Thursday, August 14, 2014

Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week returns

Raleigh restaurant lovers are counting the days until the start of Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week, Aug. 18-24. That’s #DRRW, for those of you inclined to share your dining experiences online.

Forty eateries have signed on this year, including some of the Capital City’s best known and most upscale establishments and a few newcomers. Prix fixe menus offer flexible three-course dinners for $20 or $30, varying by location, and generally include vegetarian choices. Optional beer and wine pairings also are available.

Reservations are strongly recommended as these bargains tend to make busy restaurants even busier. Not all participants have their menus posted yet but visit the restaurant link of DRRW’s website for contact information.

Among the best deals for the $20 dinners can be found in the hopping Glenwood South neighborhood. At 518 West, Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne will present shrimp polenta, eggplant parmesan or pasta saltimbocca. Around the corner, the globally inspired menu at Chef Steve Day’s Plates Neighborhood Kitchen also satisfies with choices like smoked duck breast carbonara and homey chicken and dumplings, as well as the irresistible sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

The Oakz, one of the newest eateries on the list, serves a changing a menu that features different US regional cuisines. The father-and-daughter duo of Ira Freedman and Jaclyn Sterritt offer both $20 and $30 options. The latter includes such temptations as fried duck and waffles or seared scallops with fried sweet corn polenta and mango relish.

Options abound in the $30 category. Always wanted to dine at Second Empire, one of Raleigh’s top special occasion locations? Here’s your chance to pull up a chair in the historic house located steps from the State Capitol, where you’ll experience Chef Daniel Shurr’s luxe approach with the “off the hook” daily catch or roasted Springer Farms chicken.

The hip hospitality and authentic Laotian food served at Bida Manda at Moore Square make it one of Raleigh’s most popular destination eateries. Chef Lon Bounsanga presents challenges for diners at every course: crispy pork belly soup or green papaya salad? Seafood pad Thai or fried North Carolina whole fish? Don’t fret. It’s all good.

ORO Restaurant in the PNC Building focuses on shareable tapas in a glitzy setting that transfix people passing by its tall windows. Start with smoky ribs or a cup of yellow tomato soup before building up to a New York strip doused with a bok choy peppercorn sauce or grilled salmon with jicama citrus salad and passion fruit sauce.

In addition to participating in the $20/$30 dinner deals, two restaurants are offering a $65 Elite Experience with five-course meals and wine pairings. Both feature Italian fare with four fourth-course options.

Jimmy V’s Osteria + Bar is located in the ground level of the Sheraton Hotel on Fayetteville Street, across from the Raleigh Convention Center. Chef Michael Kuilan’s modern Italian-American menu is meant to capture the spirit of its namesake, the late NC State University basketball coach Jim Valvano.  Choices include lobster mac & cheese and short rib ragout.

Tuscan Blu is a DRRW stalwart located in the Warehouse District. Chef Maurizio Privilegi’s house-made pastas star in a third-course trio of fiocchi (“purses” filled with goat cheese and pear) and oversized ravioli. Main course options include braised ossobuco over risotto and branzino (baked sea bass).

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