From the Bosphorus to Bangkok: Eastern eats in the Triangle

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Nikolai Kutsch, News Editor

Fuquay-Varina residents eager to leave the bounds of their town for a culinary world tour needn’t pack their bags and head for RDU. 

Reflecting the influx of international immigrants, Wake County has come to harbor Mongolian grills, German bakeries, and Yemeni markets – an assortment representative enough to rival a conference of the United Nations General Assembly. 

One of the most vibrant groups among the Triangle’s global foods is undoubtedly the rapidly-sprouting field of restaurants representing so-called “eastern” foods. 

Though the term has sometimes been misconstrued to blur together vastly different cultures, it’s worth noting that while the restaurants below share origins in the Eastern Hemisphere, each offers insight into a country or region unlike any other. 

Nepal

Himalayan Nepali Cuisine 

746-A East Chatham Street, Cary, NC 27511

Tucked into a fold of international markets and grills along Cary’s Chatham St., Himalayan Nepali Cuisine is easy to breeze past without a second thought. 

Those who do step inside receive a warm welcome from kind hosts and a cup of freshly-brewed, sweet ginger tea. Peaceful photographs depict snow-capped peaks from the restaurant’s namesake mountain range and accompany diners as they navigate the towering menu before them. 

Himalayan offers favorites popular among Western fans like Butter Chicken, an advisable port of entry for newcomers to Nepali/Indian/Pakistani cooking that fuses cream, tomatoes, and warming spices, all served over fluffy basmati rice. 

However, Himalayan’s pride is its assortment of traditional Nepali dishes, such as momo, a steamed dumpling stuffed with your choice of chicken or vegetables and served with tomato-based chutney, a spicy condiment. 

Boneless, dark-meat Nepali Chicken appears alongside a vast vegetarian menu, including Nepali Tarkari, a vegetable curry concocted with a rainbow of spices. Leavened naan bread, cooked in a special Tandoori oven, is a must-have side for any meal, available plain or filled with raisins, onions, garlic, or nuts. 

Patrons should take care to contact the correct establishment when ordering a meal because even online, the restaurant slips into the flurry of those bearing the label Himalayan. 

During this writer’s last visit, a group arrived eager for curry they’d ordered by phone. Only after minutes of polite chatting with restaurant hosts did a woman turn to her group and exclaim with horror, “Wait, you called the wrong restaurant?” 

Thailand

Thai Villa

1319 Buck Jones Road  Cary, NC 27606

Resting in the South Hills shopping center next to a comic book store and across from the bustling Grand Asia Market, Thai Villa fuses Southeast Asian cuisine with a living room atmosphere that reflects its self-designation as a villa

In a stunning show of kitchen prowess, the restaurant’s diversely-crafted menu offers inexhaustible variety where no two dishes are quite alike. From creamy, colorful, coconut-milk curries to bold to steaming stir-fried platters like sweet and smokey Pad See Ew, every dish generates a conversation about the flavors packed inside. Crisp spring rolls and marinated satay (Thai barbecue chicken skewers) allow friends to snack and chat before ordering a larger meal. 

Beyond the cooking, part of Thai Villa’s allure is its casual profile that perforates both takeout and dine-in encounters. Call-in orders can be retrieved curbside (lunch is currently to-go only) in containers that remain piping hot even after your drive home. Dining in, which kicked off again in May 2022, means leaning back at a cozy booth or table in the well-aged building with a small, homey feel. Restaurant hosts politely oblige to answer curious questions about how dishes are prepared, though they stop short of sharing the chef’s secrets. 

Beyond flaming hot peppers, this beloved villa has a sweet side that shouldn’t be skipped over in favor of a Cook Out milkshake. Thai Villa desserts include homemade jackfruit-crowned coconut ice cream, Thai custard flavored with taro roots, and seasonally, sticky rice served with mango – if you visit around Valentine’s Day, yours may even come in a heart shape. 

Turkey 

Bosphorus Restaurant 

329 N Harrison Ave, Cary, NC 27513

Named for the Black Sea strait that divides Europe and Asia at Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city of 17 million people, Bosphorus is a restaurant designed to carry diners across continents. 

Taking a seat at a white tablecloth-lined table, you’re invited to adopt a slower pace of life, sipping a steaming Turkish black tea served in a traditional curved glass marked with the “evil eye” – a symbol believed to ward off misfortune. Baskets of fresh-baked bread and dipping oil land at your table, tempting you to fill up before your meal arrives.

Yet, the plates at Bosphorus are worth saving room. Plates of kebabs (such as the spicy Adana kebab offer grilled meats served alongside bulgur pilaf, refreshing cucumber sauce, and crisp salad. Variations on pide, Turkey’s response to pizza, as well as Mediterranean mezeler (appetizers) like grape leaves, hummus, and lentil soup, evoke scents reminiscent of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. On Sundays only, Bosphorus serves plates of döner, a sliced meat dish of Turkish origin that has reached enormous popularity in Germany.

While Bosphorus offers to-go options, the most intimate way to take in the relaxing yet engaging ambiance of this Turkish gem is by dining in, preferably in the evening as the sun is setting.  

Honorable Mentions

The staff of the Roaring Bengals also recommend visiting these Triangle restaurants for Eastern eats delightfully unlike those readers have experienced before. 

Nil’s Cafe (Turkish/Mediterranean) in Fuquay-Varina

Sassool (Lebanese/Mediterranean) in Cary

Osha Thai Kitchen and Sushi (Thai/Japanese) in Holly Springs

It’s A Wrap Vietnamese Eatery (Vietnamese) in Morrisville 

Nafkot (Ethiopian) in Raleigh

Zeera (Indian) in Fuquay-Varina