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I had heard Orchid was All You Can Eat sushi for $24. This was intriguing, but then I found out that they had lunch AYCE for only $14. I really couldn’t pass this up, so my husband and I arranged to meet for lunch on Friday.

Upon being seated, we were given two sheets of paper and a pencil, and we were told to fill in the quantity for each selection. We were also informed they had a regular menu that was priced per dish, but it was basically the same items that were on the AYCE menu. My husband was checking for tonkatsu, since it’s his favorite Japanese dish, but unfortunately they didn’t have it. I checked the menu prior, and I figured there would be enough other cooked food he could probably find something he would eat.

I picked out a tuna nigiri, inarizushi (tofu skin with rice inside), the peanut and avocado rolls, and the spicy yellowtail rolls. I also got the miso soup as an appetizer, some edamame to share, a seaweed salad, and some red bean ice cream for dessert. My husband picked out an order of spring rolls, gyoza, the steak teriyaki, and green tea ice cream.

We were given some extra ordering sheets and were told that if we wanted more food at any time, to just fill out the sheet and press the light and the waiter would come to fill our order. I don’t have a whole lot of time for lunch though, so we just decided what we ordered should be enough.

The edamame came out first, and it was typical edamame. It was warm and salted, and it tasted just like edamame normally does. The soup came out a bit later, and it was a bit sparse for miso soup, lacking in tofu and seaweed. But it wasn’t bad. The salad came out as a garden salad, not the seaweed salad I had ordered, but my husband ate it and said it was good.  I didn’t want to bother ordering the seaweed salad again since I had probably already ordered more than enough to fill our appetites. The spring rolls were a bit doughy but still good, and the gyoza was quite tasty, exactly what I wanted the gyoza to taste like.

All the food ended up coming fairly quickly, except for the ice cream. My sushi came out in a nice, large platter, nicely organized. The avocado peanut rolls looked as weird as they tasted, yet I ate them all. There’s something oddly good about them. The tuna and tofu nigiri were pretty good. The spicy yellowtail roll ended up looking and tasting something like shredded yellowtail, mixed in with chili mayo. I was a bit disappointed they didn’t have full yellowtail nigiri, but I found out later they offer additional rolls and nigiri in the dinner meal. I guess that’s why they charge $24 for dinner and only $14 for lunch.

Steak Teriyaki

My husband’s steak teriyaki was a really small portion. I guess the benefit is you have enough room to try everything they offer there. It was good, but not really enough for a full meal size. But at least we ordered enough other food, it wasn’t as if my husband could possibly walk away from the meal hungry.

It took a while for the ice cream and bill to come out. I guess they were surprised we weren’t ordering more food. But I really liked the ice cream, it had small chunks of real red bean in it. My husband’s green tea wasn’t as good to me, but he said he liked it better.

Red Bean and Green Tea Ice Cream

$14 would be more than I usually spend at lunch, but I thought the quality and quantity of food was decent enough that it was worth it. I wouldn’t mind coming back again for the dinner $24 AYCE, since the dinner menu would include the yellowtail nigiri that I love so much. The trick will be trying to get my husband to come back, since they don’t have tonkatsu like they do at Yuri.
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It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve been to a Mexican restaurant.  I make quesadillas all the time, but other than the occasional Chipotle, this has been a side of food I’ve been neglecting.  I set about to set this right on Saturday evening.  Since I don’t actually know much about Mexican food, and I don’t even speak Spanish, I wanted to try and find something highly rated, while still having a menu in English.

Carnitas

We arrived at Dos Taquitos at about 5:45pm.  I was worried when we first came in, the outside seating looked packed.  When asked if we wanted outside or inside, we just asked for the first available.  They seated us inside, and I guess I should have realized pretty quickly that this was a big mistake.  I have very poor night vision, and could barely find my seat.  I needed my cell phone light to be able to read the menu, and it took several minutes for my eyes to adjust enough to be able to find the salsa and chips.  I had to use a flash and my pictures still turned out pretty bad.  I think next time I’ll arrive a bit earlier, and definitely ask for a seat out by the natural lighting.

They did have a menu which included quesadillas, so I though my son might go for that, but unfortunately he refused to try anything but the chips.  I ordered the carnitas, since it was a dish I was familiar with, and my husband ordered the enchiladas puebla.  I also ordered the Dos Equis which they had on draft there at $3 a glass.  I thought their draft glasses were small, so I ended up getting 2.

