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Review: Full Kee Chinese Restaurant

UPDATE:

Several weeks after this blog post, Full Key closed for business and Sue Chen retired. Since then, former owner George Yu came OUT of retirement and bought his restaurant back. It’s now called Tasty 100 and the menu and same great taste is back!  I hope to visit there soon and hopefully even have a Chef’s Table again. Until then, stay tuned and please visit Tasty 100 and show George some love!

You probably know by now (if you’ve been opening your email and clicking on the blog) that I’m am HERE for Full Kee Chinese Restaurant, a local eatery that calls itself “gourmet Chinese.”  We went back for a taste because I wanted to “research” it for a possible future Chef’s Table. And it did not disappoint. So here’s the review when I brought Sister Foodie with me on our foodie exploration.

You can read the full article for YES! Weekly here.

Full Kee has been located at 3793 Samet Drive since 2005.  It was owned and operated by George Yu, who had a very popular restaurant in Washington D.C. before he and his family moved to the Triad. What started as a takeout restaurant, Full Kee expanded into a cozy restaurant with beautiful Chinese art, dim lighting, and a full bar.  In May of last year, George retired and moved to Florida.  Sue Chen had been a partner with George in the early days but had since moved on. Now there was a very brief period of time between George selling and Sue buying the space that the restaurant was not itself.  For one, the restaurant was operated by someone else. Full Kee’s Chef, Carlos Lopez, who had worked under George’s tutelage for nearly a decade, had left to pursue another opportunity while that owner was in charge. The restaurant experienced some not so great reviews for a few weeks. Sue ultimately purchased the restaurant in November and the space its in and brought Carlos back. And now Full Kee has risen to its former glory. Some say it’s better than ever. Update: Carlos has moved on and Sue has a new chef in the kitchen, but all the recipes are the same.  UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Sue retired and George Yu bought the place back and is in the kitchen. 

Back before my food writing days, Full Kee became a favorite. You can read that initial view here. I found it so interesting that there was actually a Chinese restaurant that claimed to be “gourmet”.  It just wasn’t the norm. Chinese was and is almost entirely takeout and often quite low-key (no pun intended). Full Kee invites your casually dressed self into an ambiance that feels like fine dining, but is very comfortable and inviting. The dim lighting is soft and elegant. And what was more thrilling, amazing, astonishing, is that my children ate their food. At a restaurant. It was then and there that my children discovered they love Asian food, specifically dumplings, stir fry rice and “sweet chicken” (as my son calls it). To this day, General chicken is is favorite food (besides brownies). 

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Egg Drop Soup: If you’re an egg drop soup fan, you’ll love this light broth with the ribbon of yolks. It doesn’t have that off-putting corn starch-like consistency. My sister, who was dining with me the evening we visited, it’s the best egg drop soup she’s ever had and that she ever feels a cold coming on, she knows where she’s headed.

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Lettuce Wraps: A perennial favorite with romaine lettuce and finely minced chicken with  vegetables. They are always a crowed pleaser for the table. The chicken was mild and seasoned wonderfully and the cool, crisp lettuce acts in contrast to the tiny hint of heat.

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Dumplings: Carlos makes all the dumpling wrappers from scratch. The result is a delicate dumpling exterior, tender on top, crispy on the bottom, while it lets the filling shine through. It comes with the typical sweet and savory dipping sauce. It is the perfect appetizer. 

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Spring Rolls: You just can’t not get some spring rolls when you eat Asian food amirite? They were super hot, super crispy, came with two dipping sauces and fab.

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General Tao Chicken: According to Sue, it is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes (as it is in just about any Chinese restaurant). Full Kee’s General chicken, with its secret ingredient in the sauce, is light and crispy and not full of breading like you might find with ordinary takeout. “We wanted it ti be a bigger piece of chicken, but not heavy with flour and not cooked too long. It’s crispy outside and tender inside,” Sue told me.  It’s wonderful. And what often comes off as an afterthought, the broccoli is al dente and actually flavorful. Sue says, “It used to be just very plain, but I asked Carlos to add more seasoning.” The result is broccoli with a hint of garlic and it’s perfectly cooked.

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Walnut Shrimp: These firm, juicy jumbo shrimp are lightly crisped in the same manner as the General Tao’s, but the sauce is a bit more robust and amber in color with crunchy walnuts in the mixture.  I highly recommend this dish as well as the Philomela Shrimp, which has a creamier sauce. Or you can get the Full Kee Shrimp, which is a combo of the two. Both come with the same tasty garlic.

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Mongolian Beef: Customers will notice a change to this dish as the protein portion has been increased and the onions have decreased. It’s very savory and peppery and hearty.

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The menu includes a wide variety of traditional Chinese noodle and rice dishes, including Stir-Fry Rice, Stir Fry Sea Bass, Boneless Duck and Curry. Sue has also recruited a wine connoisseur to help patrons with the perfect wine selection.  We agree with Sue that everyone in your dining party should order something different from one another.  “We want everyone to be able to try a little bit of everything.  It’s the best way to enjoy Chinese.”

Full Kee has retained its loyal following of customers, some of whom have a place at the table every Friday night. Andrew Priddy, who lives outside Winston-Salem, says they’ve been loyal since 2010. “We travel a lot. And this by far is our favorite restaurant. Great food, great service. They’re like family. We just love it.”

Tasty 100 Asian Restaurant
3793 Samet Dr, Ste 140
High Point, NC

Celebrating Bastile Day and New Beginnings at Chez Genese

Here’s a look back at our amazing Chef’s Table last month on Bastile Day as we celebrated French independence (thankful for the French aren’t we, America?) and the amazing mission that has called Kathryn Hubert of Chez Genese.  Check back for an update a bit later with a follow-up as we had the best brunch there the next week.

Read about our night in YES Weekly…

Chez (The Place) Gènese: Genesis or “A new beginning.” 

Kathryn Hubert is reminded of her new beginning every day. Although, Chez Genèse,  her French-inspired cafe has not quite reached its one-year anniversary mark (that happens in late October), one year ago she was in the throes of remodeling her space in downtown Greensboro with an eye on a dream—to find her place in the hospitality industry while helping young adults with mental and intellectual disabilities.

The concept at Chez Genèse has been a dream of Hubert’s for years. “It started out as a really random day dream….if I could have any job in the world, what would it be?” Hubert says she knew almost instantly that it would be to open a restaurant hat helped people achieve a first or second opportunity in life. Inspired by her cousins who have autism, her dream narrowed in scope to working with young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. “They are the heartbeat behind my mission.”

Hubert already had a culinary degree. She lived in France for a year to study French cuisine and afterward graduated from UNC-G with a degree in hospitality. From there, she began working with autistic youth and during that time, she began to visualize her calling.

The young entrepreneur calls her Chez Genèse “French-inspired” in service and in cuisine. “I love French food and culture. I think the generosity that the French have with their time and with their food and the mentality of taking simple, quality ingredients and spending time on them fits hand in hand with what we are trying to achieve from a mission perspective.”

To create a culture that serves.

Taking the fast-paced stressful nature of the restaurant industry into consideration, there was special hiring process for those on her staff with disabilities. “It’s noisy. There are sounds, smells, visual and personal interaction.” Hubert needed to know from each of the applicants how they handled stress and what they would need from her. Training was a good two months followed by intensive training two-weeks prior to opening with refreshers simulating real life experiences and a lot of repetition to increase the staff’s confidence.  “No one on our staff had worked in a restaurant before so we were able to train them the way we wanted to.”

Chez Genèse is breakfast and lunch only with no plans to change. “It allows us all to get back home to our families and recharge and helps us look forward to those special events.” Hubert says she enjoys feature nights, wine dinners and special events because it allows her to break out and test her creativity outside of the regular menu. The Chef’s Table menu was an example of a playful take on seasonal ingredients, celebrating Bastile Day.

First Course

Grilled Peach Burrata Salad with Arugula

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Peaches and blueberries, the fruits of the season, brought beautiful sweetness to this starter course and it contrasted so well with the slightly bitter arugula.  Creamy burrata is a welcome addition to anything at anytime for me.

Second Course

Dry-rub Pork Ribs with Herb Butter & Apple/Fennel Slaw

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The smells coming from the kitchen were signaling what was to come and tantalized us as we awaited its arrival.  The rub gave a great smoky char to the ribs while the tart and sweet slaw cleansed the palate and kept you going back for more.

Third Course

Cheese Course with French Bread, Honeycomb, Fruit

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Hubert wanted to really immerse the group and give us the quintessentially French cheese course.  A cheese course is quite fun and a nice departure during a tasting, particularly after the main course. It readied us for the sweet dream to come.

Fourth Course

Champagne & Raspberry Ice Cream Float

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Super simple and luscious and bubbly. The float was reminiscent of our childhood days with a nice adult spin.

The guests at the Chef’s Table and any patron who visits Chez Genèse knows the time that the kitchen staff is putting in and there’s a sense of patience and graciousness on both sides of table, from guest to server.  And the servers are there for the long haul.

“During our one-on-one meetings, so many of our staff members told us they see this place as their career goal,” Hubert says. “We want them to be here as long as they want to be here, but we’ll also gladly help them be to be a stepping stone on their career path.” Knowing that, Hubert says they cafe is just now at the place where they can help those that want to stay long-term and find fulfilling ways in which to do so. “We’re now asking our employees what they want to do and how we can help them fulfill that personal need of developing new skills or do something different so they don’t feel stuck in the same job.”

And that leads us to what Hubert’s next dream will be and that is to make a broader impact than just her business. The cafe already offers workshops and is focusing on a strong catering business.  In the next year, she plans to roll out a training program for individuals to get training and life skills and she will network with other businesses for job placement. “We could be a revolving door to set people up to succeed in other workplace settings,” she says.

“If you know what drives someone and what motivates them and what they love…if you can tap into that and they come into work and they get to do what they love, their productivity goes up as well as their enjoyment. And I think you can feel that as a team and as a guest when you come here.”

Wanna go? Chez Genèse is located at 660 S. Elm Street, Greensboro. Open for breakfast and lunch, brunch on Sunday.

chezgenese.com

Foodies…Check out Butcher & Bull

The Butcher is In. (a previous version of this story can be found here at YES! Weekly.)

I have to say, we were warned.

A few weeks back when Chef Richard Miller hinted at what was to come at the Chef’s Table at Butcher & Bull, he said to be prepared to see creative slants on some of their favorite dishes that were fun and surprising in an effort to get us out of our comfort zones. He said he and Chef Tim Gallione had been planning for weeks to dazzle us with one of the most creative menus we’ve seen.

Before we get into the food at the event, we need to talk about the complete overhaul that Butcher & Bull, located inside the Marriott in downtown Winston-Salem, underwent earlier this year. The eatery, formerly known as Graze, was transformed into a sleek space rich in blues and neutral tones, leather and light. There might be a few animal skulls present…just to be sure you don’t forget where you are.

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“We knew we wanted a fresh, vibrant, contemporary restaurant to stand out in what is happening in Downtown Winston-Salem and we decided on the idea of a steakhouse, which we don’t really have down here,” Miller told me during my podcast.

Gone are the booths with television screens and anything suggesting hotel.  Miller says the desire was to create a welcoming environment for gathering and fellowship, “We wanted a 100% brand new product and leave no evidence of the past, so that people will want to come here for dinner, enjoy the company of friends and family, have a good cocktail or a glass of wine and have a really phenomenal steak or anything else on the menu.”

In addition to abundant steak offerings with various cuts, like a Strip and a 48 ounce Tomahawk, there is tuna, salmon, and crab cakes and a cauliflower steak. Now, Butcher & Bull is getting accolades for its inventive small plates and shareable like the Bison Carpaccio with Quail Egg and a showstopper of a Shrimp Cocktail, complete with a presentation under a cold, smoky, glass dome. 

Miller, who grew up in Winston-Salem, has spent the better part of a decade going up the ranks at Butcher & Bull. He helped develop the former iteration, Graze, and made a name for himself locally and regionally as a chef there, winning the local Competition Dining Series. After a brief departure, he returned to Graze as Executive Chef and guided the culinary team through the transformation to Butcher & Bull.

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The Butcher’s Room is available for private events

The Chef’s Table that was presented on June 20 was everything Miller promised and more. As we gathered in the “Butcher’s Room,” we were presented with six beautifully-plated courses that were playful and adventurous with bright colors and interesting textures. And each and every dish was as delicious as it was visually appealing. If at first you eat with your eyes, well we got an eyeful for sure of.…

Local ingredients.

And raw meat.

And organs.

And an eight-limbed mollusc.

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Course 1

General Tso’s Harmony Ridge Farms duck heart, greens, citrus, peanuts, togarasu

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A kick off to the evening with an unexpected Asian flare. We had some skeptical folks at the table when the menu mentioned “duck heart.” But the heart was perfectly and lightly breaded on the outside and tender enough to cut with a fork. The drizzle of sauce had just enough heat and made the perfect bite when accompanied with the crushed peanuts.

Course 2

Beef Tartare, deviled egg crema, pecorino

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As if heart wasn’t enough to surprise you, imagine your next course being raw beef? But Butcher & Bull’s tartare is so well executed, with proper seasoning. The deviled egg crema landed a southern slant to the dish and the pecorino was baked into a crisp, which could be used like a savory little cracker.

Course 3

Charred octopus, Southern cucumber salad, Fair Share Farm Micro Greens, Lemon, EVOO, onions, fennel

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Another ambitious dish by Chef Richard and his team. This two-toned dish of lightly charred octopus on bright quick pickled cukes was a wonderful middle course. The pickles (a riff on Miller’s mother’s recipe) allowed for some palate cleansing with an intrepid star of the plate.

Course 4

Joyce Farms bone marrow, bread-and-butter cauliflower, fermented mustard, charred bread, Old Nick Carolina bourbon

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And now we get a marrow bone. Beautifully and rustically plated, the bones had a light schmear of marrow topped with house-made mustard. But this dish required Chef Richard to visit the room and instruct us that. after scooping out the marrow and enjoying with the “toast”, we were to then use that hollow bone as a sloo or a “shoot” in which to take back the shot of bourbon. Some of our diners succeeded at this fun challenge. I failed epically. 

Course 5

Certified Angus Beef ® brand , Demi glaze, pommes purée potato chips, sweet potato, mushrooms

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As our 5th course arrived, we knew that the culinary team really wanted to show off what Butcher & Bull wants to be known for—steak and with pizzazz as the service team came around the other side and drizzled the steak with the demi.

Course 6

Carolina Gold Rice Pudding, Johnson Farms Peaches, Fair Share Farm​ marigold flowers

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There’s something about the flavor of Carolina Gold rice. Hailing from the southeastern reaches of the Carolinas, it has a beautiful golden hue and a deep, toasty flavor, almost reminiscent of popcorn. And when Richard turned it into rice pudding, the toasty flavor came through along with the sweetness of the cream and then it was topped with wonderfully succulent grilled yellow and white peaches, with edible flowers.

At the end of the evening, the room erupted in applause, with many guests saying it was the best event they’d attended.  As for Miller, he says he and Chef Tim Gallione wanted to give the guests a taste of what inspires them and he promises that this is only the beginning.

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I am absolutely sure you’ll find something you are looking for at Butcher & Bull and I highly recommend you give them a try.

Butcher & Bull is located at 425 North Cherry Street, in the downtown Marriott in Winston-Salem. Parking is available around the property but valet is also complimentary with a validated receipt. butcherandbull.com

 

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The wine cellar is available for private events

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Eight more tickets added to our Chef’s Table at Chez Genese!

Foodies, we just added eight more tickets for our Chef’s Table with Kathryn Hubert at Chez Genése. Get them while you can. The previous 30 tickets sold out in about 24 hours.

For details about how Chez Genese is helping the community click the link below and get your tickets there too!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-chefs-table-celebrating-bastile-day-at-chez-genese-with-kathryn-hubert-tickets-63127602358

Quiet Genius at Bernardin’s Restaurant

Chef Freddy Lee has been stealthily creating extraordinary cuisine for nearly three decades as the chef for his restaurant, Bernardin’s.  The restaurant celebrates 27 years this year, no small feat for a restaurant these days.

Quiet and a bit shy, with a complete lack of bravado that you might expect from some chefs, Lee and his brother, Terry, are a stronghold in the Winston-Salem dining scene. Before there was a popular downtown, Bernardin’s, at its unassuming shopping center location on Jonestown Road, was the go-to for that “special night out” for anniversaries, prom’s, romantic dates. Back in the day, a restaurant in a shopping center was the thing to do, Freddy told me. 

And then it wasn’t the thing to do. 

Then, nine years ago, the 200-year-old Zevely House, which had enjoyed its own iconic status as restaurant in the Historic West End, became available. The Lee brothers adapted and moved the restaurant into the 200-year-old Moravian style house nine years ago and it was as if Bernardin’s at the Zevely House was always meant to be. 

“Downtown was starting to really happen back then and we thought the West End would be a perfect location, it was more central and nearer to everything.”  More businesses, bakeries, the ballpark and condos added to the happening little neighborhood vibe.

The romantic atmosphere of the purported “oldest home in Winston-Salem” adds to the already elevated masterful dishes coming out of the Lee kitchen. White linen tablecloths and a full place setting in dining rooms make for intimate feels. Service is always top-notch.

Freddy was born in India and raised in New York. As a teenager he started working in fine dining restaurants in the city and after high school and graduated from Culinary Institute of America.  Although he learned a great deal about French culinary techniques in school, it’s on-the-job training that he’s found invaluable. “You learn some basic skills from school, but it’s working at different restaurants and with different chefs that you get the most experience.” Freddy worked in New York City in restaurants like Tribeca Grill and in California for a bit before he and Terry followed family members to Winston-Salem with the intent to open Bernardin’s, and they’ve considered themselves North Carolinians ever since.

 

Bernardin’s was the location of a Chef’s Table which was so popular that it sold out in a matter of hours.  Thirty-two guests were welcomed on the beautiful Bernardin’s patio where Freddy embarked on an adventurous, culinary tour of flavors from around the globe with local ingredients.

Course One
Roasted Tri-Color Cauliflower Salad
With Granny Smith Apple, almond walnut crunch, grilled corn,  feta cheese, grated salt cured fermented egg yolk. anchovies. micro greens, sherry vinaigrette

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Listening to Freddy talk about this dish was fun and made me want to replicate it. The intricate flavors of the lightly roasted cauliflower along with a sweet crunch of roasted nuts was a fun take on a salad.

Course Two Tandoori
Kangaroo
With raised savoy cabbage, lentil curry potato cake, papadam,
mint yogurt, tandoori sauce

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Did you say “kangaroo?” Yes, I did. Bernardin’s is kind of famous for their kangaroo dish. What does it taste like, you may ask. It’s slightly stronger in flavor than beef but not as gamey as venison. It’s very lean and very clean and you should have it at least once.  Freddy’s preparation of this classic Bernardin’s dish is lovely and let’s the flavor of the meat shine.

Course Three
Roasted Sea Bream
With sunchoke, asparagus, rainbow carrots, lobster chorizo broth
The light and flaky fish was pan-seared with a crispy skin in a simple, earthy smoky broth. 

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Course Four
Pork Belly Ramen Tonkotsu
With half boiled egg., enoki mushrooms, nori, green onion, black garlic, chili oil, pork broth 

Course 4

  A true crowd-pleaser, this dish was light and flavorful with the jammy egg.

Course Five
Cheesecake Parfait
Blackberry, raspberry. white chocolate, caramel. coconut pistachio crisp, oreo cookies
Grand Marnier, creme anglaise

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This little dessert had it all… Creamy layers of fluffy whipped sweetened cream cheese layered with chocolate and coconut, berries with hints of orange. Dive straight down and pull it up for the perfect bite, Freddy told us. And perfect it was. I’d go back for that anytime.

I’d go back for any of it. Guest, John McPherson, who’s attended a number of Chef’s Table said, “I love how the chef has taken us all over the globe with this meal.”

Every course was exquisite. And that’s true for anything I’ve ever had at Bernardin’s. 

Some versions of the dishes served at A Chef’s Table are dishes that have made or will make an appearance at Bernardin’s at any given time. Lee says he loves to work with different game and changes his more adventurous offerings based on what quality ingredients he can get. “I like to work with emu and bison and different kinds of seafood,’ he says.

Lee encourages taking the leap when dining out. “Many people order off the menu but sometimes they’ll want to be surprised. That’s the best way to eat, really. Order different entrees and share them.”

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The Lee brothers also own Bernardin’s Charlotte and Blue Fin in Columbia.  And Freddy has partnerships in other restaurants as well, Trade Street Diner, Bleu Restaurant & Bar, and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse.  How he has time to cook in addition to looking after all these restaurants is a wonder. But now with his children grown, he enjoys quick trips with his wife, even out of the country, but never for very long. “I like to get out of the restaurant and travel and eat fast food,”  he laughs. “Opening restaurants is stressful but to me, I love to cook and it comes easy.  I will always be cooking.”