Vegans and vegetarians (and even many of us meat lovers) are cheering because Raleigh has a new all vegan and vegetarian restaurant in town! Fiction Kitchen on Dawson Street started first as a pop up restaurant at Pinhook in Durham. Executive Chef and co-owner Caroline Morrison, after getting her culinary degree from Wake Tech, worked as a line cook at many of the Triangle area restaurants, creating all kinds of unique and flavorful vegan and vegetarian dishes.
She and Siobhan Summer wanted to start a restaurant that would feature vegan and vegetarian dishes that were fresh and unique, using locally sourced and in season ingredients as often as possible. After holding a Kickstarter (crowdsourcing) campaign, they were able to get enough money to open their doors a couple of months ago and the place has been hopping ever since. It doesn’t matter what time of night you get there, chances are you may have to wait a bit to get one of the 50 seats in the restaurant. But, fear not, it is well worth the wait!
The restaurant is bright and cheery with chartreuse and tangerine colored walls, and 50′s style kitchen tables with eclectic 50′s style kitchen chairs. There’s a long bar along one side of the room and the kitchen in the back with a pass through window. We had a party of 8, which after seeing the space, I worried that we might not be able to sit together, but the staff was very friendly and accommodating and added a few extra chairs to one of the larger kitchen tables.
One of our friends had the grilled Romaine lettuce salad to start his meal and he let us try some of his dish. Wow, it was amazing! The smokiness of the grill on the Romaine lettuce gave it almost a meaty taste, and the caramelized onion and goat cheese (you can have this with cashew cheese instead to make it a vegan dish) along with the Caesar dressing gave it some saltiness and the candied nuts added just a bit of sweetness to the dish.
My husband and I tried the apple fritters, which were crispy and a deep golden brown on the outside, and a bright, fluffy yellow on the inside with sweet, fresh apples and a hint of bourbon. The only thing that may have improved this dish would have been to have a little sauce to dip the fritters in, but they were tasty nevertheless.
My husband ordered the seasonal tempah for his main entree. The pieces of tempeh were marinated in a balsamic and tamarind sauce, giving it a deep rich flavor. The pieces of tempeh were braised and served with pesto grits and kale.
I got the sweet potato sushi rolls that was served with tofu sashimi. We were very impressed with the presentation of this dish and many of the other dishes as well. The rolls were rolled in nori and were filled with diced sweet potatoes, black beans, and candied nuts. The tofu sashimi had tons of flavor and if you didn’t know any better, you would swear you were not eating tofu. That seemed to be true of many of the dishes as Fiction Kitchen. Another friend had the pulled “pork” and though its made with tofu, you would swear you were eating Eastern Carolina barbecue.
Another friend let me have a bite of her curry dish and again, it was really good! There was a nice kick of spice to it, but wasn’t unbearable, though if you ate the whole dish, you might sweat a little bit! She loved the dish. I don’t think anyone who was with us had anything they didn’t love.
Even though all of us were full, we pushed through just for you readers and had dessert too! Our friends, several of whom were vegans, remarked how great their meals were and how appreciative they were that such creative and delicious dishes were served at Fiction Kitchen. When the desserts came out I think they all knew this restaurant would be in their regular rotation of place to eat!
The vegans had a ganache truffle pie with a salted caramel sauce. The dark chocolate was rich and decedent, and the salted caramel helped to cut the richness just a bit and it added a bit more sweetness and saltiness. One of our vegan friends declared, “Now why can’t other restaurants do something like this for vegans?”
I had the non-vegan dessert, which was a beet cake with a goat cheese frosting. The goat cheese came from the Goat Lady Dairy. Oh my, was it great! The beets were very subtle and sweet and the cake also had some raisins and tasted a lot like a carrot cake. The goat cheese frosting was rich and had the sourness from the goat cheese. It was remarkable.
I can’t wait to have a chance to eat here again. I know this place will continue to be extremely popular, especially if they continue to serve such innovative, healthy and locally sourced dishes. Keep an eye on Caroline Morrison as I think she is another star chef in the Triangle!
Fiction Kitchen is located at 428 South Dawson Street in downtown Raleigh. They are open Tuesday – Thursday from 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. They hope to expand to have lunch service and possibly a Sunday brunch at a later date, so check with the restaurant for more information about that. You can like them on Facebook or follow their Twitter feed as well.