Payman Bazooband and Chan Ho, the restaurateurs who have given us Rio Churrascaria, Brasa, Baba Grill and Crazy Fire Mongolian Grill, are at it again. This time the prolific partners have outdone themselves, opening two restaurants -- one Japanese, the other Korean -- in the span of a few weeks. Both are in North Raleigh, and both are open for lunch Mondays-Saturdays and dinner nightly.
Laku (7201 Old Wake Forest Road; 875-8028; www.lakurestaurant.com) is in the old Dairy Queen building near Triangle Town Center, but Bazooband isn't exaggerating when he says you wouldn't recognize the place. A thorough makeover has transformed the space into an intimate, upscale casual dining room and sushi bar with a contemporary Asian accent in rich jewel tones. The menu covers all the traditional Japanese bases, from sushi and sashimi to a wide assortment of tempura, katsu, udon noodles, teriyaki and hibachi dishes prepared in the kitchen. The list offers a few surprises, too, including signature appetizers: Laku broiled scallops with mushrooms, roe and spicy mayo, and spicy Laku tuna, served on a potato chip.
The paint was barely dry on Laku's walls when The Korean Steakhouse (4614 Capital Blvd.; 855-9452; www.thekoreansteakhouse.com) fired up the burners in its kitchen, as well as the grills set into granite-topped tables in the dining room. At these tables, patrons who order one of the 14 Korean barbecue offerings (everything from the familiar beef short rib and rib-eye to a seafood barbecue for two featuring lobster tail, shrimp and scallops) may cook them to their liking at the table and enjoy them with all the traditional accompaniments. Those who prefer to let someone else do the cooking choose from a varied assortment of dishes prepared in the kitchen, from handmade noodles to bibimbap.
Meanwhile in Cary, the Triangle's original Korean restaurant has finally gotten the town's approval to install grills in its tables. They're already in place and available, along with an expanded menu, at Korean Garden (748-E E. Chatham St.; 388-3615). The restaurant began life in 1987 as Seoul House in North Raleigh and moved to its current location in 1999.
Finally, a quick note on two new Caribbean takeout shops. The walls of La Tropicale Café & Catering (4823-108 Meadow Drive, Durham; 361-8805; www.jarviscatering.com) are plastered with glowing reviews of the restaurants that owner/chef Gladwin Jarvis operated for more than 20 years in Virginia Beach before moving to Durham. Jarvis says catering is most of his business nowadays, but he also offers takeout from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. In Raleigh, Jerk Masters (1909 Poole Road; 231-7697) is open for takeout only from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.