It was a bit of a wait to get the food, but we were hungry and went through 2 baskets of chips.  My son was infinitely amused by the overhead train, exclaiming every time it made a pass near our table.  He also loved the glow in the dark stars, the Christmas lights, and all the decorations on the walls.  Despite the fact that I could only see glowing blobs and dark moving blobs, he really liked the interior of the restaurant.

Enchilada Puebla

My carnitas came out on a huge plate with 3 steamed soft tortillas on the side.  There were some huge chunks of pork, refried beans, rice, sliced radishes and cucumbers, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and a little pot of guacamole.  My husband’s enchiladas looked smaller than mine, but still a good-sized dinner portion.  There were 3 small tortilla wraps with steak inside, and 3 different sauces of sour cream, guacamole and what I’m guessing is enchilada sauce.  He also got some refried beans and rice, but no veggies.  It was odd because my dish was $13 and his was $14, so I wasn’t sure why his would be smaller.

The meat was just pure magic.  I don’t know how they prepare the meat here, but it was like something I’ve never had before.  My pork chunks were crispy on the outside, yet so tender that they fell apart with just pushing my fork into them.  I tried a bit of the beef from my husband’s dish and it was just as awesome.

It’s been a full day and I just can’t get that meat out of my head.  I think this restaurant could turn a vegetarian back to the dark side.  Towards the end I was getting so full, yet I had to eat every last chunk of pork.  I can’t wait to try another dish, and get some carnitas to go for the next day as well.

Dos Taquitos on Urbanspoon

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I’ve probably driven by this place a hundred times, and never noticed it before.  You can see it from Hwy 1/64 if you look quickly, but it’s not really visible from Buck Jones Rd.  It’s in the building between Motel 6 and Grand Asia Market.  I was in the mood for Thai, and figured it was about time I tried something new.

Thai Ice Tea

The restaurant is a small room at the end of a large brick building.  It probably seats about 50 or so, though during lunch while I was there I think there were only about 12 people.  The furniture and decor were rather cheap, but at least it seemed clean enough.  The service was quick, and I got some water and a Thai Ice Tea right away.

Curry Puff

I checked out the specials, and the Curry Puffs that were featured looked pretty good.  From the description, they sounded a lot like the Thai version of samosas.  I also got a cup of the Tom Kha soup with chicken, and the red curry with pork, 2 on a scale of 3 pepper spiciness.  My husband ordered the mussaman curry with chicken, 1 on a scale of 3 pepper spiciness. Nearly all of their entrees came in a lunch portion which was smaller than the dinner portion, except the chef’s specials.  Since it was lunch time, we both ordered the lunch portions.

Tom Kha Soup

The Tom Kha soup had a mild spiciness level.  This Tom Kha was unlike many I’ve had before, in that it contained huge chunks of chicken and nothing else.  No mushrooms, no bamboo shoots.  My husband was happy about that, but I was disappointed.  I really loved the broth though, it was so soothing.

The curry puffs came out looking more like a pasty than a samosa, since it had a thick, flaky crust like a small half-circle pie.  The inside was definitely like a samosa though, with a lightly spiced mix of potato and other things.  We weren’t given any option on the spiciness, but it had a good flavor even though it lacked bite.

Red Curry With Pork

The entrees were brought out before we even finished the curry puffs.  HUGE chunks of meat.  I’m sure any carnivore would love this Thai restaurant.  But unfortunately, I actually like veggies, too.  I was looking at my husband’s dish with the huge chunks of carrots, potatoes and onions, and I was disappointed all I had were bamboo shoots.  They could have added some red bell pepper slices or onions in my red curry for some variation in texture or color.  The flavor was good, but even at a 2 out of 3, still seemed a bit mild to me.  If I order entrees here in the future, I think I’d go for a 3.

Mussamun Curry with Chicken

My husband’s mussaman curry was loaded up with meat as well.  I tasted some of the curry sauce in his, and it was too mild for my taste.  You couldn’t even tell if they had added any spice to it.  The flavor was still good though.  It had a rich, creamy, nutty flavor to it.

The lunch portions seemed really good to me.  My husband was able to finish all of his, but I had enough for leftovers the next day.

