Ready to Fly

Mike Ledesma’s Perch opens this weekend.


The text messages started going out on Thursday. Mike Ledesma finally was ready to debut Perch with a preview dinner service to a small group of contributors. It takes a village to open a restaurant, and Ledesma invited his villagers to say thanks: The designer, architect, food supplier, audio-visual installer, furniture upholsterer, publicist, photographer, carpenter and others turned out.

Saturday night, about 90 guests filled the dining room, sharing drinks, food and congratulations. Some toted wine, not knowing that Perch had received its ABC license the night before. The light and airy space seats 148, grouped into a handful of dining spaces, or locations to perch.

In the main dining room, Perch has a six-seat counter facing the open kitchen, which diners can pre-book for a Japanese omakase-style customized dinner. The open dining room is flanked on one side by a brick-walled patio with sliding glass doors, and the other by the 15-seat white-topped bar. Out front, an eight-seat sidewalk counter along the wall faces the restaurant. When the front window is open, guests can enjoy sidewalk dining.

A private and soundproofed dining area in the back is wired for audio-visual presentations. It has a view into the kitchen, behind glass panels that can be made transparent or opaque, depending on the party’s preference. The charming, four-table outdoor patio is enclosed by the building’s original brick walls with open windows. Fans are suspended by metal beams across the open ceiling.

The decor is punctuated with clever nods to chef Ledesma’s Hawaiian culinary history, including a large eight-person table designed to look like a vintage surfboard. The teal upholstery and white tile behind the bar create an upscale beachy vibe. A large landscape mural pays homage to the original wallpaper from the well-known previous tenant, Joy Garden. That signature graphic is also on the business cards, menus, and matchboxes.

On Saturday, Ledesma opened the front window and patio doors, sending a refreshing breeze through the restaurant as guests took seats and servers took orders.

General manager and beverage director Kristel Poole helmed the bar, cocktail shakers dancing in both hands. Ledesma’s proud father cruised the dining room and kitchen, panning with his phone camera. Sous chef Marlin Remick kept the wood- and gas-fired oven busy with small flatbreads dotted with goat cheese, caramelized onion, prosciutto, concord grape reduction and arugula.

The menu listed a limited four-course meal, starting with a mixed salad garnished with peeled cherry tomatoes and small chunks of crispy peanut brittle. The pork belly appetizer was a standout for its crispy skin crust, a crunchy counterpoint to the fork-tender meat and zingy pickled red onions.

The vegan cakes with roasted vegetables were clever crabcake lookalikes that fooled both the eye and palate. The hearts of palm flaked like lump crabmeat, with a tang that boosted the vegetable flavors. Served with a sauce of veganaise, capers and aquafaba, it was the highlight of the dinner course.

For dessert, Jess Widener’s ginger ube cheesecake was a showstopper. The cheesecake was tinged lavender from the purple sweet potato, known as ube. Its softness was offset by a crisp ginger and pecan base, infused with maple syrup.

The menu greeted guests with mahalo, a Hawaiian word for gratitude and thanks. Ledesma will extend the mahalo to the rest of Richmond this weekend, when Perch opens to the public Saturday.


2918 W. Broad St.