Restaurant News & Reviews

Japanese restaurants are popping up all over

Got a yen for sushi? Hankering for hibachi? You're in luck, as new Japanese restaurants keep popping up all over the Triangle like shiitakes on an oak log.

Momoyama (8200-1001 Renaissance Parkway; 484-0101), which opened in late October near Southpoint, is a cozy jewel box of a restaurant with a handful of tables and booths and a sushi bar that seats six. There's nothing small about the sushi offering, though, which includes some 70 listings, from toro sashimi to dragon roll (three variations: green, pink and red). Sushi chef Seungwoo Song has practiced his art for over 30 years, in locations ranging from a deluxe hotel restaurant in Seoul to (most recently) Oishii in Chapel Hill.

The kitchen menu isn't as extensive, but still gives a respectable sampling of tempura, teriyaki and soba dishes. A separate category is dedicated to a commendable 18 vegetarian options. Momoyama is the first venture for Jeongock Lusk, who previously worked for more than a decade as a software engineer.

Also in Durham, the owners of Pao Lim have transformed their pan-Asian eatery into the strictly Japanese Kimono (2505 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd.; 419-1771). To set the mood for the new menu, Hai Fang and his wife, Caroline Chung, converted the bar near the entrance to a sushi bar, and repainted the dining room in the suitably austere colors of black and white.

Kimono's sushi offering isn't the most extensive around, but covers the bases pretty well, including a selection of temaki (hand rolls). The kitchen menu is considerably broader, with a particularly strong seafood offering that includes options such as hibachi flounder, teriyaki salmon and shrimp kebabs in addition to all the usual suspects.

In Cary, Domo Sushi (160-114 NE Maynard Road; 460-8221) is the third Triangle area restaurant to specialize in kaiten sushi. Sometimes referred to as sushi-go-round in America, kaiten sushi is a sushi bar subgenre in which the sushi chef places his creations on plates that are color-coded according to price, and then sets the plates on a conveyor belt. Customers take the plates they want as they pass in front of them, and are charged at the end of the meal according to the number and color of the plates they've accumulated.

Owner/chef Wen Chang, a native of Taiwan, owned two Japanese restaurants in Vienna, Austria before moving to the States. Chang oversees the sushi bar as well as the kitchen, which offers a modest selection of noodles, donburi, and other hot dishes.

And in case you're wondering about those other two kaiten sushi bars: Kurama Express in Chapel Hill was the area's first sushi-go-round. Mizu in North Raleigh features a clever twist on the theme, with a miniature train taking the place of the conveyor belt.

Greg's Hot List: Fireside dining

OK, so maybe the weather outside isn't all that frightful. But a fire is still delightful as a backdrop for winter dining, even here in the temperate South. Check out the cozy settings at these area restaurants which feature at least one fireplace, and see if you don't agree.

Angus Barn, 9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, 787-3505

Chop House Grille, 500 Ledgestone Way, in Stone Creek Shopping Center, Cary, 467-5252

City Beverage, 4810 Hope Valley Road, Durham, 401-6500

Fairview, 3001 Cameron Blvd., in the Washington Duke Inn, Durham, 493-6699

Fearrington House, 2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro, 542-2121

Four Square, 2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, 401-9877

La Residence, 202 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 967-2506

Margaux's, 8111-111 Creedmoor Road, in Brennan Station, Raleigh, 846-9846

Sawmill Tap Room, 7701 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, 845-7889

Simpson's Beef & Seafood, 5625 Creedmoor Road, in Creedmoor Crossings Shopping Center, Raleigh, 783-8818

Trali, 10370-109 Moncreiffe Road, in Brierdale Shopping Center, Raleigh, 544-4141

Vin Rouge, 2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham, 416-0406