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ethnic options in triangle

I have to agree with FruTo. I find nothing appealing about Vimala's. I too am mystified by the endless enthusiasm on its behalf.

Dec 19, 2014
Sinophile in Southeast

ethnic options in triangle

I'm not sure I'd call the Triangle "very strong" in any category of ethnic cuisine. I didn't see FruTo's original post, but I suspect he made a legitimate point.

I'd be curious to know what Taiwanese restaurant RockyCat has in mind.

Dec 18, 2014
Sinophile in Southeast

Best Pancakes in the Triangle?

I'm wondering if there's a consensus about the best pancakes in the Triangle?

Jul 11, 2013
Sinophile in Southeast

Cleaning Restrictions on Kitchen Aid Pasta Attachments

I am considering buying some Kitchen Aid pasta attachments but I'm worried by what seems to the restriction that you cannot clean them with soap and water (the dishwasher is obviously out).

Is this true?

Given that eggs potentially contain salmonella, is this safe and sanitary?

Mar 06, 2013
Sinophile in Cookware

Where to Send a Wedding Couple?

I have friends who are getting married in Boston in December. I want to send them someplace nice as a wedding gift. I'm able to pony up $250.

I'd like someplace formal, romantic, memorable...but also good.

I'm thinking Menton, Mistral, or L'Espalier.

What do locals recommend? Is $250 enough?

Thanks so much for any advice.

Nov 26, 2012
Sinophile in Greater Boston Area

Road Food Query: Chapel Hill to Replacements Limited (Greensboro Area)

I am planning a jaunt from Chapel Hill to Replacements Limited, which is, I think, just East of Greensboro off 40. Does anyone have any lunch recommendations? We'll be glad to pull off the highway in search of something good. Thanks so much.

Jul 26, 2011
Sinophile in Southeast

Chapel Hill to Mebane? Anything Worth Stopping For?

The title of my post says it all. Any advice?

Jun 28, 2011
Sinophile in Southeast

Chapel Hill lunchtime taco trucks

The truck is called Captain Pancho's. They make their own tortillas from homemade masa harina, which is quite unusual. The tortillas and tacos are indeed excellent, much better than Don Jose Tienda, though a bit skimpy at $1.60 per. I especially recommend the pastor. The chiliquiles are spicy but very, very good. I do not recommend the sincronizadas or the burrito. I have not tried the entomotadas (spelling?) or the tortas. These few dishes encompass the entire menu. In general, the truck is worth a try, though I am a little put off by the fact that the fellow who applies the cheese and other finishing touches with his bare hands is the same guy who manages the cash register and handles the money.

Jan 14, 2010
Sinophile in Southeast

Where to buy dried chilis on Internet?

Which is the best purveyor of dried chiles on the Internet? I bought a bag of dried ancho chili from my local tienda yesterday and took them home to find them crawling with bugs -- and multiple kinds of bugs to boot.

Thanks.

Jul 25, 2009
Sinophile in General Topics

Q Shack coming to Carrboro

Did you have the NC-style cue? As many note above, the place is known for Texas-style. The brisket is particularly good. I have never tried the NC-style there, thinking it unlikely to be very good.

Carrboro/Chapel Hill: Jade Palace Revival

I went back to Jade Palace tonight out of a kind of curiosity. We had three dishes -- one good, one okay, and one dismal. The first was cooked by the new chef-owner; the second was partially cooked by the new chef-owner; and the third was cooked by the old chef, who remains on duty as part of the purchase agreement. The old chef is off duty on Mondays. This is probably the safest night to test the waters.

Carrboro/Chapel Hill: Jade Palace Revival

Jade Palace has always been my poster child for wretched, watered-down Chinese food. I've been a couple of times over the years, and it has always been a grim experience; on one occasion I received my food, took one look at it, and headed for Elmo's, where I had waffle (itself not very good, by the way). The good news is that Jade Palace has been purchased by the brother of the young lady who co-owns Superwok in Cary. The new chef-owner is nowhere near as talented as Chef Chen, who mans the kitchen at Superwork, but he has learned a thing or two from Chef Chen, and he has sound restaurant instincts. The first thing he did was fire the team of Mexicans who did the cooking under the old regime and took over the kitchen himself, with the former chief chef acting as sous chef.

Jade Palace remains -- and probably will remain -- an eatery for the non-discriminating and timid American diner, but the meal we had there this week was not bad. We had spring rolls, followed by Mongolian beef and sesame tofu (a Superwok rip-off), all of it edible enough.

In general, the restaurant seems somewhat revitalized. There were more customers than we had noticed previously, and they seemed relatively jolly, where the old Jade Palace was a spectacle of people hunched over their plates of sweet and sour pork with pained grimaces.

