Photo by Steve Hedberg
Chris Tsui, owner of EAT Restaurant Partners (which includes Fat Dragon, The Blue Goat, Wild Ginger and Osaka Sushi & Steak), started working at Peking, one of the first and most well-known Chinese restaurants in Richmond, as a busboy. His uncle, Michael Kuo, co-founded the restaurant with Dick Du, and his father, Theodore Tsui, became a partner in 1986. Tsui eventually became a waiter and then general manager when he graduated from VCU. He's seen Chinese menus transform over the years.
New World Cuisine "In the '70s and '80s, [Chinese food] was definitely geared more toward the American palate," Tsui says. "There was a [Chinese restaurant] in every shopping center." There was a decline in Richmond, says Tsui, in the number of Chinese restaurants in the mid- to late 1990s. That created a gap in the local market for a different kind of Chinese cuisine. Full Kee, on Horsepen Road, opened its doors in the late '90s with a menu full of Chinese dishes as they are actually eaten in China. Tsui saw an even bigger shift in the mid-2000s. "Things have gotten more authentic — more traditional, I would say." The public demands it. Chop suey and lo mein aren't enough for Richmond diners. "Everything is moving at a much faster pace. You have TV, everyone's much more knowledgeable, [they're] traveling more and everything's much more accessible," he says.