauce of parsley Pernod with just a hint of the French anise liqueur and dressed with Red Bliss potatoes. A creamy, sun-dried tomato polenta cushioned a sautéed pork tenderloin sprinkled with shallots and capers.

Chez Foushee is definitely a save-room-for-dessert kind of place. Chocoholics will opt for the brownie puddle cake, smothered in caramel and sweet whipped cream, covered with sugar sprinkles and adorned with sliced strawberries.

The signature dessert is lemon butter cake, consisting of sweet and slightly tart lemon cream atop a crust that was so thick that it was nearly impossible to cut. Nevertheless, a woman sitting next to us said it was "worth two hours on the treadmill." S

Chez Foushee ($)
203 N. Foushee St.
(enter on Grace)
Lunch only: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.;
carryout, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Starting Sept. 1, open the first Friday of the month; hours to be determined.

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