It’s a good restaurant overall, and I did like the food well enough.  But I think they should really consider adding some more texture in their dishes.  One of the main reasons I like Thai food is because of the amazing texture- the crispness of fresh bean sprouts, the crunchiness of cashews and peanuts, the softness of the mushrooms, the chewiness of the noodles, the graininess of the bamboo shoots.  A dish that’s just meat and broth is a bit boring to me.  Maybe I just ordered the wrong dish.  Perhaps I’ll try the Pad Thai next time and see if it’s more to my liking.
Thai Villa on Urbanspoon

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I finally got a chance to try the legendary Angus Barn.  I’ve driven past the restaurant many times since we moved to North Carolina, and learned quickly from the locals that despite its appearance, this was the fancy place to eat in Raleigh.

The parking situation was decent if you park in the lot to the right as you drive in.  Valet parking in a private lot seems unnecessary.  The exterior looks much like a Cracker Barrel type of restaurant.  The interior, at least the main floor, reminded me of an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Wisconsin Dells called Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, with its checkered tablecloths, oil lamps and old farm equipment hanging from the walls.

We had made a reservation for 3, though I don’t know if it was required.  I noticed the main room was very crowded, noisy and busy for a Sunday at 5:30pm.  We were seated in the far back left corner of the main floor, and it was very cold and dark back there.  My son kept his coat on for the entire meal. The corner we were seated in was fairly quiet, but the tables were still stacked pretty close together.  The lighting was also extremely dark, and my photos all turned pretty terribly.  They did seem very accepting of children, giving him a balloon, coloring book and crayons.

The tables have baskets of crackers and small pots of spreadable cheese, and a plate of various pickled items.  They also brought out buttered, toasted bread later during the meal.  The snacks were nice, but I suppose you could easily fill up before your entree even comes.

French Onion Soup

Since I really wanted the Angus Barn experience, I ordered their signature dish: the Chateaubriand.  It’s a 14oz. tenderloin that comes with roasted fingerling potatoes, sauteed vegetables, bearnaise sauce and red wine jus.  It was $43, the most expensive steak on the menu, but I figured I would go for the best.  I ordered the french onion soup with that, and some thin cut french fries.  My husband ordered the 10 oz. filet mignon with the Caesar salad and the thick cut french fries.  The children’s meals were all $11 each, and they come with applesauce or salad, a beverage, and ice cream for dessert.  My son ordered the cheese ravioli with fries.

Caesar Salad

The appetizers were really good.  I loved my french onion soup, but I was getting pretty full by the time I finished it.  My husband’s Caesar salad was fantastic as well.  He said it much better than most he’s had elsewhere, and he’s eaten a lot of different Caesar salads.

The entrees were brought out on large, flat iron skillets.  For the price, the presentation looked pretty poor.  I suppose they hope with low lighting most people won’t notice, but the plates were put together in a sloppy manner I’d expect from a cheap diner.  The ravioli was just a simple white bowl that looked like sauce, and some fries on the side.  My steak was arranged somewhat nicely, but the veggies were just in a giant pile.  What they called “fingerling potatoes” were just some burnt, soggy, steak fries tossed in with the rest of the veggies.   My husband’s entree wasn’t nearly such a mess.  His steak looked pretty decent, and his thick cut fries were piled up high.

Kid's Ravioli

My husband was really happy with his entree.  He ordered his filet mignon medium-rare, and he said it was cooked perfectly.  He managed to eat all his fries as well.  But the stuffed tomato-type object on the skillet didn’t get eaten.  He tried it, didn’t like it.  I tried it, I thought it was pretty bland and gross as well.  Maybe it was supposed to be for decoration, but it wasn’t worth eating.

Filet Mignon with Thick Cut Fries

My son, unfortunately, didn’t eat most of his meal.  That’s pretty typical for him, though normally I wouldn’t be paying $11 for a kid’s meal.  He wouldn’t touch the ravioli, and just ate a few fries.  He did like making the ice cream quite a bit though.  They took him to the ice cream bar so he could decorate it himself.  I ended up eating the ravioli during the week for lunch, and it wasn’t bad.  Seemed like a large portion for kids though.

I wish my entree would have turned out as well as my husband’s, especially considering it was their signature entree.  I ordered mine medium-rare as well, but mine was quite well done on the ends, and barely medium in the middle.  The bearnaise sauce was phenomenal.  I love getting bearnaise sauce with my steaks, it always tastes so much better than regular steak sauce.  I didn’t like the red wine jus as much, but it would have been decent enough if I didn’t have the bearnaise.  I ordered the Bianchi Cabernet Sauvingnon at the server’s recommendation, and I thought it went really well with the steak.  They do have a very impressive wine list.  As I mentioned before, the “fingerling” potatoes were a disappointment, so I only tried one of them.  The other veggies were very good, but there were really a whole lot more than needed to be included.  I didn’t really care much for the peas.  The fries were tasty, but with so much food already, nearly all of them came home in a doggy bag.