In short, the restaurant is headed in the right direction. Where it was once one to avoid, it is now one to try some cold night when there's nothing in the fridge and an Asian meal has more momentary appeal than a similarly priced omelet at Elmo's or burger at Tyler's. The chef says that he will begin to change the menu in a week or two. The place can only get better.

Q Shack coming to Carrboro

I had the ribs this week. They were very good. Not at all dry. Generally, I could not detect any discrepancy between the Carrboro and Durham Q-Shacks. I have no doubt that Q-Shack will be a success at that location.

Triangle Chinese Update

I'm glad everybody is enjoying Super Wok. I myself partook of a 13-course banquet there last weekend. Highlights were the "Crispy Tofu in Tangy Sauce," the above-mentioned lotus root, the sesame spareribs, and the
various stir-fried greens. There's nothing like rendered pork fat to make vegetables sing! My favorite dish, though, is the fried fish cut squirrel-tail fashion. Yum. I also recommend the various cold appetizers. Chef Chen seems to specialize in this kind of thing.

I have given Super Wok my translated menu, by the way, but I'm not sure if they're circulating it yet.

There's yet more Chinese news. Superwork is owned by Chef Chen along with his niece (the younger woman who provides table service). The niece's brother, who formerly owned Super Wok, has purshased Jade Palace in downtown Chapel Hill. Jade Palace, in my opinion, has long been thoroughly wretched. The new chef-owner is no particular talent, but he has learned a few things from Chef Chen at Super Wok and he should effect at least some improvement.

Chapel Hill: The Heartbreaking Case of Miel Bon Bons

I had my first taste of Miel Bon Bons, the refined French patisserie that opened about a year ago in Carrmill Mall. I had been meaning to go for quite a while, but I could never quite justify either the calories or the expense. My wife and I ordered two coffees, a chocolate-covered hazelnut and chocolate mousse pyramid, and an apple tart. The pastries were flawless, easily the most sophisticated and visually lovely and professionally executed French pastry I've had in the Triangle. My wife and I used to be regulars at Payard in New York, and I would say that Miel Bon Bons is not terribly far off the Payard standard. The heartbreak of the situation is that it's very hard to see the place surviving. The pastries sell for $5-$7, and they are distinctly petite; they can be shared but they are not really meant to be. The beautiful and equally petite truffles sell for $2-$3 each. These prices are unlikely to appeal to those looking for a snack, especially with so many options in the immediate vicinity, and Carrboro, with its hippy/BOBO ethos, is not likely to be won over by this kind of refined and formal pastry. I talked for a while with the owner/chef -- a pleasant woman from Hong Kong -- and it was not hard to infer that she is struggling. It's a damned shame, because she is both talented and committed to executing her craft at a high and serious level.

Mar 18, 2009
Sinophile in Southeast

Where to get scrumptious eclairs in the Triangle

Weaver St. Market, though otherwise not terrific when it comes to pastry, makes what I consider fabulous -- in fact perfect -- eclairs. This is the only pastry item that compares with Weaver St.'s bread.

Mar 11, 2009
Sinophile in Southeast

Allen & Sons BBQ

My understanding of the mechanics of NC cue may be hazy. I merely wanted to draw a distinction between flame broiling (i.e. placing the meat directly on the fire) and smoking (removing the meat from the direct lick of the flame). Am I wrong in my understanding? Whatever the mechanics may be, I would not describe NC cue as notable for its effect of caramelization, with all its complexity of texture and flavor. But this is not to dismiss NC cue. I love it (see above). I merely hesitate before granting it a place in the starriest pantheon of world cuisine.

Allen & Sons BBQ

With all due respect to Mikeh -- a very savvy Chowhound and great local reporter -- I just don't see it. For the sake of argument, I will forget the limp fries, the mushy microwaved pies, the dense, greasy hushpuppies. The cue itself -- yes, it's good, even very good, moist and subtly flavored, but NC cue, lacking the textural and taste complexity produced by the caramelizing effect of direct fire, can never, in my opinion, be truly sublime. I'm willing to compare a world-class taco or a Memphis rib to Le Bernadin and the like, but the local cue never quite makes it over the hump. I say this having tried all the most storied North Carolina cue restaurants with the exception of the Skylight Inn in Ayden (admittedly, this is supposed to be the very best), and having more or less enjoyed them all.

Reservations aside, I do recommend Allan and Sons. Whenever we have out-of-town guests, we bring them there. I stop short, however, at superlatives. Among local cue shacks, I also recommend Blue Mist BBQ on I-64 just outside of Asheboro. They wood-smoke out back, and the cue is wed to an ample, classic, and well-executed diner menu. I never understand why Blue Mist does not have a larger and more enthusiastic following.

