What I love about dining is the discovery of unique places, tasty food of course, and gathering with great people. I live in the heart of Cary, NC near Cary Parkway where you can find plenty of chain restaurants. While I love the side salads at Outback and the Chicken Bryan at Carrabbas, I like to take chain restaurants in small doses. There are so many unique, undiscovered restaurants so why go to a chain? I’ll save that for the opportunity when less restaurant choices are available or, of course, when it’s not my turn to choose :). My favorite cuisines include Italian, Sushi, and American Fare. CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: sundried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and goat cheese (Italian); eel sauce for dipping and real crab meat (Sushi); and honey mustard (American). We’ll start with Sushi but please Stay Tuned for Parts II and III: Best Italian and American Fare. Feel free to revisit this post down the road for an updated restaurant list and new favorite rolls. That’s why I love readers’ input; two heads are better than one.
PART I: SUSHI
LIKE IT (Let’s Go!):
- An, Cary
- Domo Sushi, Cary
- Wasabi, Cary
- Mura, North Raleigh
- Sushi Thai, Cary
An ($$$) recommendations: White Dragon Roll, Land and Sea Roll, and a fresh house salad with ginger. Land and Sea has the diameter of a tennis ball, beware during client lunches! Not a sushi gobbler? Treat yourself to Kobe Beef Steak and one of 40 wines by the glass. A fine dining, 4 star spot for “New World” cuisine with SouthEast Asian flavors. The interior is swank and aw-inspired. No wonder it was brought to life by no-other than Ann Goodnight herself!
Domo Sushi ($): The place is always empty but the food and service is consistently fabulous. What sweet owners they have. I went in for take-out and I got 5-star service by the sweet little owner. She treats you like family. Did you know the word “domo” means “thank you?” Roll out the red carpet and one Orange Roll and a Shrimp Tempura Roll please! hold the side salad. Oh and one Maynard Roll + edamame to share. “Domo!”
Wasabi ($): I just want to get one of those magnificent sushi boats! Who’s with me? It’s been a while since my last visit; should I get the I/O Crunchy Shrimp, WolfPack, or a different Speciality Roll?
Mura ($$): Love at first sight. No…not because I have special ties here (amazing second date with my boyfriend….and 6 of his closest friends, brother and brother’s long-term g/f…no pressure, right?) Love at first sight because it has a menu with PHOTOS – did you read my mind?! Thank You! Yes, I want to know what I am ordering! The presentation does matter. Favorite Roll: Screaming O. Nuff said.
Sushi Thai ($): A diamond in the rough. It’s basically in a strip mall, very low-key and cozy. Start by ordering the Shrimp Shu Mai apppetizer (reminds me of Chicago trips with my college roommates) and swap the soy dipping sauce it comes with for sweet and sour sauce. Back at’cha when I pick a favorite roll here.
LOVE IT (Can We Go Right NOW and Share the Whole Menu??):
- Sono, Downtown Raleigh
- Sushi Blues, Downtown Raleigh
- Ginza, Cary
Sono ($$): Hands-down, number one sushi restaurant pick. The best roll is the Screaming “O”: Spicy tuna and tempura shrimp inside, seared tuna on top served with creamy “O” sauce. 12.95. Same ingredients as Mura’s Screaming O Roll but look who’s on the LOVE IT list! “Sleek. Sexy. Sushi. Downtown.” I’d say so!
Sushi Blues ($$): The best is the Across the Street Carmen Roll: Shrimp tempura, sweet potato, zucchini, spicy mayo and roe 8.95 Cotton Club Roll takes second place: Shrimp, crab, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese, and masago, wrapped in datemaki 8.95 Followed by the delicious Wolfpack Roll: Crab, tempura flake, asparagus, avocado, scallion, spicy mayo, and tobiko. 8.95 Bringing a vegetarian? I suggest the Big Count Basie Veggie Roll: Sweet potato and zucchini tempura, tempura flakes, avocado, and sesame seeds 8.95 Surf their sushi rolls on their site by clicking DINING then A LA CARTE.
Ginza ($$): Yes it’s a Japanese Steak House with an amazing sushi selection! Not many patrons so you can have the place to yourself and order the Shaggy Dog. The online sushi menu does not do their actual selection justice. For example, the Shaggy Dog roll and other fantastic choices are not on the online menu. They often have buy-one-get one sushi deals.
COULD LIVE WITHOUT IT (You Couldn’t Drag Me There):
- NeoAsia, Cary
NeoAsia will lure you in with their by-one-get-one free sushi and 1/2 priced wine. Apart from less-than-impressive-service, their sushi was the worst I have ever had. I ordered two speciality roles. The roll with Wasabi Mayo was entirely too spicy. The sushi rice had an overcooked and rubbery taste. Overall the two rolls were bland and actually pretty gross; the freshness was questionable and it was served too warm for sushi. My sushi came out 20 minutes after my boyfriend’s entrée was served. I gave it a fair shot and ended up sending my food back. Note, I have never sent any food back before, ever. It wasn’t easy. I pondered my decision a little further and decided it was a “must” as long as I was very polite about it. I will never forget this experience.
…Wow. I am guilty of the “bad experience” rant with a word-count longer than the positives. Oops!
WANT TO TRY IT (I’ll Keep You Posted):
- Asuka Japanese, Morrisville. desire to visit 93%
- Genki Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Cary. desire to visit 100%
- Shaba-Shabu Restaurant, Raleigh. desire to visit 85%
MY SUSHI BEST PRACTICES:
1. Choose wisely. Great sushi does not typically come from a “hibachi express”, grocery store, or commercial chain where their core competency is something else like dancing with flaming lemons and tossing hibachi in your mouth at the table. just sayin…
2. Prepare. Before going out for sushi I prefer to study the menu online under no time constraints – it’s hard to decide!
Sushi Go To’s: real crab meat, eel (unagi) sauce, inside out roles and ordering from the speciality role menu section.
3. I’ll pass on: any sort of crab salad/ lobster salad/seafood mix, iceberg lettuce side salads with soupy ginger salad dressing (gimme the freshness!), soft-shell crab (scary little things!), eel, imitation crab (that’s not why I came here!), red label soy sauce (opposed to green, low sodium soy sauce).
4. Put it in your mouth. That’s right. The whole piece of sushi, it’s meant for a single bite. It’s supposed to be made bite-sized but this is not always the case in North America. Do what you want, but I’d like to see you take the challenge. I know the Heimlich maneuver ;-).
5. Etiquette. I came across this article about Sushi and Japanese dining etiquette. The “Dining” part is most interesting. All of this is not necessary in my humble opinion. Just enjoy yourself.