Probably every Greek-food lover in town has eaten something cooked by Michael Trak, one of the city's longest-serving chefs. He owns The Grapevine, Grapevine Bistro and Grapevine Three Chopt all busy Mediterranean restaurants known for their family atmosphere, fresh cuisine and western Henrico locations.
Because the businesses seemed to be competing with each other, Trak and his son Mitchell decided to reconfigure the original Grapevine, at 3061 Lauderdale Drive, with a new décor and menu concept.
"He's been wanting to do this for a long time," Mitchell Trak says of his father's decision to jump into untried waters. "We've gutted the restaurant and are serving a completely different menu of fresh, local seafood with a Mediterranean flair, and steaks."
Large aquariums drive home a tropical theme one as a bar-back surrounded by liquor bottles, the other anchoring the 80-seat dining room. A handful of patio and bar tables take the overflow, and the dining room's tablecloths, blue glassware and warm, copper tones show off the restaurant's new, upscale identity. A new name, Seafire Grill, marks the change, and the dinner-nightly operation is up and running after a soft opening last week. 360-0900.
It's hugely popular in Japan, and now it's coming to Richmond: a rotating sushi bar that puts food in front of diners. It's sort of a cross between a cafeteria and a roller rink, and you'll find it at Sushi Go Round, in the works at 4040-H Cox Road in Innsbrook.
Japanese cuisine such as vegetable tempura, fish and chicken dishes will spin within a bright, casual art deco setting. Sakes and Japanese wines will add their own effects, and tastings will help novices learn the nuances of an ample menu.
A grand opening is several weeks away, but already people are talking up the idea that this is an affordable sushi alternative with its own, more American gimmick in an area that serves nearly every other kind of cuisine.
Parrotheads and Young Republicans are among the first to sign up for party rooms at the new Black Finn Restaurant and Saloon near the Canal Walk. (These normally fierce enemies in the wild apparently set aside their rivalries for a mojito.)
The bar, a franchise, opened last week as the latest in a series of watering holes and dining spots coming to the neighborhood. Southern Railway Deli is serving light fare and selling an assortment of Greek pastries and sundries; Toad's Place is just now in its opening-month launch; and word is that at least two new ethnic restaurants are on the drawing board for locations nearby.
If there's a saturation point for Richmond food business, it's falling on deaf ears to quite a few investors. Meanwhile, some of the city's finest restaurants remain quietly on the market, chasing back rumors and waiting for sales while the selling's good. Watch this space for details.
Dogwood Grille & Spirits, fresh on the heels of critical acclaim in Food & Wine magazine, closed its doors last week after a long, mostly quiet period on the for-sale market. An apologetic phone message says the place is being renovated for the next two or three weeks, which is typically restaurant code for "has been sold." The owners are out of town and had not returned Style's calls by press time.