Triangle Burger-Beer Update

I had two notable burgers recently. After long hearing about Char-Grill, the famed Raleigh institution, I finally had a chance to stop by the new branch restaurant near the juncture of 54 and 55 in Durham. It was an extreme disappointment. The burger was dry and tasteless -- the kind of burger for which the "hockey puck" cliche was invented, though the cliche does not work in this case, as Char-Grill's burgers are oblong. We had to force feed our daughter, whose complaints, for once, were fairly legitimate. Ultimately we had to bribe her with a Dunkin Donut from next store. The fries are the standard frozen-reconstituted -- tasty, but essentially appealing to one's lower instincts for mere fat and salt.

The other night, meanwhile, we tried PT Grille, on Henderson Street, just off Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. This is a hopping college bar that specializes in beer, burgers, and fries, all serves relatively cheaply and massively. The burgers were hefty but not special,
and the fresh cut fries, while crisp, were on the greasy side. If you are looking for this kind of food in a lively, youthful atmosphere, PT's is a fine stop. Chowhound types, however, will probably prefer Tyler's, which offers much the same chow with a degree of refinement.

I love, by the way, the beer store that has opened next door to Tyler's. I only just learned that Tyler's owns this shop. I highly recommend the Lammsbrau organic dunkel. This is one of the best beers I have ever had -- maybe the best.

Triangle Chinese Update

Here's the latest on Super Wok. Chef Chen is employing a sous chef, which is a bad sign, but hopefully he impose some quality control. He hired a sous chef from 35 Chinese Rest. down the road in Cary and fired him within two days, which I consider a good sign. As things stand, there will be three menus: a Chinese-language menu offering authentic Chinese dishes, a Chinese-American menu offering authentic Chinese dishes (I am working on this), and an English-language menu offering lame American-Chinese and Thai dishes. These will almost certainly wind up being cooked by the sous chef. Don't order the Thai dishes! I will probably finish the menu by next weekend. In two or three weeks Chef Chen's fine cuisine should be accessible to the American diner. Be prepared for some spice, however. Super Wok does have waiters, two very pleasant women, one the owner, the other the wife of Chef Chen. There is beer, but no bar.

Allen & Sons BBQ

I agree that Allen and Sons is not the Q nirvana that some imply. The cue and slaw are very good, but everything else -- fries, puppies, pies -- are lame. I'm not sure why they can't figure out how to make a decent french fry, considering they serve a ton of them. Allen and Sons is a good and fun dining experience, but at $12 per plate I show up every six months rather than every few weeks. We are a family of three, and these prices are beyond our everyday lunch budget. We will spend $20-$25 on a random lunch out for no particularly good reason, but not $45. Thai Palace, Mint, and Merlion are other good local restaurants that price themselves out of our weekly rotation. If they can fill their restaurants charging $15.99-$18.99 for sometimes smallish and not always fantastic entrees, more power to them, but we will be dining more cheaply at Elmo's and Tyler's, or, as more often the case, opting to eat equally good or better food at home.

Triangle Chinese Update

Super Wok, at its best, is much better than China Palace -- no contest. It is located in Chatham Square, Cary.

Triangle Chinese Update

UPDATE: Chef Chen has become a 50% owner at Super Wok. This is now the premier Chinese restaurant in the Triangle by quite a ways. At his best, Chef Chen is a genuinely superb cook, far better than any Chinese chef I've encountered in North Carolina. The good news is that -- unless I am mistaken -- Chef Chen will be doing all of the cooking. (If you wind up with a lousy dish, you can assume I am mistaken and there remains someone else in the kitchen). I intend to offer my services and translate the Chinese menu into English. You can expect this to be done within the next few weeks.

Chapel Hill Recs?

Contrary to national press reports, the eating in Chapel Hill proper is somewhat bleak (I am a lone Lantern detractor). Given your stipulations, I recommend either Panzanella or Mint (the latter a new Indian restaurant on Franklin Street). I would definitely steer clear of Southern Rail. People will probably tell you that you have to visit Mama Dips -- well, you don't, though it's not a bad place to bring a little kid.

Sweatman's BBQ - Holly Hill, SC

I had precisely the same experience. I made a long pilgrimage and found Sweatman's enjoyable but not transcendent. I recall the chopped cue being ordinary and the ribs being dry though appealingly tangy. I recommend trying Sweatman's if you happen to be in the area or to be passing by, but I warn against driving down from, say, New York.