Chateaubriand

We didn’t have any room for dessert, though I hear they’re very good.  Frankly, by the end, I was a bit disappointed anyway.  For the amount of money spent, and the hype of the restaurant, I was expecting perfection, start to finish.  But the poor presentation and inconsistency in the food quality isn’t appropriate when you’re spending $43 on an entree.   I also prefer the spacious, beautiful interior of a restaurant like ãn over Paul Bunyan’s kitchen.  My husband really loved his dinner, so I’m sorry to say I probably won’t be putting this high on my list to visit again.
Angus Barn on Urbanspoon

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It’s a very rare opportunity to get to try Shabu-shabu in the United States.  In Los Angeles I only knew of one restaurant there that served it, and unfortunately never got a chance to visit it.  I was skeptical when I heard there was a restaurant called “Shabashabu” in Raleigh and Durham, especially when I heard they served sushi and Thai food.  But after seeing other reviews that indicated they did in fact serve Shabu-shabu as well, we decided to give it a shot.  We picked the Raleigh location solely on the fact that they are open on Sundays, and because a previous review I read did mention the Shabu-shabu.  I’m still not entirely sure if the Durham location serves it or not.

We arrived at the restaurant shortly before 5pm, so there were very few other people in the restaurant.  The building is divided into several different sections, and because we requested Shabu-shabu we were seated at a bar-type section with a sushi bar across the room and cafeteria-like seating in the rest of the area.  From the stories my husband had told me about Shabu-shabu, I was expecting a 4 to 6 person table with a large pot in the middle, but instead the bar was set up for individual pots for each person.  The Shabu-shabu isn’t on the online menu, but in the restaurant it’s on the menu under the chef’s specials.  It can be ordered with seafood, steak, or seafood and steak.  We both chose the steak option (NY Shabu) at $23.99 each.  We also got an appetizer of chicken harumaki to share, and some green tea.

First the waitress turned on the pot burners, and brought out two giant lidded pots of boiling broth.  She brought out a plate of 3 sauces and explained that one was ponzu (citrus/soy), one was flavored like a Korean BBQ sauce, and one was a Thai peanut sauce.  The Korean sauce was spicy, the Thai peanut sauce was not at all, but still tasted ok.  Then she brought out our appetizers, the chicken harumaki.  From the menu description (fried chicken and cheddar) it didn’t sound like a real Japanese dish, but my husband assured me it’s a real street food in Japan.  He said it’s not served quite the way they serve it in Japan though, instead of being rolled up in a spring roll wrapper, it’s usually just deep fried in little breaded balls.  I dipped the harumaki in the sweet and sour sauce provided and it was pretty good.  I don’t know if it was $5.49 good, but I like to be able to say I’ll try anything once.

Chicken Harumaki

The Shabu-shabu ingredients started coming out a little later.  We each got served a huge plate of chopped carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, pea pods and cabbage, with a smaller dish of udon and 2 chunks of tofu.  We got tiny pots of covered steamed rice.  Lastly we each got our big plate of thinly sliced steak, rolled up neatly.  The waitress said she normally dumps all her veggies and noodles in the pot, waits until the pot boils again, then starts swishing the meat.

I did as she instructed and dumped all my veggies and noodles in.  It took a while for the pot to become boiling again, so I started munching on some of the veggies before they were fully cooked.  The utensils we were given were a soup ladle, a slotted spoon, chopsticks and a fork.  I’m not sure what the ladle was for because I wasn’t given a bowl… maybe I should have used that dish that the noodles came in.  I ended up eating most of my food off the small plate we used to eat the appetizers off of.  Honestly I don’t know if there’s a way to do Shabu-shabu that doesn’t come off as silly.  I think I made a terrible mess dripping and splashing broth, but maybe that’s part of the fun.

When the broth finally came to a boil again, I started swishing my meat.  I found the fork worked the best for me, since I was consistently losing it while using the chopsticks.  I would lightly swish my meat until it just barely turned a lighter color, then dip it in the sauce and eat it.  If you’ve ever complained that your rare/medium beef comes to your table too cool, you’ll be impressed by this method of cooking it.  The veggies turn out pretty good too, but by the end of the meal they tend to get a bit over-cooked.  I’d say it took us about an hour to complete the meal, much longer than I normally take to eat.  But it was a lot of fun!  If you’ve ever wanted the experience of cooking your own food, while someone else has done all the preparation and will do all the cleaning up for you, this will be an enjoyable experience for  you.

