Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent
Eschelon Hospitalitys newest restaurant, Zinda, provided a culinary kickoff to this week's Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week with a Monday night meet-the-chef dinner experience. The event was hosted by triangle.com.
With top toque A.J. Faung at the helm, Zinda, known for zipping zest into the downtown Raleigh food scene by bringing Southeast Asian flare and balance to the local plate think sweet, salty, sour, spicy opened seats in its upstairs mezzanine (oft used for parties, modeling shoots, dinners, events, you-name-it) for reserved guests to meet, greet and, obviously, eat.
Why Zinda? "I think Zinda offers an experience," says Eschelon Marketing Director Tara Zechini. "It's an Eschelon restaurant. We have cutting-edge décor [and] the food is top-notch."
The event began with an exclusive Champagne welcome, followed by a three-course dinner and wine pairing from the Restaurant Week menu and was capped off with a special gift box courtesy of Zinda (engraved wine tool anyone?). Executive Chef A.J. Faung visited during the main course to explain the entrees.
Wine pairings included Evolution 16th Edition (a white blend with a mix of nine different varietals, with heavy citrus undertones and a crisp finish out of Oregon) for the first course, and La Celia Pioneer Cabernet Sauvignon (an Argentinean Cab from Uco Valley with ripe black fruit offering an equilibrium of mocha, caramel and vanilla) for the second course. Both "pair well with Mondays," according to Zindas Banquet Captain George Dana.
With crème de la crème dishes from Zinda's regular menu, plus some unique to Restaurant Week, spread across three courses, Zinda via the culinary prowess of Faung provided guests with the choice of such popular dishes as Tandoor Paneer (house-made cheese marinated in yogurt and garam masala) and 5-spice duck hash (with shallot jam) for the first course, and Hong Kong Fried Noodles (cashew chicken served atop crispy thin egg noodles) and Shanghai Red Cooked Pork (braised pork belly with star anise served atop Chinese broccoli) for the second. And for dessert, I can only talk about the Filipino Flan. Creamy. Caramel. Goodness. But feel free to taste for yourself.
Good news is you have through August 25 to indulge in this, or a slew of other samplings from participating downtown restaurants.
"We love Restaurant Week," guest Charles Coleman said, speaking of himself and his wife. "We're foodies so we tend to try to get out and experience different restaurants, and I think it's a good value. [Restaurant Week] just gives you an opportunity to try different restaurants at a reasonable price and see what they're like and sample the menu."
If you're headed to Zinda, the chef recommends the red cooked pork. "It has everything. I mean, it's fatty; it's meaty; it's rich," Faung says. "It's very flavorful."
And fans of Zinda's Restaurant Week experience, particularly those who want the meet-the-chef feel, can indulge in monthly wine dinners at the restaurant on the last Wednesday of each month. On bill since January, the wine dinners are multi-course, paired with beverages for each course, offered at a flat rate that includes tax, gratuity, food, beverages and the chef always interacts, explaining the pairings for the meal.