A half dozen assortment of Duck Donuts.

Two kitchens, one top donut shop in this week’s quickfire reviews

Ni’s Asian Kitchen

Imagine a Pei Wei masquerading as a local eatery. That’s basically what Ni’s Asian Kitchen is—just Asian enough with its confluence of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai dishes—to be widely approachable and inviting to its North Raleigh location off Six Forks Road.

Thai Dynamite at Ni's Asian Kitchen in Raleigh.
Thai Dynamite at Ni’s Asian Kitchen in Raleigh.

Peruse Ni’s menu and you’ll find an assortment of lettuce wraps, spring and egg rolls and potstickers to satisfy any wanton desires. And very strikingly similar to Pei Wei, you’ll find your “wok classics”, a mix of fried rice and noodles dishes with your choice of protein tossed in a wok.

Is Ni’s Asian Kitchen anything special? The short answer is “no”. For $6.55, the lunch special served Monday through Saturday until 3 p.m. will certainly work in a pinch if you’re on the hunt for something vaguely Asian and that won’t break the bank. If you try the Thai Dynamite Beef like I did, don’t expect an explosive concoction of nuanced flavors–you’ll only be disappointed. Instead, if you expect nicely battered, wok-fried beef tossed in a salty, slightly tangy brown sauce mixed in with a few aromatics like slivers of Thai basil, you won’t be too let down.

I’d probably never visit Ni’s Asian Kitchen for dinner. For a lunch spot, it’ll work as a casual and solid spot that will hold you over until dinner.

Ni’s Asian Kitchen | 8817 Six Forks Road Raleigh NC 27615 | 919.916.5106

Plates Neighborhood Kitchen

Plates Neighborhood Kitchen is one of those places that I’ve had bookmarked to try for a long time, but never got around to taking any action. That changed one weekend when a friend from out-of-town came to visit who I thought would enjoy the cozy ambiance and menu at Plates inspired by global influences but rooted in the deep South.

The menu at Plates changes quite frequently, but variations on the 12-ounce New York Strip seems to remain one of its mainstays.  On the Saturday night that I stopped through, the steak served over a bed fingerling potatoes and refried pinto beans proved quite satisfactory in substance despite being slightly overdone according to my interpretation of “medium”. The espresso demi-glace, a redolent touch, and the guajillo butter added a piquant supplement to the dish, which at $25 seemed quite fair for an upscale dinner on Glenwood South.

One thing I would skip at Plates is the flourless chocolate torte, which literally fell a little flat. I’ve had much better versions of chocolate flourless tortes in the past and this one didn’t measure up in chocolate flavor or presentation. The homemade ice creams are worth a shot though. I think next time I would opt for its sticky toffee pudding, which we were told by our server was its most popular dessert offering.

Plates Neighborhood Kitchen | 301 Glenwood Avenue Suite 100 Raleigh NC 27603 | 919.828.0018

Duck Donuts

Donuts are basking in the glow of the national spotlight right now. It seems like more and more donut shops  not named Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts keep springing up like yeasty dough rings nationwide and Raleigh is no exception to the pastry trend with locations of North Carolina-based Rise and Duck Donuts having recently made the move into the City of Oaks.

A half dozen assortment of Duck Donuts.
A half dozen assortment of Duck Donuts.

The latter, Duck Donuts, recently made the cut on Thrillist’s 33 Best Donut Shops in America list joining the ranks of Philly’s Federal Donuts and Portland’s Blue Star Donuts and it’s easy to see why it’s garnering national attention.

The donuts at the Outer Banks-based regional franchise are the cake-battered variety, made fresh-to-order by deep frying each round in a soy-based shortening. The best part of Duck Donuts is perhaps the ability to customize each donut by mixing and matching 10 coatings and 5 toppings, though I was told and later found out that the cinnamon sugar is best left to its glorious unadulterated self. A half dozen will set you back $6.75.

The Cary franchise of Duck Donuts, located off Wrenn Drive, is a welcoming homely outpost, outfitted with Adirondack chairs to lounge on as you wait for your hot donuts. Rest assured that the cake donuts at Duck are soft, airy and pillowy mounds of delight and are a far cry from the dry, crumbly cakey messes that you’ll find at at your local Dunkin’ Donuts lest you find yourself engaging in a debate over yeast versus cake varieties.

Duck Donuts | 8323 Creedmoor Road Raleigh NC 27613 | 919.847.3800

100 Wrenn Drive #101 Cary NC 27511 | 919.468.8722

 

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