Luna is making waves in the Durham community for serving dishes with a nouveau taste profile through the combination of South American cuisine and American Southern cuisine. The restaurant opened recently on West Main Street so it wasn't long before I decided to try the place out. To be honest, South American cuisine isn't exactly my go-to cuisine (maybe that's because the options aren't immense in London) but I was excited to try something new nevertheless.





Due to the no-reservations policy, we were able to study the menu whilst we stood in line for about 10-15 minutes. The menu is defined by a few key sections so it became our culinary mission to sample most of them.


In the small plates section we opted for the Arepas ($12.25). I didn't think the dish was particularly memorable. The meat was well flavoured and there was some variance of texture from the avocado, but I wasn't a fan of the maize dough. Also, the dish was a tad bit too messy (I'll leave that to the reader to decide whether that's a good or bad thing).


The next obvious choice was Empanadas served with a pork filling ($3.50 each/$9.50 for two with a side). I thought this dish was 'okay'; the complementary condiments uplifted the dish but my socks weren't blown off.



Next up was a selection of Patacon Pisao - a sandwich in which meat is served between two fried plantains. I chose the beef brisket option ($12.75) and it was amazing. The dish was rich and fresh at the same time - a rare quality I might add. Also, the side of succotash was equally impressive with its subtle spiciness and bold flavours.


We finished off with the Polo A La Brasa (Peruvian Roast Chicken) from the rotisserie section ($12.75). I thought this was decent. The chicken was very well seasoned but a bit dry in some areas. We had the chicken with a side of pimento hominy 'mac' and cheese which tasted odd; I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was but it didn't settle with me nicely.


Overall, I was a bit confused by the food at Luna. I couldn't tell if my palette or the food was the problem so it will be difficult to make a firm judgement at this time. Frankly speaking, I thought everything I tried was rather mediocre (except for the brief moment of brilliance from the Patacon Pisao). For now, the only good attributes are the good prices and the vibrant ambience. Not exactly boundary breaking...

Details:

112 W Main St
Durham NC, 27701

$13-25pp

Would I recommend? Indifferent (for now)

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 





Piedmont restaurant is a Durham staple that has made its reputation off the modern farm-to-table experience. It was one of the classic spots I hadn't tried out so I thought I would visit with my Durham dining crew comprising of Ms. Millz and Ms. Brasiliana. Luckily, it wasn't too difficult to reserve a table because we dined there on a weekday evening.

I admired the restaurant's outdoor minimalist design and it's more farmhouse-like interior; it seemed like they were keeping true to the entire concept of a rustic dining experience.




I started off with the Pan Seared Scallops ($14). The scallops were cooked perfectly, evident by the tenderness. The rosemary cream provided some earthy tones that nicely contrasted the sweetness from the bacon jam and the umami from the oyster mushrooms. Overall, a very rich and well- balanced starter.


I opted for the Striped Bass as my main ($28). This was a decent-tasting dish but it didn't blow me away. The fish was slightly overcooked and the 'forbidden rice' lacked some flavour. The dish was nicely presented (it literally looked like an explosion on a plate) but unfortunately, there wasn't much else to it.


My dessert was a Chocolate Sponge ($8). This was excellent. The chocolate sponge was fluffy and warm, the candied peanut immediately melted in my mouth, the apricot jam provided a pop of acidity and the popcorn gave the dish some bite.


In summary, I would say that Piedmont exemplifies hints of refined cooking and top-notch presentation, although there's still room for improvement. The main dish fell short and the ambience is nothing to cry home about but I was very impressed by the starter and the dessert. I applaud the restaurateurs for abiding by a farm-to-table ethos and I can only hope for a better meal when I return to sample their menu next season.

Details:

401 Foster St
Durham NC, 27701

$30-$55

Would I recommend? Yes

Piedmont Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato






New York is one of my most frequented destinations in the US and I found myself in a rather interesting situation where I made two trips to the Big Apple - two weeks apart.

Photo Credit: CN traveler 
The first trip was a brief weekend retreat with la mère. I virtually had one day to myself, and the weather wasn't exactly delightful, so I did a little bit of shopping not too far from the Pierre Hotel where we stayed (my top recommendation for a place to stay in Manhattan).

The highlight of the weekend was definitely dinner at the Gotham Bar & Grill. This one-michelin star institution, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, has become an iconic neighbourhood favourite for serving exquisite modern American cuisine to its customers for three decades. The restaurant has a large buzzing interior that screams glamour and timelessness. The only issue was the fact that I waited about 25 minutes for a table even though I had a reservation!


That being said, the chefs made the wait worth my while because of the amazing entrée I had - Maine Lobster and Short Rib of Beef ($56). The dish was wonderfully presented and the chefs cleverly combined the richness and textures from both the beef and the lobster as well as the sauces that went with each of them. It was basically surf and turf done to a very high standard.


I finished off with a sweet treat of Tarte Tartin with Vanilla Ice Cream (for two). Although it wasn't the best tarte tartin I've tasted, it was a bloody good one - sweet, warm and buttery.


