Tara Thai's sea change

Tara Thai's sea change



What Tara Thai general manager, “Birdi,” calls an “ocean theme” makes you feel that you’re bobbing about in a human aquarium.

It wasn’t the pre-Christmas opening he planned, but as of about three weeks ago, Tara Thai owner Nick Srisawat has launched the 11th location of his regional chain in the Barracks Road Shopping Center. We’ve been telling you about the imminence of this place since way back in March 2008, when we first learned that former tenant Casella’s Italian wasn’t able to renew its lease on the space next to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Restaurantarama dropped into Tara Thai for lunch last week and saw first hand why it took so long to turn pizza parlor into Pad Thai proprietor. The interior has gotten a major overhaul, including a swanky new lighted bar ready to serve those fancy, fruity cocktails that pair so well with salty, spicy Thai food. A new open kitchen area allows scents to waft through a dining room adorned with sea-inspired glass artwork and saturated colors of deep reds and blues. General Manager “Birdi” tells us that this particular Tara Thai has an ocean theme, and with all the red and blue lights, glass fish sculptures and oversized, crab pot-looking cages surrounding a few of the booths, we definitely felt like we were bobbing about in a human aquarium while we munched on our Panang Curry with Chicken.

Judging by the lunch crowd last Wednesday, we’d say Tara Thai already is off to a swift start, and an exhausted-looking Birdi, who is commuting between the Charlottesville and Richmond shops every day, says, “We’ve been really busy and we haven’t even done any advertising yet.”

After chatting with us, Birdi was running off to Kinko’s to print more take-out menus. “I printed 1,000 for the opening, and they are gone already!” he told us, with a look of disbelief. 

Java Java responds to closing rumors

Unless you’ve been living under, ahem, a brick for the last few weeks, you know that the Downtown Mall is a mess of renovation and noise. A few weeks ago, we reported that the Downtown location of Java Java was having a love-hate relationship of sorts with the rebricking project. “People come in just to escape the noise or talk on their cell phones,” Java Java employee Anita Byers told us, which wouldn’t be so bad…if the people coming in were also shelling out some dough. Her co-worker, Sherie Lund, added, “Sales have been down.” Well, it didn’t take long after that interchange for the rumors to begin flying that Java Java’s Downtown location would be closing. While we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Java Java’s team was retreating to the peace and quiet of their other location on Ivy Road, co-owner John Leschke tell us the rumor of the Downtown location closing is “not true.” As for business being tough right now, what with the arctic temps and jackhammering outside, Leschke told us, “I have no comment,” but then added, “It’s short term.”

Food for thought

We sure do love our local food around here. So much so that we now have two free local magazines dedicated to celebrating Central Virginia ’s bounty. Joining the recently launched Flavor magazine is Edible Blue Ridge, a member of the Edible Communities magazine franchise published locally by Steve Russell. Now, whether the two mags love each other is quite another matter, and in fact, Edible Communities filed a lawsuit against the publisher of Flavor for copyright infringement among other claims. We hear that case has now been settled.

While attending the launch party for Edible last week, Restaurantarama chatted with local greenhouse food grower and Red Hill Farm owner Wendy Harrison and learned that Red Hill has expanded the sales of its salsas, dips and hummus to the Whole Foods in Richmond and Northern Virginia and is working on distributing in Baltimore as well. Good luck procuring a refrigerated delivery truck, Wendy.