Restaurant News & Reviews

Small plates in place

In more than one sense, "less is more" is the guiding philosophy at Six Plates Wine Bar (2812-104 Erwin Road; 321-0203;, which opened last Friday in Durham's Erwin Terrace. As the restaurant's name implies, the menu consists of a nightly changing offering of just six small plates.

Owner Matthew Beason is quick to point out, however, that these small plates "aren't your traditional tapas with just one item. They're fully realized presentations, like an entree with sides, only smaller." Beason, a former co-owner of Rue Cler and Pop's, lured chef Ted Domville away from Chive, a small plates restaurant in California, to help transform his idea into reality. On opening night, Domville responded with an inventive offering that included lobster spring roll with wakame salad and a spicy persimmon purée; cinnamon-crusted scallop with wild boar prosciutto, local arugula and pumpkin risotto; and local chicken pot pie with truffle-dusted chanterelle mushrooms.

The wine list offers 100 wines by the bottle, an eclectic selection that favors little-known gems over familiar names. Each night, six of these wines -- a suggested pairing for each plate -- are available by the glass. Why only six wines by the glass? "Lots of people just go for something familiar when they have too many choices. I'd like to encourage them to try something new." Sounds like solid reasoning to me. And, because the by-the-glass selection changes with the menu, there's little chance that regulars will get bored.

Service is streamlined, as well, with food and drinks ordered at the bar and consumed in a casual lounge setting. A private tasting room that can accommodate parties of up to 12 is also available. Six Plates Wine Bar opens at 4 p.m. daily except for Tuesdays.

Meanwhile in Morrisville --and at the other end of the culinary spectrum -- is China Town (9601 Chapel Hill Road; 388-1866;, a pan-Asian buffet whose all-encompassing offering might be characterized as Six Thousand Plates. OK, that's an exaggeration. The restaurant claims to offer more than 300 selections (I didn't count) at buffet stations that are designed to evoke storefronts in Chinatown, USA. In addition to the usual Chinese buffet suspects, these "shops' wares" include sushi, dim sum, hibachi bar, noodle bar, seafood (including the ever-popular all-you-can-eat crab legs). China Town is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On a sad note, it's time to bid farewell to two of my favorite Triangle restaurants. Ma Ma Wok, in my opinion Cary's best Chinese restaurant, has closed its doors for good. A new restaurant called Thai Spice & Sushi is slated to open in that space in January. And in Durham, Starlu owner/chef Sam Poley has announced that he is throwing in the towel after Dec. 22 -- a date that, thankfully, allows for the small consolation of one or two more meals there.