Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Wild East Pan Asian Bistro

How could I have come this far with Charlotte Food Talk without writing about this gem.  Wild East Pan Asian Bistro is the first restaurant I went to in Charlotte on a Moms Night Out, and it quickly became one of my family’s favorites.  We generally go for the sushi, but they offer such a variety of great food that it will also appeal to those crazy folks who don’t like sushi. 

So why haven’t I written about this little gem before?  Earlier this year, an electric fire caused Wild East to shut down for an extended period of time.  That didn’t stop owner Steve Li, however, Wild East has been back with a vengance since June, and we’ve eaten there several times since.  The quality, if anything, has improved. 

Before the fire, we could count on getting seating at Wild East easily, with no wait.  Nowadays, the restaurant has become much more popular, which I like to see.  A weekend may find you waiting for a little (a very little, fortunately) while before seating.  It is a lovely setting, not too casual, not too fancy, and the staff is incredibly friendly.  I have never had a complaint.  They have always been very kind to my son (who can devour more than one serving of the beef satay in an evening).  In fact, the restaurant is full of both families and adults (it’s our go to restaurant for adult guests as well).

They have a lovely drink selection, my favorite is the sake and plum wine martini (I can’t remember the name of the drink, but you’ll know it when you visit). 

I have to admit, despite Elena’s review of New Zealand Café; Wild East is my favorite sushi spot in town.  The sushi is absolutely lovely, fresh and delicious.  The less traditional rolls are fun and flavorful (my favorite is the Rock and Roll).  I’ve always wanted to try their Omakase (chef’s choice) plates (there are two, one for $28 and one – that should feed two easily – for $55), but that will wait for a future visit.

On the occasions where we order something else besides sushi, we enjoy the crispy beef with tamarind sauce, which we discovered at our Washington, DC Chinese take out restaurant of choice; Mei Wah.  Wild East is the only restaurant we’ve found in Charlotte with this dish.  The Pad Thai is terrific, but I still prefer Thai Orchid, perhaps only because that particular restaurant was very close to our house before our recent move. 

The fact is, I’ve tried many things on the menu here, and not once come home dissatisfied – quite the opposite; they need to roll me home.  The shining star at Wild East, at least in my eyes, is their sushi and their service.

Wild East Pan Asian Bistro
6420 Carmel Road
Charlotte, NC, 28226
(704) 341-2228
Wild East Pan-Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apologies and a dinner recipe

It seems that in the past few weeks we've been abandoning the blog.  I promise that it isn't so.  After a week of being incredibly busy, my son contracted what I have been referring to as "The Plague", but is rather less extreme.  It starts with a fever, (pink eye in my son's case), and moves on to become a stomach flu.  

Want to know what makes you want to write about food less than having your toddler come down with the stomach flu?  Well, getting it yourself.  That's right, after spending a week in quarantine with my son, I spent another week in solitary confinement bed myself.  Thankfully, my husband and fabulous friends made my life substantially easier.  Finally, we are healthy again, and ready to start eating.  But, since my ability to eat out has been severely cut back this past week, I am going to share a recipe I have been meaning to post in any case!

Recently I found myself searching for a good white bean soup recipe, due to a large amount of leftover dried white beans from an earlier project.  I opted to go a modified version of this recipe from Williams Sonoma.  The first, and biggest, difference between mine and the Williams Sonoma recipe is the use of dried, rather than canned cannellini beans, but I also added white wine and replaced the chicken with veggie broth, but I would have used fresh chicken stock in a heartbeat, if I had had some at the time, and I played with the veggies and pancetta a bit.  Instead of serving it with the tapanade and croustini that they suggest, I went for kale, after two friends mentioned that their children had wolfed down these kale chips.  But I did have some bread to use, so, clearly, that was destined for garlic bread.


  • Olive oil, as necessary
  • One package pancetta, chopped (I take off the big fatty bits because we're trying to reduce fat in our house)
  • One yellow onion
  • Three carrots
  • Three stalks of celery
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/4  pounds of dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • one box vegetable broth
  • ½ c white wine
  • thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ c Parmigiano-Reggiano 


  1. Cook the rinsed cannellini beans in unsalted broth until tender.  Set aside.
  2. Chop onion, carrots, and celery.    Mince garlic cloves.
  3. Saute pancetta until crisp, then add onion, carrots, and celery and continue to sauté until the vegetables are starting to soften.  Add garlic, and sauté one more minute.  Add to the beans.  Add wine and thyme.  Bring to simmer and  cook for 10-15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Blend about ½ - ¾ of the soup until smooth, depending on how chunky you want it.  Add blended soup back in, mix it, and keep warm until serving.