You can see my original comments here:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546142

Feb 08, 2009
Sinophile in Southeast

Triangle Chinese Update

I'm not a fan of Grand Asia for dinner. We ate at the cafe somewhat regularly for about five years, simply because it was convenient, but the food swung unpredictably between "not bad" and "pretty bad." Finally we gave up. I recall liking the dou hua, but not the buns. The problems there were typical: numerous chefs with different skill levels, chefs coming and going. It may be that the cafe has rehabilitated itself since we stopped going about two years ago. If Chef Chen set himself up at Grand Asia (see above), everyone involved would do very well for themselves.

Chapel Hill: Pazzo for the first time

We will have to agree to disagree, amicably of course. I am really surprised by your enthusiasm for the pizza. It seems to me indistinguishable from the kind of undistinguished pizza served all over town: Franklin Street Pizza, I Love NY Pizza, and so forth. All of these pizzas have precisely the same deficiency: a crust that lacks the complex crumb of good bread. The only pizzeria in town that takes the crust seriously is Panzanella, but its pies are significantly more expensive than the average.

Triangle Chinese Update

I've been hearing things about #1 Panda House on Guess Rd. in Durham for a while and finally got around to giving it a try. My informants told me that it had been quite good until the chef departed some years ago, and that the original chef is now back.

Despite the goofy name, the restaurant serves reasonably authentic dim sum and Shanghai-style dishes. It's best known for "shengjian bao" (panfriend pork buns) and these were indeed terrific. Unfortunately, they are the only item on the menu not listed in English. I recommend pointing at the one thing you can't read and saying "I want that." We also had soup dumplings and chive and pork dumplings, both of which were good though not as stellar as the "shengjian bao."

We followed our dim sum appetizers with tofu and pork rolls and crispy duck. The rolls were nice without being special and the duck was crazily over-salted. We immediately sent it back. Having tasted the dish, the headwaiter was profusely apologetic and seemingly genuinely embarrassed. We substituted fish fillets in wine sauce, which were roughly on par with the tofu rolls. The fillets were tender,and the sauce had a subtle undertone of Chinese medicine.

We gleaned that there are two chefs in the kitchen. There's one chef for dim sum chef (this is the owner; this is presumably the chef who had left), and one chef for dishes. The dim sum chef is significantly better than the other chef, though both are well above the local Chinese standard.

The restaurant serves dim sum a la carte on Saturday and Sunday. I would recommend this with one reservation: the dim sum items are really expensive, perhaps twice as expensive as similar items served at nearby Hong Kong.

By far the best Chinese food in the Triangle these days is being served at Super Wok in Chatham Square, Cary, but there are significant difficulties in ordering it. Two entirely discrete restaurants are operating under the same roof. Two incompetent chefs produce feeble American-Chinese and Thai dishes for Americans, while Chef Chen produces really vibrant and authentic Szehuan dishes for Chinese. One issue is that the Chinese menu is entirely in Chinese; another issue is that Chef Chen is looking to set up his own restaurant. He looked at Jade Palace in Chapel Hill, but decided to pass. I will keep everybody informed as best I can. The thing to do, while the opportunity lasts, is to order whatever dishes Chef Chen cares to make you.

The problem with so much Chinese cuisine in America, if you will forgive some cultural theorizing, is that Chinese chefs simply refuse to believe that Americans will like their best cooking. This is for some reason culturally hard-wired into them. Hence the baleful phenomenon of the two menus.

Case in point: we asked Chef Chen to make us dishes of his own choosing the other night. We wound up with a sweet-and-sour fish and a sweet-and-sour beef. Both were excellent in their way, but not really authentic, and certainly not the kind of food we usually order. My wife said this was in token of my Western palette. I found the episode strange and telling, as we order the authentic Szichaun food on the menu all the time, and Chef Chen jolly well knows it. He must believe I am unhappily deferring to my wife.

Chapel Hill: Pazzo for the first time

I recently tried Pazzo in Southern Village. I won't waste words on the experience. The meal was thoroughly mediocre. I had veal meatballs and bucatini in a marsala cream sauce. It turned out to be your standard alfredo-style pasta dish, the kind of thing you might wind up with in an Italian-themed chain restaurant. I joylessly picked at it. My wife had the lamb shank, which was dry and tasteless. Others at the table ordered a pizza. Even by debased Chapel Hill standards, the thing was like cardboard. The service was friendly and efficient enough, though others at the table reported service horror stories from past visits. Pazzo is comparable in terms of price and menu to Panzanella. The obvious thing to do is eat there instead.

Lammsbrau Organic Dunkel and Pilsner

Lately I've been drinking Lammsbrau organic dunkel and pilsner. Both strike me as extremely and unusually good, but I am not particularly a beer aficionado, and I don't have entire confidence in my own judgment. Are these beers as good as they seem to me? Just curious to have my own reaction confirmed or disconfirmed. .

Jan 17, 2009
Sinophile in Beer