Richmond has been waiting. And waiting. But last night, Peter Chang’s new restaurant in the Hofheimer building at 2816 W. Broad St. previewed its new menu with small bites and opened today at 11 a.m. (You can read more about the James Beard Award finalist here.)
The Richmond food media was out in full force, sitting underneath the long, bright red panel dancing with golden dragons, along with building owners Annie and Carter Snipes.
As promised, it’s a different kind of restaurant than the others Chang owns. The design is modern, the seating is sleek and comfortable, and the staff darted around in matching Chinese jackets, delivering the chef’s food in a steady stream, while Chang paused at the kitchen door, flanked by wife Lisa Zhang and daughter Lydia, to gaze at the crowd in his high white chef’s hat each time he brought out new platters to be passed.
What was on offer? Ah, let me recollect through my ma la haze. There were sweet and spicy lotus roots deep-fried and with sticky rice filling, a version of shu mei on a mushroom cap, pan-fried dumplings, smoked salmon with salmon roe in a cucumber boat, buns filled with duck and bites of Chang’s famous bamboo fish. My favorite? Lisa Zhang’s excellent sesame balls with sweet bean filling, fresh from the fryer, were airy, sticky, nutty and I ate three of them. I thought it might be rude if I surfed around the room trying to snag some more.
Bar manager Derek Salerno had a full selection of wine and whipped up an intriguing cocktail menu that included my first choice, the Wuhan Mule made of Hua Jiao vodka, ginger, tamarind and lime that came in a classic copper cup and a sesame-washed gin with cucumber tonic I had a sip of later.
It’s a different sort of experience than what you might be used to if you’ve visited the Short Pump location. The new dishes are an intriguing and complex mix of styles — but plenty of old favorites such as the cilantro and scallion-laden dry-fried eggplant and the New Zealand lamb chops, laced with cumin and numbing Sichuan peppercorns that made guests last year at the James Beard House scream — from both the heat and happiness —are still on the menu.
My suggestion? Go now, go immediately, do not waste time finding a seat while the man himself is still behind the stove.
The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m.-midnight Mondays-Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sundays. For details, search Peter Chang on Facebook.