Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1587 Restaurant, Manteo, NC

1587 Restaurant exterior

Situated within the Tranquil House in Manteo, 1587 Restaurant has a lot to offer. Nikki* and I had talked numerous times about heading over to Manteo to have dinner. We are in the Outer Banks quite often and for a while, we only ate at a few select restaurants because as I have said before, there is a lot of mediocre (fried) food in the area. Manteo is about a 20-25 minute drive from our house and with the summertime traffic, one can easily opt to stay closer to home. Finally, we decided it was time and made a reservation. We had to take a slightly earlier time because the 7-7:30 slot was filled. They obviously did not know who was coming....me.

The Tranquil House Inn is a quaint bed and breakfast that sits on the water in the downtown area of Manteo. Downtown translates into a few blocks, so you will not get lost trying to find the inn. Parking was easy, as a front spot awaited us. We were seated as soon as we arrived and the restaurant only had two other tables dining and a couple having drinks at the bar. The restaurant was pretty quiet until about 8-8:30, but it did fill up then, so that is potentially why they did not have a 7-7:30 time...overlapping risk.
1587 Restaurant sign

I researched 1587 online prior to visiting and when the waitress handed us the menus, a lot of the vegetarian dishes were missing. I was distraught because quite a few things looked delicious and very different from your average vegetarian fare. After fretting, I finally thought I would ask if they would make a vegetarian version of the pasta du jour. Apparently, my anxiety was in vain, as there is a separate vegetarian menu upon request. A great weight lifted off my shoulders immediately, upon seeing all of the wonderfully described selections I had found online. Always good to ask if restaurants have a separate vegetarian menu and especially with 1587’s options, even those who are not vegetarians might find something they want to try. With all of these resurrected choices, I had a hard time deciding, but finally settled on the vegetarian version of the chef’s pasta selection. My rationale was that this was a dish they might not have the next time I journey over to 1587. A tomato cream sauce and a plethora of vegetables, broccoli, squash, peppers, onions and green beans, were served over penne pasta and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. The vegetables were fresh and cooked to perfection. This was certainly a dish that was made to order. Nikki had the same dish, simply carnivore style, with beef tenderloin cooked impeccably. We began out meal with the soup of the day, chilled yellow heirloom tomato, and the black and white truffle mac n’ cheese. The soup was average, not thrilling, but the mac n’ cheese definitely made up for the soup and then some. Very rich, but a manageable portion, a side that can be very boring in some restaurants was turned into an exquisite burst of flavor. Truffle oil makes a dish. Finally for dessert, I chose the seasonal fruit cobbler. Fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries were topped with a homemade granola and served over homemade vanilla ice cream. The waitress said there was no sugar added to the mixture and she was right on when she said that makes the dish so unique. You taste the full flavor of the berries, rather than added sugar.

Other interesting menu selections include roasted butternut squash and Parmesan stuffed homemade ravioli, local tuna steak over udon noodles and white bean ragout. Tranquil House also serves Filet Mignon, braised pork "Osso Bucco" and a boneless half of chicken on their chop menu. Desserts change with the season but there are usually five to six to choose from and you cannot go wrong with any of them.

1587 Restaurant waterfront
Our table was by the window and with Tranquil House being on the water, we watched other diners and inn visitors mingle with the residents who keep their boats at the small neighboring marina. It was very pleasant, as is the town Manteo in general. Make a reservation and then arrive an hour beforehand or take some time after the meal, to stroll through Manteo.


The Tranquil House Inn and 1587 Restaurant are located at 405 Queen Elizabeth Avenue
Roanoke Island, NC 27954. For reservations, call (252) 473-1587.

1587 Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Zen Asian Fusion, Charleston, SC

Zen Asian Fusion Logo

I am particular about take-out. A bad experience locally scared me away from Asian take-out for a good while until I discovered Zen Asian Fusion while in Charleston, South Carolina. Chas* and I did not feel like cooking, but did not feel like going out to eat either. We had done Greek and then pizza recently and needed something new. He had seen a new Asian fusion restaurant not far from his neighborhood and despite my fears, I was ready for a culinary adventure.

Walking into Zen Asian Fusion was like entering a chic restaurant in New York. The decor is ultra modern with an Asian flare. The bar is exquisite with a constant low yellow glow. It catches your eye the moment you enter the restaurant. Sean*, who I assumed was the owner, might be one of the nicest people I have met. He was so pleasant, but not in a sickeningly sweet way. Rather, he was nice, but with a good, slightly sassy, sense of humor and very personable. I would imagine he is a social kind of guy.

I love vegeteable Pad Thai and knew right away that was what I wanted as my entree and Chas decided on his favorite, chicken and broccoli. Crab rangoons and the Thai calamari sounded like good starters and away our order went. We ran an errand and in 10-15 minutes, we were back at Zen and picking up our meal. At home, we excitedly pull out all of the containers and started sampling. Chas loved the calamari, which came with a mango salsa sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce. It was fried, but not overdone and the sauces were very unique. I used them on a few of the rangoons, which were also quite good. The chicken and broccoli was a hit and the Pad Thai was good, but just a tad dry. I like Pad Thai that has more moisture in the sauce. Zen does not scrimp on portions. We had enough food for the next day, which is nice. One less meal to have to plan.

A few months later, Chas and I decided we should venture over to Zen again and see our friend, Sean. I wanted to try something from the vegetarian sushi selection and the peanut avocado roll mixed two of my favorite foods. The avocado salad seemed like a winner and instead of the Pad Thai, I ordered the vegetable fried rice. Chas sought the crab calamari again and this time chose the shrimp and broccoli for his entree. We placed our order and ran to the movie store to kill a few minutes. Sean had the order ready when we returned and was as cheerful as ever. Once home and settled, we enjoyed our meal. The salad must have had an entire avocado topping lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. The fruit was as fresh and perfect as it could be. To continue my avocado theme, I enjoyed part of the peanut avocado roll. That is probably one of my top two favorite sushi variations to date. The salt of the peanuts meshes particularly well with the fruit and rice. I like Zen’s fried rice over their Pad Thai. The rice had a lot of flavor and was not dry, which fried rice can often become. Chas enjoyed the shrimp and broccoli and his now favorite calamari. Again, we had enough food for another meal.

I would like to eat at Zen my next visit. The restaurant has an allure and I would imagine service is up to par with the owner’s customer-centric personality. Prices are reasonable. Our bill both visits was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 and we walked away with a large amount of food.

On our second visit, we asked Sean how business was. He said slightly down for the weekend, but with other things going on in town, he was not dismayed. A few larger business groups were in that week and he was glad word was spreading. I do hope he makes it. The restaurant business is never easy and if anyone makes it, someone like Sean should be that person.


Zen is open daily and serves lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner daily and Sunday brunch. In Charleston, Zen is located at 2037 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard. There are also locations in Connecticut and New York.

Zen Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon