Best New Restaurants
Continued
Made in Asia’s Holly Roll features shrimp tempura and spicy tuna rolled
in seaweed and rice, served with jumbo shrimp, avocado and tobiko
(fish eggs). Adam Ewing photo

Made in Asia

7302 Hancock Village Drive, 739-8160
Walking into Made in Asia is like being teleported from a Woodlake strip mall to an urban wonderland. The metallic tones and contrasting lighting clue you in that this is not a typical noodle house. Instead, Made in Asia offers a fresh, modern take on Asian classics. You will see some familiar dishes on the menu, such as chicken satay, “Bang Bang” shrimp, and masamun curry. But here, you’re treated to high-quality ingredients: white chicken breast, extra-large shrimp and fresh calamari. Even so, entrées are priced at an affordable $15 or less. Made in Asia also boasts a full sushi bar with a number of creative maki rolls. If you want a cocktail, stop by the bar to enjoy one of their martini specialties. With such diverse options, it would be easy to dismiss this restaurant as having spread itself too thin. However, Made in Asia excels in all aspects and provides a destination for city dwellers and suburbanites alike.  —Matt Sadler

 

Secco Wine Bar

2933 W. Cary St., 353-0670
In the last couple of years, wine bars in and around Richmond have become a dime a dozen. In a sea of small plates, artisanal cheeses and obscure wines by the glass, how does one stand out? Well, one could emulate Julia Battaglini, owner of Secco Wine Bar, and actually train your front-of-house staff.  When you ask any of the staff at Secco about a wine, they can describe it or, even better, recommend one. Ask about the Covadonga cheese or the acorn-fed jamón Ibérico (Spanish ham), and you will get a detailed answer instead of a confused look with a vague promise to ask the chef. Small plates such as pan-seared scallops in a white truffle-balsamic emulsion or duck confit with roasted Brussels sprouts will engage even the most jaded gourmand. As with any wine bar, however, wine is key; I like the Alsatian Pinot Blanc.  Where else can you find a list this good, with the majority of glasses between $5 and 8? —Piet E. Jones

 

Amuse

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 200 N. Boulevard, 340-1580
The expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts a brand new restaurant — aptly named Amuse — that is a stunning addition on the third level overlooking the Cochrane Atrium. Featuring Virginia-inspired fare, Amuse makes for one of the most sophisticated lunch options in town (lacquered quail, anyone?). Although the menu changes seasonally, I’m happy to see that the crab cakes I enjoyed appear to be a mainstay. Afternoon tapas are served from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., and the bar area is an ideal spot for a glass of wine or a specialty cocktail.  Floor-to-ceiling glass walls, a west-facing view over the sculpture garden and comfy retro lounge chairs make this space über-hip. The dinner menu is somewhat limited, but it always seems to offer some sort of standout dish. When I went, it was Prince Edward Island mussels with Surry sausage in a flavorful broth, served with buttery toasted bread. —Karen Cauthen Miller

 

Xtra’s Café

3322-B W. Cary St., 355-0446
Assessing a restaurant is no easy task, especially if it’s only been open since September. Such is the case with Xtra’s Café, which opened in a newly built space above the Bangles & Beads shop in Carytown. The menu is unpretentious: French dips and burgers, red or white clam pasta and even some interesting build-your-own pizza combinations. Try the White Knight, a white pizza loaded with fresh basil. Fairly inexpensive, with nearly all menu items less than $20, Xtra’s has generated a bit of buzz and is fast becoming the new place to grab a quick bite and a couple of drinks — especially during happy hour, which features multiple drink specials until 7:30 p.m. New restaurants often have service issues, and Xtra’s is no exception.  But with good, reasonably priced food and generous drinks, it’s a place to watch in 2011 as it works out the kinks and finds its groove. —PEJ

 

Pescados China Street

626 China St., 644-3474
This hip spot in Oregon Hill offers Richmond foodies fresh fish, Caribbean and Latin flavors, a fun wine list, killer mojitos and a fine beer selection. And with lunch as well as dinner hours, there are plenty of opportunities to taste Pescados’ innovative food. The restaurant does offer non-seafood options that are equally well crafted. But if you love seafood, this is your place. A favorite dish of mine is the Paella Deconstruction, which is grand to look at and to eat — the few degrees of separation of key flavors enhance the taste. There are always chef’s specials, and experience has taught me to go there first. The service is pleasant and friendly without being clingy. The space is casual; prices are fair and the location is easy to find. A sister to the Pescados in Midlothian, Pescados China Street is owned by founding chef Todd Manley and contractor Bob Windsor. —HL

 

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