Friday, April 29, 2022

An actual Cuisine & Screen

It's been quite a while since I did a post featuring both Cuisine AND Screen. For those of you who have been waiting for this - you know who you are - this post is for you.

I have found my absolute new favorite restaurant in the Triangle. I know, I know, I say that a lot. But this time, I really mean it. In fact, this has set the bar so high that I don't know if I'll be able to find a restaurant to top it. Ko-an in Cary is mind-blowing. The Asian inspired menu is playful, plates are works of art and flavor combinations stimulate the palate. Start with sipping the Thai Cooler, which features notes of Strawberry, Cirtus, Habanero and Cilantro - outstanding.

Big Buns fan here, and Ko-an's Steamed Buns feature a rich, sweet Yuzu Lobster Salad - no mayo here folks! Just hearty chunks of lobster tossed in a yummy citrusy sauce, topped with a not-too-spicy Sambal Aioli, Scallions and Sesame seeds. The buns were soft and plump but buttery and cripsy, like a warm lobster roll would be. Only two come in an order, so either order double or REALLY like who you're sharing these with.

I lost my mind for the Thai Red Curry, which features a plump, crab-heavy Crab Cake atop Steamed Sticky Rice, with Carrots, Green Beans and Mango. The curry definitely had a kick, which was mellowed out by the creaminess of the coconut. There was so much crab in this crab cake, I almost couldn't believe it. I loved the sweetness of the carrots and the acid from the mango, too. I cleaned my bowl and asked the server if everyone does that, because the dish is so good. He chuckled and said "no". But I wasn't about to let any of it go to waste!

My husband ordered the Indonesian Duck, which he absolutely loved. A Fried Duck Leg rests on a bed of Steamed Rice, with a Yellow Coconut Curry Sauce, Green Sambal and Cucumber. I preferred my sauce to his, but he couldn't get enough of the moist meat and rich flavors. I thought it was particularly pretty how they "frenched" the leg (exposing the bone underneath the meat).

We were far too full for dessert, but they looked almost too pretty to eat. I cannot wait to return - this is unmissible folks. Run, do not walk.

Whether you're a fan of Nicolas Cage or not, and by "fan" I mean you've seen several of his cult classic movies and regard him as a decent, not great actor, "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" will undoubtedly bring you some laughs. From the moment I saw the trailer, I figured this would be a very self-aware film, as Cage plays an exaggerated(?) version of himself. The film's Cage is a narcissistic, burnt out actor, looking for a comeback role (though he never went anywhere), to save him from financial ruin.

Enter Pedro Pascal, who plays Javi, a fan who has written a screenplay for Cage, and flies him out to his compound in Spain. The two have incredible chemistry. Throw in Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz for a few laughs - though not too many, Cage gets all the laughs here - and a chance run-in with the Cartel, and you've got a successful movie. 

Honestly, I figured this film would be good, not great, but I laughed out loud multiple times and it takes a really funny moment to make me do that. I was in good company - the audience at the theater was howling. Keep your expectations low and go in with an open mind. You'll leave pleasantly surprised.

Friday, April 22, 2022


I'd been quite eager to try Mandolin in Raleigh after perusing their Instagram for several weeks. Photos of their famous "Mandolin fries" and a thick slice of Caramel Cake were practically calling out to me. I finally got the opportunity to dine there recently, and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere has something for everyone: the large dining room was quite boistrous with many diners; a warm, inviting bar stretches down the length of the restaurant, perfect to post up with a beer and a burger; and there's a quieter dining room to the side, giving friends a chance to reconnect. (In fact, I was so busy reconnecting that I didn't bother to take any photos of the food! My apologies, readers). I look forward to many repeat visits.

I love a restaurant that offers free bread service (who doesn't?) but Mandolin is super cool because they give you TWO options. Their sweet Corn Muffin had an almost caramelized edge around the top, a perfect contrast to their soft, white Country Bread. Each was scrumptious when slathered with salted butter. I was craving a drink not on the menu - something spicy and sour - and our server delighted my tastebuds with a lemon-lime-jalapeno concoction. It was exactly the refreshing escape I was looking for. So at Mandolin, they aim to please, and if you don't see what you're looking for, just ask!

Do not underestimate a restaurant that can do a good chicken dish. I feel like people sleep on chicken at restaurants, but believe me - restaurants know they have to include a chicken dish, and they know they have to make it exciting! And Mandolin's is quite exciting. Their Grilled Chicken Leg is moist and tender and sits atop al dente Freekah (a grain) with Tomato Jus, Pickled Celery for necessary acid and Andouille Sausage for smoky savoriness. The Andouille bites were my favorite thing about this dish. Just when I thought I was getting a bite of tender chicken, SURPRISE! It was a bite of that meaty, unctuous sausage. What seemed like an unassuming dish was actually very stimulating.

I had to try the fries. They were crispy, stacked high in a metal cup, served alongside ketchup and covered in a savory white powder. I had to get to the bottom of this. Turns out, they sprinkle a combination of duck fat powder and tapioca starch on the hot fries, for maximum addictiveness. This side is large enough to be shared, but you may not want to.

My favorite thing from the night was on their dessert menu. My dining partner opted for the showstopping Chocolate Souffle, but I'm a cake and icing kind of gal (more like icing and cake, but who's keeping track). The Caramel Cake stacks a beautiful yellow sponge between equally thick layers of caramel frosting - the perfect cake to icing ratio in my opinion - and it comes with a scoop of Buttermillk Ice Cream and cinnamon crumbles for crunch. The tang from the buttermilk breaks up the super sweet frosting. This dish reminded me of my childhood. My dad's godmother Ruthie had a fabulous recipe for caramel frosting - I've never found one better - but this one comes dangerously close. It was a nostalgic moment.

If you haven't been to Mandolin, what are you waiting for? The staff is gracious and they want you to have an enjoyable evening. And they believe in their menu. What more can you ask for from a trendy restaurant? Check it out next time you're in the Triangle.