I was in Cary, North Carolina, for a few days last week, and will be heading there again soon, so this is the first of likely two food posts on the area.
I’ll start with the one success, Coquette, a French brasserie in the North Hills mall complex in Raleigh, a recommendation of friend-of-the-dish Richard Dansky, who also met me there for dinner. Their duck confit crepes were outstanding all around, from the perfect duck leg to the three golden crepes to the just-right amount of mushroom-leek cream sauce; the only questionable inclusion were fava beans that brought color but a little bitterness and didn’t meld with the other flavors. For dessert, I tried their cashew toffee crunch profiteroles; the pastries, pate a choux with cocoa and cinnamon, were a little dry (hard to avoid), but I would order a half gallon of that ice cream, which was loaded with bits of nuts and toffee and had strong caramel notes in the ice cream itself. It’s served with a dark chocolate ganache sauce that I may have just eaten with a spoon. The only misstep was the salad recommended by our server, a frisee mix with a poached egg … but no other dressing beyond the runny yolk. Not really good eats, but they had plenty of other salad and starter options to try.
I tried two Q joints in the area, neither great. Danny’s, one of several in the area, is located in an industrial park right off Tryon Rd; the pulled pork was moist but had almost no smoke flavor and required saucing, but their sides were all very good, including outstanding fried okra and a small bean I’d never had before called “field peas” that had a little of the bright sweetness of English peas but with the firmness of black-eyed peas. Dixie Belle’s pork had slightly more flavor – I mean slightly – but was dried out, probably from being kept warm for too long. I know there’s better Q in Raleigh and Durham, but didn’t have time to head that far. The mom from one of the local host families recommended Clyde Cooper’s in downtown Raleigh, so I’ll try to hit that next time around.
I had a recommendation for a hole in the wall sushi place in Cary called Little Tokyo, which also seems to be held in high esteem by locals … and that doesn’t say good things about the state of sushi in Cary, because Little Tokyo is awful. I figured I was in trouble when I saw the menu was about 2/3 rolls, with nigiri and sashimi relegated to less than a full page without the same bells or whistles. I knew I was in trouble when I asked the chef behind the sushi bar what he recommended and he looked at me like I’d just said Yuniesky Betancourt should be the AL’s starter at shortstop in the All-Star Game. I ordered five different kinds of nigiri, none of which had a lick of taste. The nigiri fell apart when I picked them up with my hands, and the texture of the maguro was mushy. It’s clear they use the sauces and extras on rolls to cover up inferior quality fish. Avoid, avoid, avoid.