Friday, December 10, 2021


Take what you think you know about fine dining and turn it on its head. Stanbury in Raleigh is every bit a fine dining experience, except you feel like you're in your neighbor's garage or back deck, complete with taxidermy on the walls and casual Christmas lights strung across the front of the bar. This place is kind of quirky. Plates don't match, but they come out fast and are quite satisfying. The menu reads very well and is primarily focused on small plates. Many dishes have an Indian or Asian flare. Service is top notch. They don't accept reservations but they offer ample outdoor seating with a wood-burning fireplace and heat lamps. Still, you'll want to get there early.

Don't sleep on the Bread & Butter (which I usually do, unless it's complimentary) but the $5 charge here gets you 4 slices of complex Sesame Pan Loaf from Boulted Bread and Cultured (aka DELICIOUS) Butter. And trust me, you'll need some bread throughout your meal to wipe up the various sauces.

Stanbury's Brussel Sprouts are some of the best I can remember having in quite some time. They're flash fried and served atop a Tikka Masala sauce with Cilantro, Cashews and Garam Masala Granola. This granola is life-changing! Never have I ever had a savory, Indian-inspired granola and it made all the difference in the world with this dish. Outstanding.

Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower is lightly fried and served over a zippy Pecorino cream sauce with loads of Black Pepper and Chives. It's hard to make cauliflower sexy and Stanbury succeeds here. It's all about that salty, umami cream. (But I'm a sucker for cacio e pepe anything. I think the episode of "Parts Unknown" that featured Anthony Bourdain eating it all over Rome sold me on it.)

Pork Cheeks are to die for tender and served with Sweet Potato Puree, Ginger Soy Glaze, Pickled Onions and Sesame Seeds. The meat reminded me of a short rib - you could cut it with a fork. I liked the sweet tang from the glaze and the acid from the pickled onions. It's wild that something as tiny as a sesame seed can provide such a nice and necessary crunch.

Ribeye Kofta reminds me of a good meatball, served in a pool of Tomato Harissa sauce with Mint, Yogurt for cooling and crispy Pita. I could taste whole pine nuts in the kofta, which kind of threw me. I enjoyed the flavor, but the texture was a bit chewy, save for those few crunchy pine nuts. I could drink that tomato harissa sauce though. More pita for that, please!

Even the desserts have an international flare - Apple Crisp is served with Garam Masala and the Ancho-Chocolate Brownie is complete with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce. The menu changes frequently (daily?) and I look forward to returning to try even more dishes. I'll be keeping everything crossed that those Brussels are still on the menu.

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