Simple, understated decor and dim lighting make HaRu Japanese Cuisine a serene place to dine, recently earning it a positive review in The News & Observer. After settling into a high-backed chair or wood-cut booth, diners can take a gander at the extensive menu, which features classic Japanese dishes such as udon noodles and chicken katsu alongside Korean specialties. Behind the sushi bar, chefs whip up rolled specialties packed with fresh fish and colorful veggies.
The chefs at Yagg Sii Tenn Catering hail from Senegal—a West African country where vendors peddle tropical fruits in bustling marketplaces and fishermen pluck fresh fish from the bountiful sea. When they arrived on North Carolina soil, the chefs brought with them a wealth of traditional African recipes as well as a deep appreciation for good food and family. Today, they distribute housemade dishes from Senegal and other African countries throughout North Carolina.
Deep in the Yagg Sii Tenn kitchen, the chefs fold fresh ingredients and authentic spices into complex dishes—from spicy grilled chicken yassa to flavorful jollof rice. They also bottle their recipes in the form of housemade traditional sauces, such as the fresh roasted-habanero Kani spread and the garlic-and-lemon vinaigrette. The culinary crew has served these freshly made African specialties at weddings, large parties, and odd incidences when everyone in town is inexplicably drawn to the same abandoned factory in the middle of the night.
Bright serapes, a tile-covered bar, and Aztec-style hangings immerse Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant's diners in an infectiously festive atmosphere. Greg Cox of the News & Observer praised the sprawling menu of authentic Mexican standards enlivened by "pleasant surprises," drawing special attention to the chiles poblanos' "swirl of creamy, complex spicy flavors." Chefs adorn tender beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp with avocado and jalapeños while stuffing vegetarian combos with black beans, spinach, and potatoes. When the weather permits, a spacious patio opens up onto a scenic stand of trees, whose leaves wave enviously at their brethren basking in the taco salad's guacamole and crispy shell.
Though his restaurant's menu of gourmet dishes suggests years spent in culinary schools, Paul Zoccola's most influential teacher was his mother. Even with seven children, she filled the family table with homemade dishes. Instilled with a desire to spread those recipes outside of his native Naples, Zoccola journeyed to America, where he started his first restaurant in New Jersey before opening Lubrano’s Ristorante Italiano in 2002.
A decade later, Zoccola still strives to unite other families over pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas crowned with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, sausage, and fresh garlic. Happy chatter picks up in the dining room as forks drop contentedly onto plates laced with traces of tomato-cream sauce, house-made alfredo, and white-wine reductions. The chef also crafts a full catering menu, which can feed large parties or help with police stings to catch people swimming right after eating.
Asuka's delightfully diverse menu rolls out sushi classics alongside juicy steaks, hearty pastas, and tender seafood brimming with Asian flavors. Dig into panko-breaded don katsu—chicken or pork cutlets deep-fried to juicy crispness ($15)—or put a pile of chopsticks on the table and play pick-up sticks to determine who gets the first slice of a dragon roll ($11.95) or a rainbow roll ($9.95). The garlic teriyaki tuna ($17.95) keeps senses floating on seaside flavor clouds, and the bulgogi don buoys a convoy of potato noodles, thin beef slices, mushrooms, and veggies in a sweet soy broth ($16).
The chefs at Paradise India Cuisine use traditional techniques and ingredients shipped directly from India to craft their dum biryanis. That kind of authentic touch spreads across their menu replete with classic fare such as Chettinad goat curry, lamb vindaloo, and chicken tikka masala. To add a modern touch to their feast-worthy collection of classic cuisine, they now cook up crab, quail, and calamari with Indian recipes.
At 5 Hot Chillies Indian Cuisine, the Patel family champions both traditional and unconventional Indian dishes, always imbuing plates with vibrant color and intense flavors. Diners take a culinary tour of the subcontinent with stir-fried Indo-Chinese-style dishes and hakka noodle plates, spicy tamil chicken dishes, bombay fried fish, and hyderabad biryani. Ample vegetarian options share table space with sautéed shrimp and marinated chicken, satisfying stomach rumbles with healthy morsels of homemade paneer cheese, savory black-lentil dal, and chickpeas smothered in rich tomato gravy. Fluffy stuffed naan complements dinners enjoyed on the open-air patio, and brunch enthusiasts can come in for midday dosa pancakes.