My experience at the Gotham was a nice ending to the weekend, but I wasn't so sad to leave because a return trip was very imminent.

My second trip to NYC was much more of a cultural excursion. Luckily, I was joined by Ms.K and I used her local expertise to navigate the concrete jungle. Before heading to sleepless Manhattan, we enjoyed the slow-paced vibe in the serene district of Long Island.

Our late arrival in the city wasn't ideal as we were both very hungry at the time. Also, the Upper West side wasn't exactly the heart of late-night activity, but we were lucky enough to run into Big Nick's Pizza and Burger Joint. This joint is one of those hole-in-the-wall places that you wouldn't normally venture to or less you were specifically told to go there. The atmosphere wasn't exactly homy but I felt like I was in for a treat because of all the culinary-recognition posters and the news-article cutouts that graced the restaurant's walls.


I ordered the Avocado Guacamole Burger ($9) and shared a slice of Neapolitan Pizza with Ms.K. The burger was mouth-wateringly good. The juicy beef patty bled with umami, enhanced by an unsurprisingly rich and creamy layer of avocado guacamole. The pizza on the other hand verged on the side of mediocre as there were no particular ingredients that stood out to me.



We started off the following day with brunch above a grocery store at the Fairway Cafe & Steakhouse. The smoked salmon sandwich and cinnamon brioche toast I ate went very well the nicely light and airy interior. After brunch, we headed to the Highline - an elevated walkway/linear park that starts off on Gansevoort Street and ends in Chelsea. On the Highline, one can enjoy close-up views of the cityscape, the Whitney art museum and the Chelsea Market.


After a bit of explorative walking and window-shopping in the quaint neighbourhoods of Chelsea and Greenwich Village, we settled for an Italian feast at Pepe Giallo. I had a simple pesto ravioli dish to start ($9) and Chicken Milanese topped with arugula and chopped tomato ($14) to follow. Both dishes were decent but weren't massively impressive.

photo credit: Hudson Yards New York


After we nourished our bellies, we were on our way to see Puccini's La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. A handy upgrade at the ticket office provided us with orchestra circle seats which made the entire experience even more magical due to our proximity to the orchestra and the stage. The opera itself was stunning. I adored the opera house's elegant decor (described by Ms.K as the inside of a jewel box), the production's brilliant set design and the spectacular performances by Ramón Vargas (Rodolfo), Levente Molnár (Marcello) and Ana María Martínez (Musetta). Although the opera's storyline was quite cheesy, I was too distracted by the high-level execution of artistic performance to notice. The only downer was the over-priced glasses of champagne served during the long intermissions.

Photo Credit: Jos Marlopes

The next day (our last day), began with a stroll down high-end Madison Avenue followed by scrumptious afternoon tea at the whimsical Alice's Tea Cup (Chapter II). After some reminiscing over London, we made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I absolutely loved my time here! The museum had the vastest collection of precious artworks from every historical period. I enjoyed viewing the collection of European paintings - particularly the impressionist works of Monet, Seurat and Renoir. This was followed by a venture into the Modern and Contemporary art collection which featured inspiring works by Dali, Picasso and the like.



The evening wasn't over quite yet as we had a goodbye meal at the ABC Kitchen. I had to make a reservation about a month in advance so you can infer that it isn't easy to get one. The restaurant is actually part of a larger design concept store (ABC Carpet & Home) which I believe is responsible for the restaurant's amazing decor. There's a very unusual natural-but-modern feel to the place as well as an animated and busy atmosphere. Walking by the restaurant from the outside and looking into the dining space, you would feel as though you needed to be part of the dining experience - like you were being drawn in by a culinary magnetic field.


If the ambience wasn't good enough, the food was about to do the trick. Ms.K and I ordered lots of dishes to share between ourselves. We started off with a glorious and fresh pizza - Crispy Onion, Pancetta and Arugula ($14).


This was followed by my main of Wood Oven roasted Maine Lobster, Oregano and Lemon-Chili Vinaigrette ($40). The lobster was cooked to perfection and I loved its tender goodness, which went very well with the citrus tones from the vinaigrette.


Ms.K had the Crispy Pork Confit, with Smoked Bacon Marmalade and Braised Turnips ($36), which I thought was very balanced and tasty.


We shared a side dish of Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Smoked Bacon and Pears ($13), because who doesn't love brussels sprouts? The brussels sprouts were awesome - packed with saltiness, sweetness, hints of acidity and other savoury undertones.


In summary, I had the grandest time at ABC Kitchen. The food was fresh (and is actually all locally sourced), simple and ultimately just delicious. Although the prices are on the higher end of things, I would say the experience is definitely worth every penny! You're not just paying for the amazing food, but also the distinct atmosphere and the fantastic service.

That was it ... our time in this culturally enriched city was over and it was soon time to leave. Although I come here quite often, I'm continually amazed by the new things I experience each time. There's always something to see in New York. Always something to do ...

That's why I'll be returning soon. Maybe a meal at 11 Madison Park when I return? Feel free to recommend things to do below!