With our celebrations behind us and our New Year's resolutions before us, it's likely that lots of us are resolving to eat light and cleanse our systems of the rich, dense Thanksgiving-through-New Year's heavy foods, thick gravies and sauces—and to remember our multivitamins, double our veggie intake, exercise consistently and so on. With that in mind, we're back to work, starting the new tax year and generally on the run, and so inevitably in need of a meal away from home.
For eminently digestible reasons, all manner of Asian food comes to the rescue. The wealth of choices ranges from the expected Chinese restaurant in almost every shopping center and strip mall in the Triangle (even at these, if you ask for it, you can often opt for brown rice and no MSG), to elegantly special venues such as the award-winning Lantern (969-8846, www.lanternrestaurant.com) in Chapel Hill and an, Cary's new Southeast Asian restaurant (677-9229, www.ancuisines.com).
Then there's everything in between. Middle-of-the-road price ranges mean different things to different people, but below are a few of the moderately priced, relatively new pan-Asian themed restaurants in our area to give you an idea of the scope around town. Durham's Café Zen (688-8888, www.cafezen.com) features hibachi-style entrees and a wide selection of sushi. Launched by the same folks in Raleigh is Wild Ginger Sushi Bar (277-1999, www.wildgingersushi.com), an open-kitchen bistro featuring Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine and nicely located near the just-opened-to-traffic Fayetteville Street Mall. (These folks also run Raleigh's popular Tokyo House.)
Boasting a lunchtime all-you-can-eat "modern" sushi, hot soup and salad bar, Cary's Asahi (465-9501, www.asahicary.com) brings together choices of Japanese and Korean cuisine. Another spot, Waraji (783-1883) in Raleigh, is also Japanese and majors in unique sushi rolls plus extensive wine and martini lists. Waba (833-1717) on Hillsborough Street in the N.C. State neighborhood takes up the Korean side of flavor and is a fave among students of all nationalities. For Americanized Chinese—quick, relaxing food that doesn't pretend to be stand-out gourmet—Ming Garden in Chapel Hill (929-2199) is a small, neighborhood place frequented by faithful regulars, who swear by its consistency and simple goodness but aren't out on the town for a fancy dinner. That said, there are some extra touches such as spicy shrimp with mango and coconut curry vegetables.
Uplifting events to drive away any post-holiday letdown include a winemaker's tour Wednesday, Jan. 10, at Chatham Hill Winery (380-7135, www.chathamhill.com), where five wines made in the French tradition will be paired with French bread and cheeses—a parting nod to the Monet in Normandy exhibit that leaves the North Carolina Museum of Art on Jan. 14. The last of Chef Ashley Christiansen's Monet-inspired wine dinners (a four-course "regions of France" tasting menu) at Enoteca Vin (834-3070, www.enotecavin.com) will be Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. $49 per person. Also France-honoring is a wine dinner Monday, Jan. 15, at Carrboro's Panzanella (929-6626, www.panzanella.com) featuring the wines of the Rhone Valley's two distinct regions. $40 per person and space is filling up fast. Reservations encouraged at all three.