Restaurant News & Reviews

Surf and turf options open

This week brings a surf and turf selection of new dining options, in the form of a seafood restaurant in Cary and a Mexican eatery in Durham.

Ocean Grill (4300 N.W. Cary Parkway; 467-2260; www.theoceangrill.com) opened in mid-May in Cary, in the building previously occupied by Mamma Mia Italian restaurant. Owners Steve and Julie Adams, who also own the popular Peak City Grill in Apex, have given the space a complete makeover, transforming it into an airy dining room and adjoining bar with a contemporary nautical motif.

Taking the helm in the kitchen is executive chef Franz Propst, who was previously chef at Peak City Grill. Chef Propst's mostly seafood menu sails international waters, from whole steamed Mediterranean sea bass to San Francisco cioppino to Gulf shrimp open ravioli to Carolina crab cakes with sautéed shoe-peg corn and spicy rémoulade. But the big lures for seafood purists are the oyster bar offering (typically four varieties) and the half dozen or so fresh fish that are flown in daily and filleted on the premises. The catch ranges from Alaskan halibut to Lake Erie perch to Scottish salmon to North Carolina grouper and is available wood-grilled, broiled, sautéed, blackened or pan-Asian style. Roasted organic chicken breast and-cut steaks (including a couple of USDA Prime options) ought to keep the landlubbers happy.

In Durham, first-time restaurateur Jody Lytton has teamed up with veteran Tony Sustaita (owner of the Bandido's chain) to open Chubby's Tacos (748 Ninth St.; 286-4499). Lytton calls his first venture (which opened, fittingly, on May 5 -- Cinco de Mayo) "a gringo-friendly version of a taqueria."

Translation? A counter-service eatery with an English-speaking staff serving mostly traditional taqueria fare with a few north-of-the-border accents. Soft corn tortillas and gorditas are made on the premises and are available with a dozen filling options ranging from carne asada, carnitas, al pastor and chicken tinga to not-so-traditional fillings such as ahi tuna, grilled shrimp and tofu. Other offerings include tortas, burritos, quesadillas (flour tortillas are also house-made) and taco salads. Recycled paper napkins and tableware made of quickly composting natural materials are a welcome eco-friendly touch, regardless of which side of the border you hail from.

Finally, a note from the shameless self-promotion department: Want a behind-the-scenes take on my life as a restaurant critic? Tune in to WCHL (that's 1360 on the AM radio dial) at 11 a.m. June 8 when I'll be the featured guest on "Side Dish." If you can't make that date, the show airs again at 11 a.m. June 14.

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