Brewery Bhavana (Raleigh, NC)

Beer + Chinese comfort food = a somehow perfect combo

8/10

I was very pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. The restaurant features several different aspects that you would never expect to work so well together, yet they do. The interior features a living wall, small library, flower shop, and beer tap with 25+ different brews, and the cuisine is classic Chinese food heightened with certain elements. You would expect this combo to be weird and unfitting but instead felt incredibly inviting and comfortable. There was a beautiful skylight in the center of the restaurant with a nice and airy feel from the white brick walls and semi-open floor plan. You may think that eating right next to a flower shop would make you feel cluttered and out of space, but it felt extremely comfortable and inviting. For these reasons (and more), it was voted one of the top 10 prettiest restaurants in the country, and the food parallels the atmosphere.

In my opinion, you can’t have bad Chinese food, and if you do it has to be really, really horrible…like makes you sick bad…but this restaurant was one of the best high-quality Asian meals I’ve had to date. We ate family style (what else would you do?!) and mainly split the small appetizers because they all sounded so amazing. I would definitely love to go back and try the larger dishes such as their lo mein so I could do more of a comparison against the top-notch Chinese restaurants in Austin like Wu Cow, but based on the meal I had it wouldn’t be fair to compare the two.

Cabbage rolls and duck/vegetable spring rolls

First up were the rolls! The cabbage rolls were definitely of the best I’ve ever had: the pork was cooked perfectly inside and was loaded with flavor, and the cabbage was somehow tender yet crunchy (if that even makes sense?!). The spring rolls were also to die for. I don’t think I’ve had duck spring rolls before, but the soft, juicy duck is the perfect addition to your classic spring roll.

Scallion pancakes

Next up, one of my personal favorites: scallion pancakes with bone marrow and coconut and oxtail jam. The scallion pancakes were just like you’re classic ones but a bit fluffier, which made the perfect base to top with bone marrow and the oxtail jam, which was sooooo tender and juicy. The flavor in this dish was so unique and complex– the richness from the bone marrow was cut well from the strong ginger and coconut flavor in the oxtail and absorbed perfectly into the already delicious scallion pancake. This dish is an absolute must, and I would honestly come back just to eat this again.

Pork and chive shumai

Next up, another favorite, pork and chive shumai topped with caviar. Ok, for starters, look how freaking beautiful this dish is. We all know phone eats first (already hate myself for typing that), but this was a dish I was particularly interested to try because I was intrigued to know how well the caviar paired with the dish, and let me say, it was the perfect addition. That little burst of salty flavor was the cherry on top of an already delicious dish, and if caviar isn’t your thing, it is super easy to take off and was still a delicious dish without it.

This dish was the obvious winner for my mom. The seafood dumplings were so creamy and rich: lobster, shrimp, and scallop dumplings served in a black mushroom sauce. That’s already so rich and delicious in and of itself right? Well, they’re also served with savory donuts to soak up all that delicious sauce– brilliant on the chef’s part. I’ve never had anything quite like this at a Chinese restaurant before, and it is another dish I know I will crave in the future and want to fly back to Raleigh for.

We also ordered the crab rangoons, which were much higher quality than your typical one (made with blue crab meat!!) and stood out mainly for the homemade sweet and sour sauce!!

Soup Dumplings

Ok, now at this point you’re probably a bit surprised why I keep throwing out compliment after compliment but the score is relatively moderate…. and I have to blame the soup dumplings for this. Our waitress claimed these were “really unique” and one of her “favorite dishes.” At this point, I would consider myself a soup dumpling connoisseur since most high-quality ATX Chinese restaurants serve them, so when she brought out some of the most average soup dumplings I’ve ever tried, I was really disappointed. On top of that, they supposedly have crab in them (which I couldn’t taste in the slightest) and are $3 each and TINY.

Despite the soup dumpling disappointment, it was, all in all, a great vibe, a great meal, and great interior design. Who would’ve thought that beer paired so well with Chinese food (but beware bc it makes you twice as bloated lol), and the unique and high-quality aspects in every dish make the restaurant stand out even farther above the rest? I will be back–just won’t be getting the soup dumplings :/.

For all my NC friends, lmk if you get the chance to try this restaurant/have before!!! Definitely a great place to take your parents, or splurge with friends!!!

-Ari

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