Restaurant News & Reviews

Tired of the same-old? Give your taste a jolt

Suffering from a jaded palate? You'll find relief in this week's news. How about Nairobian beef, for starters, sautéed with onions, tomatoes and spices, and served against a colorful backdrop of African art? Or, if you're a vegetarian, red pinto beans in coconut milk with ginger and cayenne? These are just two of the entree options at The Palace International (1104-A Broad St.; 416-4922), a new restaurant in Durham specializing in the foods of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Actually, "new" isn't strictly correct. Caren Ochola and her husband, Maurice, operated a previous incarnation of the restaurant in downtown Durham from 1989 until 2001, when that building fell victim to a faulty-wiring fire. The emphasis was on entertainment at the old location, however, which was a popular venue for live music. At the reincarnated Palace, it's about the food, which is exotic but by no means too exotic, and incorporates flavors from various cultures that have influenced the region. The offering includes Indian style samosas, for instance, and samaki na chips, a twist on English fish and chips, as well as African-spiced chicken wings and chicken karanga, a flavorful Kenyan stew. The savory safari is offered Tuesday through Saturday, for lunch or dinner.

In North Raleigh, The Pickled Onion (7901-101 Falls of Neuse Road; 848-4161; www.thepickledonionrestaurant.com) is a refreshing option for sports fans burned out on traditional pub fare. That's not to say you won't find burgers, nachos and buffalo wings on the menu at this sports pub, which opened in September in the former Portobello/Wild Orchid space. And naturally, there are plenty of plasma screens and beer options, including six on tap.

Unlike your run-of-the-mill sports pub, however, The Pickled Onion offers more ambitious fare. Starters include shrimp bisque, jumbo lump crab cakes and vegetable tempura, followed by entree options such as macadamia-crusted Chilean sea bass, pan-seared diver scallops, and herb-roasted half chicken. And if your team is winning, you can celebrate with vanilla bean crème brûlée or cinnamon bread pudding.

Maybe it isn't a jaded palate you're suffering from at all, but a case of stone crab withdrawal. This diagnosis is especially likely if you're a transplant from Florida, where stone crab claws are a famously popular delicacy. They're practically impossible to find hereabouts, however, and many sufferers have been forced to take a trip to the Sunshine State for their stone crab fix.

Relief is as close as Glenwood South in Raleigh, where Sullivan's Steakhouse (414 Glenwood Ave.; 833-2888; www.sullivansteakhouse.com/raleigh) is now serving fresh stone crab claws, shipped overnight from Florida. The claws, which are cracked to order, will be offered as long as they're in season, which runs from Oct. 15 to May 15. So what are you waiting for?

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