This month in Chapel Hill and Durham, he's at it again, with a little help this time. A new restaurant group is tearing full speed ahead and opening the first of three restaurants, with the other two to follow in a matter of weeks.
Noble Food Group is a new partnership between Bakatsias and Charlie Deal, a California native who moved to the Triangle after having two successful restaurants in Santa Cruz. One of these restaurants was Charlie Hong Kong, and two of Noble Food Group's new places are a direct evolution from the popular Asian street food he served there. Deal says the name Noble Food was inspired by the idea that the grand culinary traditions of Asia are truly noble cuisines and should be given the respect they deserve, without too much fusion or Western influence.
The first of the three restaurants, Grasshopper, should be open in Durham by the time this goes to press. Located next to Vin Rouge at the intersection of Ninth and Hillsborough Streets, Grasshopper will serve Asian street food--mainly dim sum and noodles, as well as specialty cocktails, teas and a selection of wines served in 8- or 16-ounce decanters. The modern Asian interior and garden hung with lanterns will be open for lunch through late night, serving until midnight during the early week and until 2:30 a.m. later in the week and on weekends. They will serve a dim sum brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and be closed on Mondays.
Following closely behind (slated to open in late August) is Bin 54, an upscale steakhouse in the old Grill at Glen Lennox location in Chapel Hill. The restaurant was still under heavy construction when I saw it, but I could already tell that Bakatsias' design will be sure to impress, with a modern clubby look and lots of red and dark wood tones--manly enough for a steakhouse, but with enough thoughtful design elements to balance it out.
Bin 54's main draw will be the wood-fired grill and the high quality meat, but they are aiming for an impressive wine list as well, and there will be a table in the wine room for up to six diners. There will also be a large bar with a lounge area adjacent.
Next door to Bin 54, and slated to open in September, is Jujube, which is a larger, slightly more evolved and upscale version of the dim sum and noodle idea. The menu will be similar to Grasshopper, but larger. There will be a large dim sum bar as well as tables, an Asian-inspired garden with seating, and a full bar with signature cocktails. Jujube will also be serving dim sum brunch.
Overseeing the wine and beverage programs for all three of the restaurants is Brett Davis, who will also be general manager at all three locations. Davis has worked with Emeril Lagasse as a captain at the Commander's Palace. He was in the wine distributing business for many years and is now in the process of studying for his Master Sommelier's Diploma.
Three restaurants in a matter of weeks is a huge undertaking, but not too surprising when you know that Giorgios Bakatsias is involved. There's one thing you can say for the man--he's got drive. Charlie Deal and Brett Davis do not appear to be daunted by the task either; they seem full of energy and enthusiasm. Let's hope they are full of ideas for good service and great food as well.
It will never cease to amaze me--the crappy food that is flying out of restaurants, the hour-long waits at overpriced and overrated food warehouses along the stretches of our secondary highways. Just up the road, another family-owned restaurant that makes food fraught with love, food that you would be lucky to find anywhere in the world, is struggling, perhaps on its last legs.
Samper says that Brewer is keeping a positive attitude, and that she hopes to beat the cancer. For now she is taking a holistic approach, being that the cancer has spread so quickly and chemotherapy makes her very sick.
Restaurants are primarily entertainment--they entertain us, our taste buds and our stomachs. But there is a human story behind every one of them. For selfish reasons, as well as for Juan and Marta, I hope that Tasca Brava survives.
E-mail Besha Rodell at firstname.lastname@example.org.