This week's itinerary takes us on a whirlwind tour of Asian cuisines, in the form of three new restaurants scattered across the Triangle.
The adventure begins in Chapel Hill, where Filipino-style rotisserie-roasted chickens turn over live coals in the storefront window of Inihaw (169 E. Franklin St.; 929-2395). Owner Hernan Escutio, a native of the Philippines, won't reveal details about the marinade that gives those chickens their deep bronze color and tropically spiced savor, but he promises that they're "juicy all the way to the bone." A recent sampling, in the form of the Inihaw Special (a quarter chicken with fried rice and choice of side - I heartily recommend the pickled papaya - for $6.39), bears him out.
The menu is limited for now, with other options including Manila Bay barbecue, a couple of homemade soups (chicken and sinigang baboy, featuring pork riblets, tomatoes and peppers in a tangy tamarind-accented broth), and subs for more domestic tastes. In the near future, Escutio plans to expand the offering to include dishes from Thailand, Korea, Spain and Mexico. A modestly furnished but cheery counter service eatery, Inihaw is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day but Sunday.
Next stop is Holly Springs, where the name of Thai Thai Cuisine (108 Osterville Drive; 303-5700; www.thaithaicuisinenc.com) tells you its specialty - twice, just in case you didn't get it the first time. The restaurant is the first for owner/chef Jirawan Pavatago, who cooked at Thai Villa before setting out on her own.
Takeout has accounted for the lion's share of the business so far, according to Pavatago, but there is an inviting (albeit tiny, with just seven tables) dining room. The menu is similarly compact, though it does offer a solid sampling of the Thai repertoire. Curries are particularly well represented, with six variations on the theme including less common specialties such as catfish panang and roasted duck curry. A jewel box of a restaurant in a strip mall, Thai Thai Cuisine serves lunch and dinner daily.
From sushi to ...
Final destination is Garner, where the name of Yokohama Sushi (25 Old Drug Store Road; 779-3313) tells you only half of its culinary story. In addition to the restaurant's namesake sushi bar fare, Yokohama's kitchen offers a broad selection of contemporary Asian-inspired dishes ranging from Thai curry seared tuna to panko-breaded pork roulade with sweet chile sauce.
Owner Josh Redfern plans to broaden the appeal of his first restaurant venture. In the space adjacent to Yokohama, he's developing a casual restaurant and bar called The Old Drug Store, which will offer a Southern-accented menu of American fare. In the meantime, Yokohama Sushi is open for lunch and dinner every day but Monday.
Greg Cox is the restaurant critic for The News & Observer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.