Global Eats Part I

A Savory Guide To 101 Of Coastal Virginia’s Most Enticing International Eats



(page 1 of 2)

Photos by Jim Pile, David Uhrin and Ryan Miller

At a time when cultural diversity sets us apart, there’s one thing that brings us all together: food. Our food scene is rich with flavors representing a variety of experiences and nationalities, allowing individuals with eclectic palates to sample their way around the world, one thrilling bite at a time. Read Part I, Part II and Part III to be transported through a number of countries—China, France, Bangladesh, Germany, Morocco, Jamaica, India, Japan, Mexico, Iran, Turkey, Thailand and Vietnam among them—through 101 restaurants that put Coastal Virginia’s culinary culture on the map and on the globe.

 

Chinese

 

Judy’s Sichuan

Utilitarian-looking when it opened with glaring school cafeteria-lighting, Judy’s Sichuan is now a sleek and contemporary showplace, complete with eye-catching bar, worthy of how magnificent the food has always been. Chiles, garlic and the eponymous pepper (of the citrus family) infuse the mapo tofu, twice-cooked pork, dan dan noodles and addictive eggplant in yu-shiang sauce with Sichuan province’s famed flavors. But soup dumplings and smoked tea duck balance fieriness. Judy, ever-present, ensures you’re satisfied with each dish; hard to imagine anyone wouldn’t be. 328 Constitution Dr., Virginia Beach, 757-499-2810. Just unveiled Greenbrier outpost: 1434 Sam’s Dr. #112, Chesapeake. JudysSichuanCuisine.com
—MM

 

Jade Villa

You can get scrumptious orders of General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour pork (from the Americanized menu), but it’s the flavor-laden, texturally-intriguing dishes like duck tongue and jellyfish salad (from the authentic Cantonese menu) that make this strip mall restaurant near Town Center tops (and open until 1:30 a.m., great for midnight snacking). Families line up early on Saturdays and Sundays for dim sum brunch/lunch; join them. Servers whip between tables with carts, stopping to explain each item. Point out your pick, then savor a true taste of China. 353 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach, 757-473-2228. JadeVillaVB.com
—MM

 

Peter Chang, Chinese restaurant Virginia Beach, Williamsburg
Peter Chang

Peter Chang

Once elusive, Peter Chang has become inescapable. The highly-praised former Chinese Embassy chef who introduced the nuances of Sichuan cuisine to America at a string of northern Virginia establishments, then shrank from sight (inciting a Where’s Waldo-type frenzy among legions of fans) currently has nine (and counting!) restaurants (three locally). Must eats: Sichuan chili beef, tofu skin in hot and numbing sauce, dry fried eggplant and scallion bubble pancake landing like a hot air balloon on your table. 3364 Princess Anne Rd., Virginia Beach, 757-468-2222. 4830 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, 757-963-5051. 1203 Richmond Rd., Williamsburg, 757-345-5829. PeterChangRestaurant.com
—MM

 

French

 

Le Yaca, French restaurant Williamsburg, Virginia Beach
Le Yaca

Le Yaca

Like Brits crossing the Channel for France’s gastronomic glories, Southsiders have long braved the HRBT for chef-owner Daniel Abid’s opulent coquilles Saint Jacques, foie gras-festooned tournedos Rossini and Grand Marnier soufflé in Williamsburg. Now they have Le Yaca locally. Joined by son Marcus (also a chef) and daughter-in-law/floor manager Cecile (the young couple met at Manhattan’s Benoit by Alain Ducasse, Abid’s mentor), the Abid family brought stellar cuisine and polished service in a refined setting to Virginia Beach in 2017. Magnifique! 1430 High St., Williamsburg, 757-220-3616. 741 First Colonial Rd., Virginia Beach, 757-500-4773. LeYacaWilliamsburg.com 
—MM

 

Nouvelle

Nouvelle is master of subtle deadpan. You can’t tell by the low, white building’s somewhat clueless situation between a parking lot and office complex whether pancakes or pommes frites are to be expected. This unassuming exterior hints at the unbuttoned French cuisine awaiting diners inside. From silky, scarlet bouillabaisse to caramelized, fruit-laden bread pudding, Nouvelle’s playful menu is grounded by nonchalant glamor. Chef and co-owner Rina Estero commands the restaurant’s gleaming kitchen, arranging artistic plates of millennial pink kinilaw. She leans over the bar, smiling. “How’s it taste?” Vivid as the tangerine orange walls. 217 Grace St., Norfolk, 757-248-3712, Facebook.com/NouvelleRestaurantNorfolk
​—RH

 

Café Provençal

Like the sophisticated simplicity of fresh lavender adorning white linen tablecloths, Café Provençal welcomes guests with the unpretentious elegance you’d hope to find in a country French café. Pair with some of the best wine Virginia has to offer from The Williamsburg Winery (on-site), and the experience is unrivaled. The Café prides itself on being a true farm-to-table establishment, committed to working with Virginia farmers and purveyors. This dedicated quality can be found in some of the restaurant’s most adored dishes, like their Big Island Aquaculture oysters, harvested in nearby Hayes, or their pork chop from Autumn Olive Farms in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. 5810 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, 757-941-0317, WilliamsburgWinery.com/Cafe-Provencal
—AB

 

Blue Talon Bistro

Come to this casual and welcoming bistro-style establishment for upscale French cuisine that is detail-oriented but unpretentious, just the way we like it. Start with Cassoulet "Loiseau"—duck confit and Burgundy snails with a braise of white beans—and try the popular chicken and mushroom crêpes—baked crêpes stuffed with Herbs de Provence, asparagus tips and parmesan cheese—as your main course. Blue Talon combats the stereotypical notion of fancy French dishes plated as small portions. This unstuffy establishment will leave you gleefully stuffed. 420 Prince George St., Williamsburg, 757-476-2583, BlueTalonBistro.com
—MMS

 

Lamia’s Crêpes

Growing up in Paris, Algerian-born Lamia Pappas raked crêpe batter on a circular griddle the way other children spread jam on bread. Her love for filled, folded, French pancakes followed her here where she lamented the lack of crêperies. In 2016, a Downtown Norfolk initiative empowered her to open a sliver of a Granby Street storefront—a lean-to counter inside, a sprinkling of tables outside—turning out paper-thin discs for fillings savory (ham and Swiss, salmon) and sweet (cinnamon cream, apple and salted caramel sauce), and raking in a passel of crêpe-lovers. 401 Granby St., Norfolk, 757-961-1181, LamiasCrepes.com
—MM

German

 

Bier Garden, German restaurant Portsmouth
The Bier Garden

The Bier Garden

Playful street signs out front point to German stadts, but you need not go a kilometer further for a genuine beer garden experience; every day is Oktoberfest here. The Stuttgart-originating Osfolk family roll out gemütlichkeit with Southern German recipes for wursts, schnitzels and spätzle, and a beer philosophy of “the more the better.” Enjoy over 300 in the bar, homey dining room, patio or breezeway; fill your growler; or buy some at the year-old gift shop that also purveys Bavarian suspenders, imported foods and steins—like those lining many a wall here. 438 High St., Portsmouth, 757-393-6022, BierGarden.com
—MM

 

Caribbean

 

Mojito Café

Who doesn’t dream of sinking their toes in the sand, sipping a tropical cocktail and feasting on flavor-drenched island fare? Edwin Padilla makes it a reality, converting Virginia Beach into Playa Vega Baja at this snug, casual, tucked-back hut with mouthwatering Puerto Rican/Cuban dishes such as ropa vieja (house-roasted pulled beef with rice and tostones), pernil asado (house-roasted pork with peppers and caramelized onions), mofongo, fish tacos, flan and other Latino-based specialties, along with the namesake cocktail dispensed from a corrugated tin bar. 300 28th St., Virginia Beach, 757-233-6855, MojitoCafeVaB.net
—MM

 

Island Krave, Norfolk Caribbean restaurant
Island Krave

Island Krave Caribbean Smokehouse

No need for steel drums when the food is this good. “Do you want me to turn the light on and ruin the romantic atmosphere?” owner Dorothy Lovell asks with a wink. Her restaurant is warm and welcoming, like the Caribbean islands which give heart to the food she cooks herself. Pick from jerk chicken, pork, curry, brown stew chicken, smoked wings or oxtail. Order plantain or sweet potato fries. Or skip dinner and fall straight into the cinnamon-sugar embrace of buttery, oven-fresh coco bread. We won’t tell. 22 W. 21st St. J, Norfolk, 757-627-1725, IslandKrave.com
—RH 

 

De Rican Chef

Family-owned and offering an authentic island aura, De Rican Chef cultivates its plates true to the taste of its Caribbean heritage. Try some Puerto Rican favorites such as mofongos rellenos, prepared with mortar and pestle and made of mashed green plantains with garlic and seasoned with either chicken, fried pork, beef stew or skirt steak, or let loose on one of their signature pork entrees such as carne frita con cebolla, fried pork with onion and tostones. 3208 Holland Rd., Ste. 105, Virginia Beach, 757-468-1110, DeRicanChefVa.com
—RM

 

Dunn’s River Jamaican Restaurant

If you’re into minimalism or a fan of the adage, “Good things come in small packages,” Dunn’s River Jamaican & Caribbean Restaurant is just the ticket. The footprint of the eatery is small, there are very few tables for those dining in, and the menu is not at all expansive. But that’s where the small stuff ends. With food that is big on flavor and large on value, thanks to the very generous portions they serve (oxtail is a specialty), the tiny restaurant provides plenty of irie factor you won’t want to miss. 5014 Jefferson Ave., Newport News, 757-928-9566
—BB

 

Carib Shack

With barely two booths to its name, Carib Shack’s spice-riddled jerk bowls, burritos, soups, Cuban sandwiches, sweet plantains and rum cake are primarily for takeaway (heck, it calls itself a shack), but what’s really taken away are your taste buds … to a Caribbean retreat. Born-and-bred Virgin Islander Vinny Michael Gagliani treasures three generations of family recipes, hence Trinidadian-tweaked Granny’s Curry and Mama’s Beef (hormone- and antibiotic-free) with lentils and rice cooked in coconut milk. Periodically he stews whole oxtail. When he does, get it fast or it’ll get away. 2272 West Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach, 757-692-6851, TasteCarib.com
—MM

Add your comment: