Fiction Kitchen generated a good amount of positive buzz went it opened recently. As Raleigh’s only purely vegetarian restaurant, it clearly has a cache. I decided to try it myself on a Friday night.
I was hungry when I arrived for dinner, and I wanted to get an appetizer that paired with the entrée. This posed a dilemma.
My appetizer choices were: cornbread ($4); fruit fritters ($6); spring rolls ($6); sashimi tofu ($8); root vegetable chips ($8) or a tasting plate ($12). My entrée choices were: tacos; sweet potato sushi rolls; “chicken” and waffles; curry bowl; braised tempeh with pesto grits; BBQ “pork” or the farmer’s plate.
Trying to pair the appetizer and entrée essentially put me on two tracks; I had to either go with cornbread and one of the Southern-ish plates or go the sushi route.
I chose the cornbread, the tempeh and grits, and an Olde Hickory Brewery wheat beer.
Fiction Kitchen bakes its cornbread in-house from local cornmeal. The cornbread was well-seasoned, and the powerful, but not very sweet molasses gave it a little extra zing. My only complaint was having to pay $4 for three pieces of cornbread. True, I could have spent more for another appetizer. But, other comparable restaurants serve bread free as soon as you sit down for dinner.
The braised tempeh was good. (Tempeh is made from soybeans that are fermented in a process that binds them together, which gives it a nutty flavor. The flavor and the protein content make it a good meat substitute.)
The balsamic and tamari added to the depth of flavor. I have cooked tempeh in a variety of ways, and tried it at other restaurants. This was the most successful tempeh dish I have tasted.
The menu described the entrée as coming “with seasoned vegetables.” There were three slices of tomatoes, hardly a bounty. So, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in how much was on my plate. The grits were good. The pesto was good, too, but there was too much of it, and it overwhelmed the grits.
The star of the show was actually the beverage, the Olde Hickory hefe-weizen. This Bavarian-style wheat beer is very smooth, a little fruity and exceptionally drinkable. It is brewed with a special strain of yeast from the renowned Weihenstephaner brewery in Freising, Germany, which also makes one of the best wheat beers around. More to the point, its light character and smoothness make it an ideal beer for the summertime.
The service and atmosphere at Fiction Kitchen were good. The server was friendly, the food came out quickly, and the dining room had a very clean, bright and new appearance.
Overall, I had a good experience. Fiction Kitchen stays true to the vegetarian ethos and does a solid job of making good food within that niche. My biggest complaint is really the lack of variety in the menu.
428 S. Dawson Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27601
Hours of Operation
Tuesday – Thursday 4:30 – 9:30 pm
Friday/Saturday 4:30 – 11:00 pm
Brunch and Lunch TBA
Olde Hickory Brewery
Olde Hickory Taproom
222 Union Square, Hickory, NC 28601
Olde Hickory beers can be found at these Raleigh establishments:
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