East meets West

N&O Restaurant Critic and Food WriterAugust 8, 2007 

Here's a riddle for you: What do you get when you cross a sushi bar and a restaurant that serves duck a l'orange? Oh, and throw in a colorful assortment of house specialty cocktails, too.

Give up? You get Fine Fusion Cuisine (2101 S. Main St., Wake Forest; 570-2828), the latest venture of Kee Muromoto. It's also the most adventurous restaurant to date for Muromoto, who has until now built his reputation as owner of Japanese restaurants such as Mura in North Hills (which he recently sold) and Asuka in Morrisville. When the restaurateur bought 2101 Global Cuisine from owner/chef George Gonzales a few weeks ago, he was so impressed by Gonzales' culinary skills that he kept him on as chef at Fine (that's FEE-nay with an accent). Owner and chef then collaborated to produce an eclectic menu that showcases the strengths of both.

Muromoto's mark is evident in the sushi bar offering and in the Japanese accents sprinkled throughout the appetizer and entree offerings -- yakitori, panko-crusted oysters, yakiniku steak and tonkatsu, to name a few. Gonzales' Western sensibilities reveal themselves in dishes such as Maryland blue crab salad with blue cheese dressing, charbroiled L.A. short ribs, and a clever tempura-battered fish and chips, complete with mushy peas.

But the chef's inventiveness really shines in his nightly list of featured specials, which so far has included truffle, honey and vanilla-glazed Chilean sea bass; cashew coconut-crusted halibut; rack of lamb with honey-lemon-rosemary sauce; and a soy- and Grand Marnier-accented twist on the classic duck a l'orange.

Fine is open for lunch Monday-Friday and dinner nightly. Oh, and don't let the duck a l'orange scare you. The mood is upscale casual.

Here's a toast to the Triangle area winners of the 2007 Wine Spectator awards, announced in the current (Aug. 31) issue. As usual, Angus Barn is at the head of the class as the only restaurant in North Carolina (and one of only 76 in the world) to win Wine Spectator's highest honor, the Grand Award.

At the next level, Fearrington House is the Triangle's only winner -- and a repeat winner, at that -- of the Best of Award of Excellence.

Twenty area restaurants -- a record for the area -- claimed the magazine's equivalent of the bronze medal, the Award of Excellence. Here they are, by city (I've marked the new winners with an asterisk):

Raleigh (nine winners): Azitra, *Bella Monica, Frazier's, Melting Pot, Nina's, Second Empire, Sullivan's Steakhouse, *Vivace, Zely & Ritz.

Chapel Hill (five winners): Bin 54, Carolina Crossroads, Elaine's on Franklin, Il Palio, *La Residence.

Durham (four winners): Chamas Churrascaria, Fairview, Nana's, Vin Rouge.

Cary (two winners): *Bistro 64, Lucky 32.

Greg’s Hot List: The many flavors of Indian cuisine

Remember when going out for Indian food meant deciding between tandoori chicken and lamb curry? Nowadays, thanks to the wide variety of restaurants which have opened in recent years, our options cover a broad spectrum from dosa to Indian style pizza. Here’s a sampling:

Azitra, 8411-101 Brier Creek Pkwy., Brier Creek Commons, Raleigh; 484-3939.

Bombay Grille, 2223 E. N.C. 54, Durham; 544-6967.

Cool Breeze, 740-E E. Chatham St., Cary; 463-9130.

Pao Lim, 2505 Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham; 419-1771.

Saffron, 4121 Davis Drive, McCrimmon Corners shopping center, Morrisville

Sitar India Palace, 3117 Shannon Road, Durham, and 6016 Falls of the Neuse Road, Raleigh; 490-1326 (Durham), 862-0506 (Raleigh).

Spice & Curry, 2105 N.C. 55, Durham; 544-7555.

Spice & Curry’s Pizza & Snack Bar, 590 E. Chatham St., Cary; 380-8388.

Suchi Indian Cuisine, 748-K E. Chatham St., Cary; 466-7273.

Tamarind India Bistro, 5460 Apex Peakway, in Olive Chapel Shopping Center, Apex; 362-5419.

Tower, Morrisville Square, 144 Morrisville Square Way, Morrisville; 465-2326.

Udupi Café, 590 E. Chatham St., Cary; 465-0898.

Contact Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net.

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