Restaurant of the Year
423 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill,
When Andrea Reusing opened Lantern in 2002, she showed many of us for the first time the delights of a world where a talented chef with a Western background turned her attention to Asian cuisines. It was a world where calamari crackled atop a bed of seasonal greens, red-cooked pork was redolent of cinnamon, star anise and Szechwan peppercorn, and ethereal steamed sea bass floated in a broth sparkling with ginger. It was a world whose landscape was an understated contemporary decor, softly lit by a constellation of parchment lanterns.
Seven years later, those lanterns cast their glow over a culinary scene that has evolved but still reflects its creator's original vision. Reusing's passion for local produce, which characterized her cooking long before "locavore" became a buzzword, remains abundantly evident in dishes such as Fickle Creek Farm pork terrine with pickled local green tomatoes; tea- and spice-smoked local chicken with house-made XO sauce; and fried North Carolina flounder with garlic, chiles, tamarind and fresh lime leaf.
If anything, the chef's cooking has matured over the years and now embraces a wider palette of flavors. Hers is most emphatically not "fusion cuisine," however. For all their freshness, her dishes still respect the tradition of the Asian cuisines that inspired them.
A charming bit of evidence of her attention to detail is the house-made fortune cookie that's delivered at the conclusion of the meal. A recent fortune read, "Do great deeds by focusing on their minute aspects." I'm thinking someone slipped Lantern's mission statement into that cookie by mistake.
Allen & Son
6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill
1201-M Raleigh Road, in Glen Lennox shopping center, Chapel Hill
509-101 West Whitaker Mill Road, at Five Points, Raleigh.
431-10 W. Franklin St., in The Courtyard, Chapel Hill
5210 Garrett Road, Durham
Dos Taquitos Centro
106 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
Elaine's on Franklin
454 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
410 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh
Cuisine: Wine bar, contemporary
3001 Cameron Blvd., in the Washington Duke Inn, Durham
110 E. Davie St., Raleigh
Cuisine: Pacific Rim fusion, seafood
2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham
2418 Hillsborough St., Raleigh
1505 E. Franklin St., in the Siena Hotel, Chapel Hill
10-120 West Franklin St., Raleigh
Cuisine: German, Polish
1002 Ninth St., Durham
Cuisine: Contemporary Southern
8111-111 Creedmoor Road, in Brennan Station, Raleigh
Cuisine: Contemporary, seafood
8314 Chapel Hill Road, Cary
2514 University Drive, Durham
Cuisine: Contemporary Mediterranean
110 S. Churton St., Hillsborough
6112 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh
4121 Davis Drive, in McCrimmon Corners shopping center, Morrisville
2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham
4209 Lassiter Mill Road, in The Alexan, Raleigh
Zely & Ritz
301 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh