I don’t often accompany Jeff when he travels for work…..mostly because his travel is usually to exotic places like Williamsport, Scranton and Wilkes Barre and partly because the timing often doesn’t fit with my schedule. But this week is an exception. Jeff’s travel takes him to Raleigh, NC and my schedule allows me to tag along.
I have a list of places to see, coffee-shops to visit, and restaurants to try. I have 5 books to keep me company and hold my attention. And I also have a terrible sore throat, a very stuffy head and a low-grade fever. Ugh…the dreaded summer cold. Which is also becoming the dreaded “tagging-along-with-Jeff-on-a-work-trip” cold. You may not remember, but I sure do….the last time I travelled with Jeff for work was to San Antonio, Texas. I had a list of places to see, books to read, and Mexican & BBQ restaurants to try AND a terrible sore throat, a very stuffy head and a low-grade fever.
We spent most of the day in the car yesterday and arrived at our hotel at approximately 6:30 p.m. – just in time to check in, freshen up and make our 7:30 dinner reservation. I was feeling pretty crappy by the time we arrived, but the anticipation of our dinner buoyed my spirits. I recently read the list of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America 2017 and lo and behold one of the new restaurants was in Raleigh! After telling Jeff about the list, he called immediately to make a reservation at Brewery Bhavana.
The concept of Brewery Bhavana can sound a bit out there and make you think, “huh?” but having been there and seen it and eaten the food I can tell you, it works. Brewery Bhavana (bhavana is Sanskrit for ‘cultivating’) bills itself as a brewery, dim sum restaurant, flower shop and bookstore/library. And it is all those things. It is also a welcoming, noisy, visually interesting place to hang out. And oh, the service was terrific!
After we were seated, we were given menus and glasses of water and told our waitress, Alex, would be with us shortly. And she was. I asked about the wine list, which is a bit confusing as the wines are listed as W1, W2, W3, etc. with hip descriptions rather than being listed by name/vineyard. Alex asked what kind of wines I liked and said she would bring me a few wines to sample based on what I told her. Jeff asked about a few of their brews and again Alex offered to bring a few samples before he decided on a full glass.
Jeff and I had looked at the menu several days before our visit to Brewery Bhavana and were excited to try several things from the “Little Somethings” section of the menu; so before Alex left the table, we put in an order for the Char Siu Bao (steamed buns stuffed with Cantonese BBQ Pork) and waited expectantly for our drinks and our bao.
Rachel (more versed in wines than Alex) delivered my wine samples and told me about each one, why she chose them based on the information I had given Alex and told me which was her favorite. Then she departed, giving me time to taste each one and make a decision. While I was sampling my wine options, Jeff’s beer – well actually not Jeff’s beer – was delivered. Before he took a sip, Alex came over quickly and told him he had the wrong beer. She whisked it away and then efficiently brought him the one he ordered in a 16 oz. glass, rather than the 10 oz. glass he had ordered to make up for the error. With the beer Alex also brought plates for our bao and a “kicked up” soy sauce. Then the moment of truth came – our bao was delivered and we were in culinary heaven. The bao was light and fluffy and warm and comforting and flavorful and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Delicious. The Cantonese pork was moist and tender and perfectly spiced. The addition of the kicked up soy sauce was perfect.
When Alex checked in to find out if were enjoying the bao, Jeff placed an order for Scallion Pancakes with oxtail in bone marrow and coconut-soy jam. We also asked Alex if it was ok that we order in this disjointed way and she told us it was absolutely fine. Alex left to place our pancake order and then came back at Jeff’s request to tell us more about Brewery Bhavana. We enjoyed hearing about the dawning of Brewery Bhavana and sipping our drinks. We enjoyed a little people watching and reading and re-reading the menu and chatting and soaking up the atmosphere.
And then we thoroughly enjoyed the scallion pancakes. Oh my goodness…..the pancakes were soft with a crisp outside and, when slathered with the oxtail, were savory with a hint of not-quite-sweetness from the coconut-soy jam. According to Jeff there was a hint of spiciness (but not too much), however I think my cold was slightly inhibiting my taste buds – which makes me absolutely salivate to try Brewery Bhavana again when I am not taste-compromised!!!!
Next up….Peking Duck Egg Rolls with hoisin sauce. Delish! Hot and crispy and savory and enhanced by the slight sweetness of the hoisin. Of course, I am never to leave well-enough alone so I had to mix some hoisin with some of the kicked up soy sauce and it was the PERFECT complement to the egg rolls.
Although my wine was empty, I didn’t order a second glass because I knew there had to be cold medicine in my future. Jeff ordered a second beer – Mango Peppercorn (the first was a Passionfruit IPA) and we put in our order for Soup Dumplings (which have the soup on the inside). We continued to chat and I asked Alex if it would be ok for me to wander around a bit to snap some pics and she told me to feel free to be me! So I did.
Our next interaction with Alex was her delivering the bad news that the soup dumplings were sold out (the menu did warn us that there are only a limited number made each day). Although we were sad, we had a back up plan and decided to see the lack of soup dumplings as an invitation to return! Instead of the soup dumplings, we ordered the Shrimp & Corn Dumplings.
While we waited we talked about the next few days, I got the lay of the land on a few maps and sadly, I began to fade. But when the shrimp & corn dumplings were delivered, I rallied. Although they were our least favorite dish, they were still sooooo good. They were more like a strudel than a dumpling and they had a warm, creamy filling that had a wonderfully herby hint.
Alex offered us dessert, but we were satisfied with what we had eaten and I was longing for pajamas and a pillow….so we declined. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the slices of banana cake and coconut cake that passed our table did look yummy. Before leaving we took a quick spin through the “bookstore” and “flower shop.” And we ended the night with a walk to the car in the cooling night air.
Back at the hotel I fell into bed – happy, just-full-enough and in need of rest!!! My plans for waking up early this morning were squelched by this summer cold and the desire to sleep late! So here I sit, just after noon, writing this post and lazily planning the rest of my day. The weather isn’t looking so great – heavy rain in the forecast – but I’m hoping I have enough time for a long walk before the raindrops begin to fall. And I’m hoping that whatever I decide on for dinner is half as good as our dinner last night at Brewery Bhavana. Bon Appetit was correct – it is one of the best new restaurants in America in 2017! Now I wonder what the other 49 have to offer that can top Brewery Bhavana or, in my opinion, Brewery Bhavan-ahhhhhhhhh!