RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the last installment of #8OnYourPlate, we talked about date night options around town. From cheap eats to weekly specials, we provided some new places to spice up your “go to” spot.
This time, we’re spicing things up in a different way. It’s all about international food. We’ll talk about the best places to grab fast-casual grub from around the world and where to shop for unusual ingredients — but first, we’ll start with places to dine in and enjoy an international dish.
As always, we enlisted the help of RVA food and beer writer Robey Martin because, frankly, few Richmonders know food and beer better than she does.
“Authentic” international food is tough to suss out when not physically in its country of origin. For example, the cuisine in China would shine in its authenticity. However, the time to get to China, well, isn’t always feasible with our busy schedules. Lucky for us (Richmonders) the ability to get food close to real deal is easier than you would think.
I get multiple requests weekly for suggestions on dynamite spots to try some genuine international eats. Richmond has a wealth of options that are accessible, easy on the wallet and would satisfy even the most discerning of palates.
For Chinese, try Cheng Du on Broad Street. Wen Wang and Linda Xu, the women behind the expansive restaurant, once worked for Peter Chang, the famed Sichuan chef that has three locations in Richmond. Branching off, the two focus the food at Cheng Du around its namesake — Cheng Du is the capital of the Sichuan province in China. Known for dried chilis and peppercorns, the cuisine uses dry-frying, large woks and savory broths to pair subtle flavors with bold spice. Try Hot Pot. The large boiling broth bowl, available in mild, spicy or half and half, allows the diner to cook myriad options similarly to the more familiar fondue. The all-you-can-eat format allows one to be more adventurous and try multiple different meats, fish and vegetables, all cooked at the table. Cheng Du excels at other traditional Sichuan dishes as well. Their Mapo Tofu is light with a creeping piquancy and sweetness. Chong Qing chicken is heavy on the red pepper and scallion showcasing real woks skills.
SHELLY’S COMIDA LATINA
In search of Mexican, Honduran or Salvadoran, visit Shelly’s Comida Latina. Shelly Lagunes has been working in the restaurant business for over fourteen years and opened this tiny spot on Staples Mill two and a half years ago. Here, corn tortillas are made to order for tacos or the daily special as are pupusas and empanadas. A fresh pupusa on Wednesday will set you back $1. Don’t miss the daily specials or the Pollo Con Tejadas, a native dish of chopped chicken and deep spicing. Talk with Lagunes herself or her partner Adolfo Hernandez — who are permanent fixtures in the kitchen or out front — about their food’s heritage and their decision to bring it to Richmond. While the space isn’t fancy, it is affordable and gracious. A tip: get there early for lunch or dinner as the place gets packed quickly.
For quick and delicious Turkish, Lebanese or Middle Eastern cuisine, Doner Kebab in Carytown doesn’t disappoint. The small restaurant serves traditional stacked shawerma, also known as gyros (chicken, lamb and beef) until 11 p.m. nightly with the exception of Sunday. The complexity of flavor in shawermas is easily explained by co-owner Mouaz Camaj, known to regulars as Moose. He has been preparing the cuisine at Doner Kebab for the six years that the restaurant has been open. The pita bread is made to order — rolled by Moose himself — and a fixture aside most entrees. The house-made dough starts rolled flat and transforms into airy and steamy bread “ball.” Moose suggests the lamb and beef shawermas or the falafel, a mixture of chickpea flour and proprietary spices as accompaniment.