Restaurant News & Reviews

Bistros carry worldly themes

This week brings news of two distinctly different variations on the bistro theme. Savoy (7713-39 Lead Mine Road; 848-3535; www.restaurantsavoy.com), which opened on Saturday in the old Fins spot in North Raleigh, takes its name from the region in France where its co-owners, brothers Peter Gibson and Marshall Smith, both worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Gibson, whose culinary career began as a 15-year-old at Jean-Claude's in Raleigh, and who worked more recently at Bistro 607 and Savannah, is executive chef. Smith, whose resume includes a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and three years as executive chef at Michael Dean's, assumes the titles of chef and general manager. "Really, though," says Gibson, "we're both equals in the kitchen. But Marshall's better at running the front of the house."

Savoy's menu draws on a broad palette of flavors and techniques, though the brothers' French culinary background is evident throughout. The offering remains true to the French bistro spirit, too, in terms of simple plate presentation and affordable pricing. Most starters -- caramelized onion and olive tart, beer-steamed mussels with chorizo, slow-fried chicken leg (aka confit) with spiced apples, to name three -- are in the $5 to $6 range. Entrees such as free range chicken breast with Roquefort and mushroom stuffing, skirt steak frites with béarnaise, and North Carolina trout with cauliflower gratin all go for under $20. The most extravagant offering, filet of beef with a shiitake duxelles-stuffed potato "bone," buttered lobster and asparagus, will set you back $28. Savoy is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday.

A few miles away in Cary -- but a continent apart in culinary terms -- YoHo Asian Bistro (8204-106 Tryon Woods Drive, 859-8081) has opened in the new Tryon Village Shopping Center. The restaurant serves an eclectic assortment of Chinese, Thai and Japanese fare (including sushi) in a contemporary East-meets-West setting, a look that has quickly become the genre's visual signature.

The Asian bistro concept has enjoyed mixed success in the area, but YoHo's owners bring a lot of experience to the table. Husband-and-wife owners Qing Lin and Tracy Yang (he's the chef; she runs the front of the house) sold a successful restaurant in Charlotte before moving to the Triangle. Another partner, Johnny Wang, owns Jumbo China Buffet in North Raleigh. The partners are confident enough of success that they're already planning the opening this summer of a second YoHo Asian Bistro in Beaver Creek Crossing South in Apex.

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