  • Kale
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

  1. Set oven to 300 degrees. 
  2. Wash kale.  Remove center stem and cut into 2-3 inch pieces.  
  3. Toss until lightly coated with olive oil and add a bit of salt (it doesn’t take too much).  
  4. Spread evenly in one layer on cookie sheet (you may want to line the sheet with parchment paper) bake until crisp, usually between 15-20 minutes.  
  5. Remove chips and try not to eat them all before dinner!



  • Crusty bread, sliced
  • ¼-½  c Olive oil
  • 6 cloves Garlic, minced


  1. In a small saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic.  Remove from heat as soon as it starts to sizzle, before garlic browns.   
  2. Set oven on a low broil.  
  3. Lay bread on cookie sheet and toast one side of the bread, watching to make sure it doesn't burn.
  4. Remove bread, turn over the slices on the cookie sheet, and brush with the garlic and olive oil.  
  5. Place back in oven and, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn, broil until golden on the edges.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Copper

My first brush with Copper came shortly after moving here, when we began our search for a good Indian meal (yes, I will get back to Mexican, but let’s move around the world a bit).  I was sick, and my husband discovered that you can, indeed, carry out from Copper, so he brought us some food, which was fine, but not great, considering the prices.  That was well over a year ago.

Then, driving through Dilworth on New Years Day, we passed by the lovely homey building that is Copper and decided to stop in for dinner.  It was terrific.  We had some amazing food, lovely service, and a great time.  Our son came with us, and was not the only toddler in the room (mostly he’s pretty well behaved at restaurants).  Shortly afterward, I began Charlotte Food Talk, and after the Living Social deal became available, my husband and I were excited to revisit that meal.

Then last week, we did.  And were we disappointed.  Not really with the food.  Well, ok, maybe with the food.  After eating at some amazing Bengali restaurants in the largely Bengali neighborhood of Jackson Heights in New York this past weekend, the meal at Copper fades quickly in comparison.  Why, you might ask?  Read on.

We started with the gunpowder prawns, which were good, but not worth the price.  Then we continued with some relatively traditional dishes, murgh tikka masala (Chicken in creamy tomato sauce) and goat cheese-vegetable “roasted koftas”.  We also had some naan on the side, because who can resist tandoori breads?  It was good.  Just…  Good.

Maybe, however, it would have been better had the service improved.  But it didn’t.  After sitting us down at a table our server pretty much ignored us, and was absolutely uninterested when he finally came around to give us water.  My son never got his water (at our last visit it was served with grace and good humor).  The time between the water service and anyone coming to take the drink order, let alone the food order, was interminable (at one point we did ask someone else to get our server).  When the waiter finally did come around, I ordered a cocktail, which he warned me was very strong.  I would not normally find this annoying; I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to holding my alcohol.  However, this, coupled with the rest of the service, set my hair on end. 

By the time we had finally finished with the food, we were more than ready to leave.  Forget dessert (disappointingly, because their dessert menu looked great), I wasn’t ready to face our server again.  Even with the $40 voucher from Living Social, we still managed to spend $30, including tip. 

So, we decided that Copper is, unfortunately, a bit of a hit or miss.  Frankly, if you were looking for a place to have a really good, classy Indian meal, I would suggest making the drive to their sister restaurant in Ballentyne, The Blue Taj, where I have yet to have a bad meal or bad service.  And yes, that review is coming soon.


Copper Restaurant
311 East Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zink Giveaway Results!

Apologies for the late notice! I've been busy with a trip to New York and a fun time getting a crown at the dentist (aren't you jealous? at least half-jealous?)

Ok, so, the moment you've all been waiting for:  The winner of our gift certificate to Zink is Lisa C, number 7!  Congratulations Lisa!  I'll be in touch with you shortly.  Enjoy your dinner!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Giveaway! Zink, American Kitchen

I really love promoting restaurant events.  It supports local business, everyone gets to eat good food, etc.  So when I heard that Zink, I restaurant I've been meaning to go visit anyway, was doing a Facebook fan drive I was, naturally, excited by the news.  If they reach 750 fans by September 30, they will have a special celebration for said fans on October 5.

But, I don’t like to talk about restaurants I haven’t yet tried (I don’t mind putting the news out there in our current events column, but I don’t blog about it).  So, I tried to go to lunch using a handy Living Social deal I've had tucked away.  Unfortunately, my various attempts at taking people out to lunch failed (seriously, who DOESN’T want a free lunch!).  However, fate intervened and the lovely folks at Zink stepped in and invited me to dine.  So, please note my review may be a bit biased. 

When I got to the restaurant (15 minutes late, thanks to some car issues), I wasn’t sure how hungry I was going to be, but as I stepped in, the lovely scent of the kitchen began to convince me I could probably eat.  We sat down at the inviting booth, and began our lunch.  I looked over the menu, and couldn’t quite make up my mind, so my dining companion suggested the flatbread.  I started with a shrimp and local squash flatbread with sweet (caramelized) onions and goat cheese.  Some people may object to the amount of onion on the flatbread, however, I could eat solely caramelized onions for a meal and be quite content, so it wasn’t a problem for me.  The summer squash was perfect, and the shrimp and goat cheese added the perfect flavor.  It was sweet, smoky and delicious.

As I go back to the menu, I can’t imagine how I settled on the crab cakes.  I don’t know why I didn’t try the lobster club, or the fish tacos, or the duck leg (which my dining companion had, and it looked amazing, with a generous side of rich and creamy mac ‘n cheese).  Why didn’t we get the truffle-parmesean housemade fries, or the blue cheese potato chips, or any of the “Five and Dime” $10 entrees.  The menu is full of terrific sounding items that could take a while to go through.  The menu items average around $12, a perfect price for lunch.  The portions are perfect, with enough to take home if you want to, but not so much that you will be useless for the rest of the day if you eat it all.

Back to the crab cakes.  They were amazing.  The two cakes were on a bed of baby greens, peaches, and pickled onions.  The dressing wasn’t my favorite, but the peaches were terrific, the crab cakes were delightful, and the pickled onions added the right amount of zing. 

Unfortunately, I had to run out before we could take on the idea of dessert (to pick up my son at school), but I will be back (I still have that Living Social deal, which runs out later this week, so I’ll be back very soon!). 

Most importantly, you, too, can be treated to a meal at Zink, as they are partnering with Charlotte Food Talk to bring you $50 to spend at Zink.  To enter this giveaway, you must be a fan of Charlotte Food Talk on Facebook and be a fan of Zink on Facebook.  You can have an optional second entry if you sign up to follow Charlotte Food Talk on Twitter.  To enter, fill out the form below, and be sure to include your email address and phone number so we can contact you.  The contest will end on October 2 at noon.  We will announce the winner (chosen, as usual, by on October 3.

Giveaway Closed

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Customshop

Our server comes by to ask about our meal, my husband looks at me, “Can I tell her what you just told me?” 

“Sure!” I enthusiastically reply. 

“She declared it was the best meal she’s had in Charlotte!” he says triumphantly. And he is right.  Our dinner at Customshop was, so far, the most incredible meal I’ve eaten in Charlotte to date.  Of course I’ve had some great meals over the last year (have you read my reviews?), but this one was transcendent.  My husband agreed, and that takes a lot.

We walked into Customshop to find a lovely spacious bar in front, and the tables spread out over a reasonable sized area.  The lighting was just right, dimmed, but not dimmed so much that you have to squint to see your food (a pet peeve of mine in higher-end restaurants).  My husband aptly described the music as “chill.”  It was a good mix, we definitely could hear it, but it didn’t take over conversation (except for the few minutes when we discussed the atmosphere).  The décor is tasteful, setting the stage for a brilliant meal.

Customshop is founded around the idea of “handcrafted food,” each dish beginning with quality raw ingredients.  Much of their ingredients are locally sourced, and, thus the menu changes every week to accommodate the availability of ingredients year-round.

After a bit of a search to find the drinks menu (wine is on the back of the main menu, ask for the dessert menu for the cocktail selection), we started off with a drink, my husband had a Manhattan, which he assures me was good – I am not a fan.  I settled on a glass of 2008 Salentein Killka Malbec, and it took a good deal of self control not to order an entire bottle for myself.

