You can tell it's a different place even from the outside. What was Verbena, at Floyd and Robinson, is now Fan House, the brainchild of director, musician and entrepreneur Sunny Zhao. The filmmaker, who grew up in a restaurant family in China, made a dramatically fast change to the building's interior, adding a large bar downstairs crowned by Lady Godiva, a reproduction of an 1898 John Collier painting. Red and black accents throughout the space give off an equally sexy vibe and cinematic street view. The staff is beyond psyched: Joe Jenkins, general manager, and Reece Roberts, a chef formerly of Franco's and Cabo's, worked closely with Zhao to bring his unique and perfectionist vision to life.
The menu pairs East-meets-West flavors with down-ticket pricing. It includes things as varied as fresh Japanese tofu for $3, Asian beef kabobs for $5, smoked, grilled ostrich rolls for $12, Zhao's signature dumplings for $10, banana-leaf-wrapped pot roast with jasmine rice for $12, and sea bass with wasabi mash, bok choy and cuke salad for $25 — an early hit with first-week diners. Desserts include a must-order bread pudding and diced, spiced mango in pastry. Bartenders on both levels are pouring a concise list of wines, sakes and creative cocktails for crowds that descended as soon as the red neon “Open” sign came on last week.
There's more in the works. Outside dining and brunch begin soon, a sushi room will be added to the back, and a 35-foot canvas upstairs is about to be painted by 35 undiscovered Richmond artists, depicting their views of the Great Wall of China from beginning to end. “This is to recognize that they're all talented,” Zhao says, “and that they may be known someday.” He knows whereof he speaks. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Fan House, 2526 Floyd Ave. 612-8888. www.thefanhouse.net.
Back in action: Chef Kevin LaCivita, whose Pomegranate Euro Bistro was an acclaimed part of Shockoe Slip until it closed last year, has emerged as new chef at Sushi-O in Midlothian. He's introduced a surprising menu to augment the sushi: duck tacos, shrimp sliders, short ribs, lamb chops, seafood and steaks. LaCivita tweaked the flavorings to bring out Asian influences at the trendy, quite busy bistro. 1228 Alverser Plaza. 897-9878. www.sushiova.com.
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