ÃN Asian Cuisines is a fantastic respite from my usual go-to, the downtown Raleigh scene. It’s a great reason to get dolled up for a nice date night or celebration. Although the restaurant is tucked away in an unlikely corner of a Cary strip mall, it’s just across the street from the Five Diamond Umstead Hotel and Spa (Conveniently where you should head for a nightcap after dinner). ÃN Asian Cuisines’ Culinary Director is also the Executive Chef of the Umstead Hotel. While ÃN Asian Cuisines is more subdued than flashy, Chef Stephen Devereaux Greene’s five diamonds certainly shine in his food.
The menu boasts an extensive list of hot appetizers, sushi, and entrees, which is slightly overwhelming as each dish sounds better than the last. Luckily they have an eight course tasting menu to combat that challenge. Deciding we needed control over our menu, the boyfriend and I decided to order a dish from each “chapter.”
The best thing that we ate was the first, Pork and buns ($14). Succulent pork belly and yuzu served alongside kimchi cucumbers, all to be eaten in pillowy lotus buns. Heaven! If we would have had three courses of this on repeat, my night would have been perfect right there. This is truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in Raleigh.
Next up was our sample from the sushi menu. We tried a charmingly named roll, “A Tale of Two Tunas” ($17). This was a spicy tuna tartare roll topped with tuna, fried garlic, and scallions. Again, absolutely delicious, and something I’d happily eat on the daily. The sushi sample far exceeded any sushi restaurant either of us had tried in Raleigh. We liked it so much that we meandered over to the sashimi menu hoping for a piece of Toro ($10/piece) each. Despite it being on the menu, we were met with rebuttal that the fish was out of season and that it would not be served. Bummer.
A server then stopped by our table with several types of freshly baked bread. An Asian restaurant with a bread basket can only earn high marks in my book. There was a tiny corn muffin and a tiny currant scone served with local honey. I failed to snap photos as we gobbled them up so quickly!
Really, we could have cut our meal here and gone for nightcaps, but we had ordered entrees, too! I had the Roasted Sea Bass ($37). It sounded best to me, plus the server mentioned that it was the item to try at ÃN Asian Cuisines, so you know I had to take one for the team and order it. The bass was spiced with citrus spice and topped with chopped eggplant. The whole dish was finished with a sprinkling of those gorgeous flower petals for color and texture! The whole shebang rested upon a mound of jasmine rice around which is a coconut curry broth, poured table side by the waiter. Divine! The portion size was more than fair and after heavy previous courses I could only finish about half of the entree.
The boyfriend tried Roasted Duck ($30), cooked medium, seasoned with tea spice and ginseng tonic; the dish was quite unique. It featured banana puree and tiny veggies that looked like minuscule aloe plants. Neither of us could guess what the dish could possibly taste like when ordering, but it was also delicious. The duck was cooked perfectly, incredibly juicy, and at the correct temperature.
We don’t often order dessert after dinner, so when we planned to try one at ÃN Asian Cuisines, I had high hopes. Unfortunately disappointment struck. We tried the “Summer Corn ($10).” This strange smorgasbord consisted of bits of almond cornmeal cake, roasted peaches, fresh blackberries, popcorn, and a scoop of blackberry sorbet that looked like a bleeding heart after it had a slight push around the plate. The dessert was interesting to look at, but was incredibly bland. We were so disappointed in our sweet splurge that we ordered ANOTHER dessert, cookies baked to order ($12). The cookies were phenomenal! Chocolate chip macadamia that were still warm when we brought them home to eat with a movie.
After my food coma (and during it) I whole heartedly recommend a nice date night at ÃN Asian Cuisines. The service and food were phenomenal and the restaurant has a certain upscale vibe that make you want to get dressed up and experience what a Five Diamond experience really tastes like. Aside from a misrepresented menu item and one lackluster course, I’d certainly return to ÃN Asian Cuisines anytime.
This article is by Lauren Majewski. Lauren finds herself eating her way
through the Triangle via Miami, Chicago, and Columbus. She is an avid
traveler, novice chef, messy baker, and a voracious reader and writer.
Follow her adventures on Instagram @MacaronsandMayhem or at