Then we had to choose our food.  It’s not an overwhelmingly large menu, ; a few raw items, a cheese and charcuterie plate, and a few starters, but they all sound so good, it becomes impossible to choose.  We decided to forgo the cheese plate (hard to do), and share a starter, settling on the beef carpaccio, with the help of our server.  What a good choice.  The meat was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, paper-thin, and not a hint of chewiness.  It was sprinkled with fresh horseradish, lemon and celery sprouts, lending it a bit of a punch, similar to sushi with a hint of wasabi. 

Eventually, we had to return to reality and decide on a main course.  My husband wanted to try one of the four pasta choices, and was eventually swayed toward the saffron fettuccini with Carolina shrimp, oyster mushrooms and pancetta.  I was split between the duck confit, the short rib, the yellow fin tuna, the half rabbit, and the tilefish – not quite the whole menu, but almost.  Eventually, I chose on the short rib (both decisions were aided by our lovely server).  Neither of us was disappointed.  The fettuccini was fresh and delicious, the shrimp was perfectly spiced, and the sauce was wonderful, with plenty of mushrooms and pancetta to go around.

The short rib was the star of the show.  It was nothing short of amazing.  The meat was so tender that, though I had a steak knife, it was unnecessary, my husband cut off a piece with his dinner knife, and the meat separated at the slightest touch.  The flavor was perfect, sweet, but tempered by the grilled escarole and it’s slightly too salty topping (It was hard, but I managed to eat it anyway).  The cipollini marmalade included a roasted whole onion on the side, which I had to fight my husband for.

As we approached the restaurant for dinner, my husband had noted that Elizabeth Creamery was next door and suggested we go for a bite after dinner.  After our meal, however, he changed his mind.  We leisurely ordered the chocolate soufflé (which, the menu notes, is a 15 minute wait, so order ahead if you are in a bit of a hurry), and enjoyed our post-meal daze.  Soon our dessert arrived, and was everything a chocolate soufflé should be: liquid chocolate in the center, surrounded by a nice crisp shell.  If you truly are not in the mood for one of their three dessert selections, check out their cocktails or various digestifs. 

We left that evening completely satisfied, but not uncomfortably full.  We strolled down Elizabeth Avenue back to our car hand in hand, reflecting on the past couple of hours and planning our next visit, to try their brunch. 


Customshop Food
1601 Elizabeth Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28204

Customshop on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 28, 2011

CSA Tuesday #2 (on Sunday)

I know, I know. My CSA Tuesday got delayed by some time-sensitive reviews (don’t forget to vote for Hickory Tavern for best sports bar in the United States!). But I want first to give you a run down of the first week of the CSA:

I listed our food for the week in this post.

I did end up making this watermelon soup. It’s absolutely amazing, I love the sweet watermelon with the spicy flavor, and added quite a bit of Tabasco sauce. But it took up a small fraction of the watermelon. So, I invited some of the girls over to eat watermelon one afternoon and I juiced the rest. Watermelon juice is very refreshing, and has the added benefit of being very healthy. The strawberry-watermelon martinis that were made from some of the juice were probably not quite as healthy, however, but amazingly satisfying (my husband came up with the recipe, but stuck with a bourbon and coke for himself).

We were a little scared of the okra (and we had quite a lot), but it was awesome. We grilled it one night and had enough left over to try a recipe from this book by Madhur Jaffrey. We ended up making a recipe called “dry okra,” rather than the sweet and sour okra. It is basically just okra fried up with lots of spices, most of the onions, and lemon juice. If you have a ton of okra, and don’t know what to do with it, check out her book. Yum.

The red peppers I did end up roasting, but then I blended them with some of the garlic, which I also roasted, sautéed an onion, and tossed the red pepper sauce, onions and pasta together. It was terrific. I used to live in an area of the world where red peppers were as cheap as tomatoes, and I really miss making roasted red pepper pasta sauce.

The rest of the garlic, basil and the hot peppers were used as fillers in a few of those dishes (I still have a few hot peppers left) while the grapes and purple peppers were eaten raw as side items. The week was a success and we had a very delicious selection of food to choose from.  I was very excited to head to Atherton Mills Farmers Market on Tuesday and pick up our second box.

For CSA Tuesday #2 we received the following:

  • Feta cheese
  • A watermelon
  • A green pepper
  • Several purple peppers
  • Three red peppers
  • Several handfuls of okra
  • Three onions
  • One head of garlic
  • A bag of grapes
  • Three pears

Stay tuned for my week #2 rundown (on Tuesday this time, I promise)!