If Somerset Maugham was right, there are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.
Leave it to Thai tastemakers Sonny Kiatsuranon and his brother Joe to make that happen in Richmond. The menu at Sonny's Fan Noodle Bar migrated to Joe's My Noodle & Bar, leaving the former space ripe for a new spot unrelated to the other restaurants. The youthful Pik Nik reels in diners with an eclectic and affordable menu served in a restaurant resembling an outdoor park, with muted lighting, a mural of a tree painted on wooden walls and a terracotta floor under a sky-blue tin ceiling.
The upscale picniclike tables are crafted of distressed metal and dark wood with attached benches, configured for the most generously sized customers. Translation: If you're vertically challenged or don't have a lot of padding in front of you, you'll be perched on the edge of your bench to reach the table.
Eager to spread the gospel of their seasonal cocktail menu, the staff wastes no time inquiring if you'd like something from the bar. The wasabi shots are renowned on social media: a spoonful of high-grade wasabi followed by a shot of chilled vodka. Acolytes swear that the two react in such a way that all that remains after the one-two punch is refreshment and a feeling of invigoration. For the less adventurous there's beer and wine, along with well-crafted mocktails.
Pik Nik's menu casts a far wider net than traditional picnic food, ranging from a half rack of lamb and a burger crowned with a sunny side up egg to more than a dozen vegetarian offerings. Throughout the menu, myriad flavors ensure that this is a global picnic.
Appetizers, small plates and meatless options take up about three-quarters of the menu. You'll get sticky fingers, but plump black pepper and honey-glazed wings ($12) are easy to dispatch and worth the mess, although heat heads may prefer the grilled Fresno pepper ($12) variety. Smoked salmon caviar dresses up a small plate of perfectly seared scallops with a Panama prawn ($12) while pear chutney rounds out the flavor profile.
Nonmeat eaters will find a lot to love at Pik Nik. Wasabi yogurt lends seductive heat to balsamic-drizzled roasted cauliflower ($7), and the Indian street burger ($11) turns cauliflower, beets and lentils into a satisfying two-handed meal. My rendezvous with an everything bagel noodle bowl ($7) was a bust, mainly because this everything bagel fan expects salt to be a component, and it was missing in a bowl of elbow macaroni.
Entrees skew traditional and well executed. With the added appeal of demi-glace, a thick pork chop ($24) makes for good eating — even when cooked a tad more well-done than necessary — especially in the company of creamy sage risotto with everyone's favorite harbinger of spring, asparagus, draped atop it all. Every bit as filling, two generous crabcakes ($19) match the richness and creaminess of their plate mate, garlic potatoes, something you might not expect to find on a menu alongside vegetable dumpling chaat and curried Broccolini with tahini.
For those times when your mood is more refined, Pik Nik offers wine dinners as an option Tuesdays through Thursdays. Our server tells us it's a way for the chef to flex his creative muscles and try out new menu possibilities. Experience three courses for $30 with an additional $15 for wine pairings, or $40 for four courses with $20 for wine pairings. Think of it as a fancy picnic.
Some fine-tuning here and there would go a long way toward enticing more than Fan regulars to the Main Street spot. If three meals at Pik Nik have taught me anything, it's timing. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m., offering 11 tasty small plates for $4-8, but arriving after 5:15 all but guarantees a decibel level challenging for conversation. Weekends you can expect both the drinking and eating crowd to be in residence, so allow plenty of time if you've got somewhere to be afterward.
Which makes sense, because who wants to rush through a picnic? Just remember, this is a Fan picnic, so you'll likely hear the kitchen staff's jokes through the bathroom wall. Maugham would say the good news is that your picnic will be comfortable. S
Mondays – Fridays 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.,
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.,
Sundays 10 a.m. - midnight
2301 W. Main St.