NY Shabu

The restaurant has modern decor that can come off as rather cold and impersonal.  I suppose it depends upon where you sit, but the Shabu-shabu side seemed less inviting than some of the other areas of the restaurant.  But still, they obviously spent a lot of time and money on the decor and it was nice to be able to look around while waiting for food.

I wish I could comment on the Thai or sushi, but that will have to wait for another visit.  I really did enjoy my Shabu-shabu experience though, and I think it’s something everyone should try at least once.

Shabashabu on Urbanspoon

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The Krispy Kreme Challenge

Here’s a link to the official site: http://krispykremechallenge.com/

On February 5th, 2011 there will be a 2 mile race in Raleigh to a Krispy Kreme. Participants will down a dozen donuts at the store, then race back 2 miles to the finish line. To win you must eat all 12 donuts and keep them down until the end of the race. You can also have the option as participating as a “Casual Runner”, not being obligated to finish the donuts or keep them all down.

It does sound like a pretty awesome event. That is, until the 2 mile run back. Frankly I don’t think I’d be able to keep the dozen donuts down on the way back. And with 7,500 estimated participants, it occurs to me this could end up like the pie story in Stand By Me. I’d be interested to hear how it all turns out though.

I’ve often thought about participating in these sorts of novelty races. Usually it’s the crowds and early morning hours that turn me off. I think I might be persuaded if they ever held a fried brie race, or one of those beer marathons where you down a glass after every mile.

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I went to Bella Monica today for lunch.  Though there’s a large parking lot, it seems to be full of people who don’t know how to park.  So many spots get wasted by people parking over lines.  Something about this mall area, I don’t know.  Bella Monica doesn’t have a sign above it, but there is a small sign that says “Pizza” and you’ll see a lot of people sitting outside on the sidewalk eating.

Half-eaten bread (we were hungry)

 

I only get an hour break for lunch, so I usually try to pick something close by with fast service.  From other reviews I read I got the impression that the place was busy, but I didn’t think I would have to wait for a table at lunch time.  I was wrong.  There were just 2 bar seats left, and I was told I might have to wait as long as 30 minutes for a table to open up, and even that would have probably been outside on the tiny sidewalk with cars passing a few feet away.  I ended up just taking the seats at the bar.

Caesar Salad

I wanted to get out in a reasonable amount of time, so I ordered my entree pretty quickly.  I got the Veal Bolognese and my husband ordered the Stromboli with mushrooms, pepperoni and sausage.  At $17.99 for my dish and $10.99 for his, it was a bit more than I usually spend for lunch, but I had heard that the quality was good and the portion size would be huge.

For a free appetizer they bring out 2 slices of focaccia bread in olive oil.  One of the slices was more burnty than the other, and I’m not sure if they did that on purpose or not.  It seemed from seeing others brought out that they all looked like that.  I preferred the less burnt one.

Veal Bolognese

My entree came with a salad, either garden or Caesar.  When it first came out I noticed an overwhelming fishy smell like someone used way too many anchovies, but oddly that went away when I started eating it.  I was surprised to see bell peppers on the salad, I love bell peppers.  The croutons were made there, you could tell, because they still had a crispy outside and a tender inside.  There just weren’t nearly enough croutons.

The wait for the rest of the food was pretty long.  I think it was 30 minutes or more from when we ordered until we got our entrees, and that’s pretty long when you only have an hour for lunch.  My veal bolognese was really good, but $18 good?  I’m not sure.  I tried some of my husband’s stromboli and it was so much better than my dish!  I was jealous.  It was like fatty, decadent heaven wrapped in a flaky pastry crust.  Next time I might get the stromboli too.

Stromboli

I had intended on ordering a creme brulee, but unfortunately my time had run out.  I got the rest of our food boxed for tonight’s dinner, and paid the bill.  The service was very friendly so I tipped well, though I was disappointed that I had so little time to enjoy my food.

For next time I think I’ll skip the lunch crowd, since I’d just end up late or too rushed, and try for dinner.  We usually eat dinner early anyway, and I think with more time I’ll have a better experience.   It seemed like there were a lot of other tasty things yet to try, especially for desserts.

Bella Monica on Urbanspoon

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