Friday, July 8, 2022

a'Verde Cocina

Viewers of the show "Top Chef" might recall a fan favorite contestant from a few seasons ago by the name of Katsuji Tanabe. His previous venture into the restaurant scene in downtown Raleigh was sadly shattered by Covid, but he is back - with a vengence. a'Verde Cocina opened in Cary this spring, and I had been terribly eager to try it out. I have nothing but excellent words to say about every morsel of food, the atmosphere and decor, and the service. I loved everything about the restaurant's style and vibe, including the surprises in the bathroom (you'll have to check it out for yourself). I even appreciated that they bring over a water pitcher for every table - each dish has a bit of spice, so people are chugging water and those glasses go empty, FAST. I will most certainly be back to a'Verde Cocina, and on a regular basis.

Cocktails are unique (and strong, from what my dining partner tells me). I opted for a mocktail of their "Like, Literally" drink featuring Peach Nectar, Lime, Meyer Lemon, Agave, Jalapeno and "like, literally a bunch of" Cilantro. It was as if they concocted this specifically for my palate. Spicy, herbaceous, sweet - I look forward to returning when I can taste the salty tequila notes.

While your instinct is to order the Chips and Salsa (and you should, the housemade Creamy Chipotle Salsa was nice and smoky and spicy), you also should order the Freshly Baked Grandma's Cornbread with Honey Truffle Butter. I am certainly a sucker for ANYTHING truffle, but the cornbread is solid enough to stand alone. It's moist, sweet and loaded with real corn. What I thought was shaved butter on top turned out to be Cotija Cheese - even better. You'll have leftovers of this, which is great heated up for breakfast the next day.

What appears to be an unassuming Shrimp Quesadilla turned out to be one of the best my dining partner and I have ever had, and most of the credit goes to the crispy Chihuahua Cheese on the outside. Upon first glance, it looked like the tortilla had been cooked a touch too long, but no - this is deliciously salty, crispy cheese, people! Spicy Roasted Salsa and fresh Pico De Gallo accompany, and it's drizzled with a cooling Mexican Crema. We loved it.

A'Verde's Cochinita Pibil features a crazy tender Pork Shank that's been braised in Miso, Achiote and Sour Orange and is accompanied by Pickled Onions, Refried Black Beans and Blue Corn Tortillas. The sauce is out of this world (I regret not having a spoon to gather more for each bite). While this dish encourages you to build-your-own tacos, I enjoyed scraping the meat through the sauce and going directly to the face with it. The pickled onions were a surprisingly nice acidity for someone who does not like onions, and the refried black beans were, dare I say it, the star of the show. Everything was sprinkled with salty Cotija Cheese.

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I opted for the Ube Flan - ube is having a major moment right now (especialy if you're a regular at Trader Joe's) - and the stunning purple hue allowed me to feast with my eyes before tasting. I loved the coconut and vanilla flavor that the purple yam imparts, more than the texture of the flan itself. Fresh Blueberries and dollops of Whipped Cream are a nice addition. This is large enough to share, and if you LOVE flan, you will certainly love this.

I can't wait to go back to a'Verde to try more of their unique, whimsical dishes. The Truffle Mushroom Tacos, Street Charred Corn and Breakfast Cereal Tres Leches have my name all over them.

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