If there's been a common allure to the restaurants that opened in the Triangle this year, it swam in on a siren song. We sang the praises of every new seafood restaurant.
In Raleigh, the much anticipated openings of St. Roch and The Cortez gave us fresh local oysters whenever we want them. Both offer stellar cocktail lists that pair with menus inspired by more than just the North Carolina coast. St. Roch serves Cajun baked oysters that have become a standard winter bar food in lush, classic environs. The Cortez maintains vacation vibes year-round with an assortment of sharp ceviches reminiscent of the culinary renaissance happening now in Ensenada, Mexico, with Tiki-inspired cocktails that are fun wherever you are.
We even relished the seafood plates at new restaurants that are focused on other things. A shining dish on Alley Twenty Six's new dinner menu is the fried oysters. When H Mart opened with a Korean food court, we raved about the seafood paejon from the So Gong Dong food stall, a perfect savory pancake. MOFU Shoppe and Brewery Bhavana are both known for their dumplings. But MOFU's green curry mussels stand out from its meat heavy menu. And the whole fish steamed in banana leaf is a must at Bhavana, especially when participating in the community ethos of shared plates for which the restaurant has become known. (Bhavana also made Bon Appetit's list of top ten restaurants in America.)
And then there are the newest ventures to open, of which we've only had a small taste. Saint James in Durham, the latest from Matt Kelly, mimics the seafood towers of Vin Rouge, where the chef got his start, with a raw bar that has everything from lobster to Mexican-inspired aguachiles. Two fine dining chefs are prettying up ugly fish with high-end flair at Postal Fish Company in Pittsboro, complete with a beachy key lime pie. And Saltbox Seafood Joint finally opened a second location for neighbors in Lakewood and Forest Hills.
This is good news for our health, right? We're heading into 2018 eating clean.
As the year ends, INDY restaurant critic Emma Laperruque is off to her next adventure. She has accepted a job in New York as a food writer and recipe developer for Food 52. We'll miss her unabashed wit, fair critiques, and cooking chops, and wish her the best of luck.