Happy China, Durham

After a bit of a hiatus, we have reinstated New Restaurant Tuesday (NRT).  Our most recent restaurant was Happy China in Durham.  After several wonderful experiences of Szechuan food in Carrboro we decided to try another local place which is getting rave reviews for Szechuan food.

Happy China is a bright red building just off of 15-501 which can’t be missed. The restaurant itself is quite large and is separated into a few different rooms.  The décor is nice and simple with grey walls and nice red accents in the decorations.  There are several intimate booths which are nicely lit with hanging lights.  The menu includes several typical Chinese restaurant dishes such as General Tao’s Chicken and Beef and Broccoli.  The menu also includes a section with Szechuan specialties which is where we focused our choices.  They list several daily special on a white board in the foyer as you enter.  Our extremely friendly waitress had noticed me looking over the list of specials and helpfully answered all of my questions on the menu.

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J. Betski’s, Raleigh

Our April NRT outing was to J. Betski’s in Raleigh.  The restaurant is located in the Seaboard Station Plaza.  It seems like a fairly new development.  It was a nice warm evening so we opted to sit at the tables outside so I can’t comment on the atmosphere inside the space.

The first thing that impressed me was the fact that the beer and wine menu featured primarily German offerings.  It was nice to see that the entire menu focused on the region rather than just the food menu.

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Pop’s Backdoor South, Durham

For our NRT outing in February we opted for something more casual.  This time we tried Pop’s Backdoor Pizza South in Durham.  This is a new outlet of the popular Pop’s Backdoor in Downtown but since that only has a few seats it isn’t an option for our big group.  The new location is in the newly developing Hope Valley Plaza next to the post office.  The space is quite causal, typical of any pizza-sub shop.  The menu is posted on the wall and you place your order at the counter.  Several of the specialty pies looked delicious so we were happy to hear that they will do half/half pies.

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Coquette Brasserie, Raleigh

For our NRT outing in January we selected Coquette Brasserie in North Hills.  It is a quintessential French Bistro with black and white tiled floors, wooden chairs and marble top tables and a bread and water station in the middle of the room.  It is a causal yet elegant atmosphere.   

We shifted NRT back a week so it would coincide with Triangle Restaurant Week.  When we arrived at Coquette we found that the restaurant week prix fixe menu included items which were on the regular menu.  Also, the regular prices are not so high that the $30 prix fixe price was a ‘deal’.  Therefore, we opted to go ahead an order off of the regular menu.  In my opinion, restaurant week is a chance for a restaurant to shine, offer new dishes, and attract new customers so it was a bit disappointing to see little effort put into it at Coquette.  There was an excellent discussion on the purpose of restaurant week on VarmintBites blog with a great discussion and comments from the owner of Dos Perros and Jujube with an industry perspective which resulted in an updated post by VarmintBites.

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Inchin’s Bamboo Garden, Morrisville

Our NRT outing for December was to Inchin’s Bamboo Garden in Morrisville.  It is in a typical strip mall with a pizza place and a hardware store.  The space itself is pleasant with dark wood tones and simple furniture.  We were a large group this time so we had a few tables put together.  Half of our group arrived at 7pm and the other half at 7:30pm.  The menu is Indo-Chinese dishes which is rare but a fun variation on Indian restaurants.  So, what is Indo-Chinese you ask?  In the U.S. we have Americanized Chinese food such as General Tao’s Chicken and Lo Mein Noodles.  Well, Indo-Chinese is an Indian take on Chinese food with specific dishes such as Chicken 65 and Vegetable Manchurian.  So, the menu at Inchin’s Bamboo Garden focuses on these dishes.

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The Palace International, Durham

Our NRT event for November was at Palace International in Durham.  It is an African restaurant focusing on East African dishes as it is co-owned by two Kenyans.  The space is simple but nicely spruced up with the textured olive green walls with bright orange contrasts on the ceiling and the decor has African theme with paintings of giraffes and fronds.  The tables and chairs reminded me of furniture that you would expect to see in your grandmothers dining room.  The menu is interesting as it also includes a few dishes which are inspired by the East Indian population in this part of Africa.  Our waitress was very helpful, explaining each of the dishes.

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Jujube, Chapel Hill

Our NRT gathering for October was at Jujube in Chapel Hill.  The room is fairly simple with clean lines and bright walls.  It is a Asian fusion restaurant which is, according to the website, inspired by Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.

I started with a Trust Tree, a cocktail of Lychee infused vodka, cucumber-lemongrass soda & lychee tea.  It was nice, light, sweet and refreshing! They have several specialty cocktails which incorporate Asian flavors which would be fun to try.

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