bu•ku [Raleigh]

[Note: Same as in my previous review, there are no pictures of the food below. Though I had my camera with me when I was in Raleigh, I neglected to carry it inside as I wanted to focus on my friends. Plus, I do think that sometimes you forget to enjoy your dish when you are busy trying to find the best angle to photograph – contrary to what recent research has found about how Instagramming your food may make it taste better. I will try better in the future.]

bu•ku opened up in downtown Raleigh about the time I decided to move back home. It’s one of those rare restaurants that had intrigued me for years and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to try it. I finally had the opportunity last weekend. While in Raleigh for a business meeting, I coerced an old friend of mine to gather a couple of her friends to meet me up there.

I cannot say enough positive things about bu•ku. Everything was phenomenal from the food all the way to the ambiance and the service of the wait staff. Even the reservation process itself was super simple and I even received a personal call on Friday to confirm my reservation. I arrived early (well, technically on time) while the rest of my party ran about 15 minutes late but I was still seated at our table so that I could enjoy a drink. I elected to go with a glass of Ricossa Moscato D’Asti while I waited – one of my favorite beverages. Sequestered off from the rest of the dining area in its own room, there were 4 tables, each having plenty of seating for groups. I loved the large windows in the room that gave me the opportunity to glance outside.

20160617_193333-768x461

The menu at bu•ku is eclectic. It features street food from around the world and can be a bit intimidating to look at. Luckily enough, our waiter was able to give us some great recommendations.

We all ordered a different small plate to start – the Aloo Chana Chaat [spicy potato cake, chickpea, cucumber, cabbage, cashew, raita, tamarind, cilantro-mint chutney], Chinese Steamed Buns [Szechuan pork belly, pickled vegetables, hoisin-tamarind], Seared Pork Dumplings (Napa cabbage, scallion, ginger, chile-soy), and the Baja Crab Flautas [jumbo lump crab, pineapple, cream cheese, pickled serrano, cilantro, mango-habanero salsa, crisp flour tortilla].

Everyone raved over the Aloo Chana Chaat (which was my pick), but I enjoyed the creaminess of the Baja Crab Flautas best of all.

For dinner, I went with the day’s special – Chilean seabass with roasted maitake, grilled eggplant, massage kale salad, local cherry tomato, Burgundy macerated raspberry, sweet potato crisp. It was delicious! The seabass was perfectly moist and flaky. I tried a bit of the duck confit leg (from the Filipino Duck Adobo dish) and it was equally as good.

I ordered the Filipino Halo-Halo [parfait of coconut custard, sweetened plantains, guava sauce, ube ice cream] for us to share between the 6 of us at the table for dessert. It was different. There were aspects of the dish that we liked and aspects that we did not (including a red gummy that we thought tasted like cherry cough syrup). We all had a blast eating it and trying to guess what each component of the dish was. The custard and ice cream were delicious and I would order this dish again just for how fun it was to eat.

Now, bu•ku isn’t cheap. For just myself (for a glass of Moscato, appetizer, entree – which I did go with a pricier entree, beer, and dessert), my tab was close to $85 after tip. But the experience was worth it. There aren’t a lot of places where I live now that I can visit that are just different. Plus, I rarely am able to visit with that friend. All in all, it was certainly a memorable experience.

Tip: The traffic in downtown Raleigh was certainly bustling on a Friday night. Instead of driving around in circles looking for a parking spot, I parked in the Moore Square Parking Deck. Sure it cost me $5 to park there (which I heard caused some contention at one point) that night, but it was just easier and I didn’t have to worry about my vehicle being towed. Some of my friends used Uber, which is another great option (plus it allows you to drink as much as you want and avoid getting behind the wheel).

bu•ku: global street food
110 E. Davie St.,
Raleigh, NC 279601
Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Friday/Saturday 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM/5:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Garland [Raleigh]

[Note: There are no pictures of the food in this review. Though I had my camera with me when I was in Raleigh, I neglected to carry it inside as I wanted to focus on my friend. Plus, I do think that sometimes you forget to enjoy your dish when you are busy trying to find the best angle to photograph – contrary to what recent research has found about how Instagramming your food may make it taste better. I will try better in the future.]

Back in May, I found myself in Raleigh thanks to work. I had lived in Raleigh for about 7 years previously and the only thing that I miss now about the city are the food options. You can find pretty much anything that you are craving at any hour of the night. Not so much where I am now but living here still has its perks.

I decided to call up an old friend of mine and arrange dinner. At the suggestion of another friend, we went and ate at Garland, located in the downtown area. I had forgotten how much I did not miss having to drive and park downtown. I don’t parallel park. I’ve never had the need to. Instead, I prefer to just drive around in circles until I find a place that I can zip in. Thankfully with my little car, there are lots of places that I can now just zip into.

We started off the night with cocktails. I elected to go with the Dearly Beloved… [gin, rhubarb shrub, pink & Szechuan peppercorns, sparkling rose, lavender] while my friend went with the Lodger [tequila reposado, Aperol, yellow Chartreuse, cocoa, ancho chile, coconut]. She wasn’t able to try my drink as there was something in it that she was allergic to (lavender maybe? Or maybe the rhubarb?) but I tried hers. I did not like her drink at all but that didn’t surprise me. I like more of a delicate sweetness to my drinks almost to the point where you wouldn’t think of them as containing alcohol. She loved her drink however, and I loved mine. I would probably drink it on a daily basis if I could get away with it.

We ordered the Pakora [“bird’s nest” fritters of farmers market vegetables, spicy chickpea & rice batter, tamarind and cilantro-mint chutneys] as an appetizer. My friend had tried pakora before, at a different restaurant, but she thought that the one at Garland tasted much better. The fritters were perfectly crispy. While I enjoyed the cilantro-mint chutney (again, it’s a sweetness thing), my friend enjoyed the tamarind chutney better.

For the main course, I had to make a tough choice between the Local Catch and the Tandoor Chicken. They both sounded delicious but in the end, I ordered the Local Catch [pan seared NC fish, fragrant broth, sauteed local greens, Laurel Branch Gardens shiitakes, shaved fennel, puffed rice salad, chili oil], which was simply a beautiful dish to look at.

My friend ordered the Vegetable Curry [roasted cauliflower, house-made paneer, local root vegetables, baby peas, tomato broth, coconut milk, cardamom basmati rice, pickled onion, whipped coconut cream]. I enjoyed my dish, especially the puffed rice salad (I liked the texture) and my friend’s dish was equally as good.

The vegetable curry was a bit heavier than my dish, so my friend did fill up quickly. But that just meant that she had some delicious leftovers to take home.

The service was great and I loved the little touches such as having the glass bottle of water sitting on our table (I drink a lot of water). The decor of the restaurant was pleasing and certainly gave off a “hip” vibe. While it wasn’t that busy when we first arrived (at 6:30 on a Thursday night), it was hopping by the time we left. I would definitely come here again for another drink and to try the Tandoor Chicken.

Garland
14 W. Martin St.,
Raleigh, NC 27601
Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 5:30 PM-10:00 PM,
Friday/Saturday 5:30 PM-11:00 PM
Lunch: Wednesday-Friday 11:30 AM-2:30 PM