Give in to Asian persuasion

STAFF WRITERFebruary 16, 2011 

What's your favorite Asian cuisine? Odds are you'll find it on the menu of one of these newcomers.

Sushi Nine (3812 Western Blvd.; 900-8203; www.sushinine.com), which opened in December in the old Ten Ten Chinese buffet building after a complete makeover, boasts "the largest sushi bar in Raleigh." A sweeping 16-seater whose underside glows with electric blue lights, it's certainly among the most eye-catching. But sushi is hardly the only temptation, as the restaurant's name hints - though you may not get the hint if you're not up on Asian numerology. Nine is considered an especially lucky number in Thailand, whose cuisine shares top billing with Japanese among the kitchen's extensive and far-ranging offering. Sprinkled among the coconut curries and hibachi grill fare, you'll also find a scattered sampling of dishes from across the continent, from General Tso's chicken to Vietnamese pho.

In North Raleigh, the owner of Bedford Sushi & Grill (3607 Falls River Ave.; 747-9720) in the Shoppes at Bedford doesn't let the small size of his restaurant limit his menu. Thai Nguyen, who has owned a number of area sushi bars, opened Thai's Noodles in Morrisville in 2009. Taking his cue from the success of that venture, Nguyen has expanded on the noodle shop theme with a pan-Asian offering that covers a broad spectrum from dynamite roll to Saigon street noodles to crispy Thai basil duck.

Nguyen's brother, Tham Nguyen, is sold on the "more is more" approach to Asian restaurants, too. Tasu, his pan-Asian concept in Raleigh's Brierdale Shopping Center, has proved so successful that he plans to open a second Tasu in Cary's Crossroads Plaza in April.

In the wake of all these pan-Asian newcomers, there's still room for the single-cuisine purist - or in the case of Bangkok Thai (13200-131 New Falls of Neuse Road; 554-1561), purists, plural. The restaurant's owners, sisters Arpapon and Durapon Pousujja, have chosen to stick with the cuisine of their native Thailand. They're especially proud of their pad kee mao, which features authentic egg noodles rather than the commonly substituted broad noodles. The menu covers all the usual bases in the traditional Thai repertoire, spiced up with the occasional surprise, such as Bangkok spaghetti or soft shell crab curry.

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