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Bright Lights, Tiny City

May 21, 2008

With summer not far off, I’ve noticed a smorgasbord (forgive the topical analogy) of new restaurants popping up.  One thing these newly minted culinary spots have in common:  They all make me feel like I’m in a big city.  If I didn’t know better, I’d assume to walk out of any one of these places to find a skyscraper towering over me, making me feel tiny and anonymous and thrilled.  I appreciate these restauranteurs for their gumption, for their vision that Asheville will be a gastronimical metropolis, by jove!

Cucina 24

I pretty much loved this place.  There were a few glitches- the front door was accidentally locked at 8pm on a Saturday night and the hostess was completely absent for 10 minutes before greeting me.  Otherwise, I could not be more excited about the opening of this new Italian venture.  I’ve only eaten here once, so this won’t be a totally thorough account.  The list of starter platters was enormous, and I had trouble choosing.  My girls and I split a few morsels:  chicken liver on crostini and fava bean pate.  Both of these were rich and colorful, we were completely delighted. 

We moved on to Primi, going for Bucatini Carbonara and Sweet Pea Agnolotti with mint and pancetta.  The Agnolotti was sweet and salty and excellent.  Carbonara, though simple, is high on my list of favorite dishes ever, but I was disappointed with Cucina 24’s version.  First of all the Bucatini is one of only two pastas they do not make in house, and it showed.  The hollow noodle was far too thick and starchy for this dish, which thrives with the bouncy, heartier spaghetti noodle.  In my experience, Roman chefs do not use Bucatini noodles for their Carbonara, so I don’t understand why Asheville’s Italian chefs are so fixated on it. 

The house Chardonnay was formidable, and I appreciated the flavors of their Olive Oil Cake.  You will too if you like greasy cake, which apparently I do.  Mostly, I was entranced by the ambiance, and the energy of Cucina 24.  Located in the touristy-yet-still-hip block of Wall Street, the metropolitan feel of Cucina 24’s environment and patrons was thrilling.  I will definitely return for more. 

I also noticed the opening of The Corner House Cafe, in the S&W Cafeteria building on Patton.  I didn’t eat there, but I grabbed a menu and perused the very basic and potentially blah offerings of eggs, biscuits, omelets, wraps and sandwiches.  The Corner House is open for breakfast until 10:30, and then lunch until 2pm.  Although the environment is tre chic urban, the food appears decidedly southern diner.  I’ll have to actually taste it soon, so I can put my mouth where my mouth is.   But when the house soup is French onion, my experience is that the rest of the menu will probably lack in ingenuity where it makes up for in sodium counts.  We shall see.

Also, the obviously dubbed Steak and Wine is scheduled to open this weekend, I believe, right next store.  I’m happy to see this beautiful art deco building put to use once again, but admittedly I was hoping it might be an Ethiopian restaurant, or Lebanese.  Rather than Southern American, yet again.   Anyway, things are looking up for culinary Asheville this summer.  Enjoy!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. the dj permalink
    May 21, 2008 4:00 pm

    Cucina 24 has an awesome, energetic decour: kitchen bar, lit stairway, hidden nooks for tables, overall modern but comfortable feel with one of the best window displays in Asheville. I’ve noticed more kitchen bars around town lately, most notably at Stovetrotters near Biltmore Village and the French Broad Brewery.

  2. May 22, 2008 9:37 am

    Are there any Ethiopians in the Asheville area? Maybe you should bring some marketing brochures up here to entice someone to open an eatery of their homeland in your neck o the woods.

    What’s been happening in your kitchen and on your grill?

  3. May 22, 2008 4:08 pm

    Thanks for the updates, although your dislike for breakfast puts a bit of sadness in my heart. I could eat breakfast for every meal (and some days do).

    Anyway, rumor has it there’s a chicken-and-waffles place going in somewhere on Biltmore Ave., and (this one’s not a rumor) there’s a new ice cream shop opening where Outspoken Books was in West Asheville. Hooray!

  4. catma permalink
    May 23, 2008 2:18 pm

    Cocina 24 is the first Italian meal I’ve had in Asheville since Modesto took cannelloni off the menu that I left NOT feeling like I wanted to crawl into a down-feather cave and slumber for a few months. I actually felt like prancing. The textures and flavors were incredibly enjoyable. I loved the fact that I had no idea it was 11:30 and we were still sitting there ordering food. I think it is part of the lack of late night dining in Asheville that most restaurants feel the need to hurry things along with anything ordered after 8:30. I don’t know if the slow food experience was intentional, or server confusion (there was obviously a bit of this), but I kind of enjoyed it. Another detail, and I am sure this is due to being new, there was an overwhelming air of social awkwardness with the staff.

  5. catma permalink
    May 23, 2008 2:19 pm

    ok, maybe it was 10:30 we were still ordering food.

  6. ashevegan permalink
    June 1, 2008 8:12 pm

    i think the carbonara at cucina is one of the most subtle and daring carbonara’s i have ever had. it reminded me of my family’s from the old country. well done, and high points for degree of difficulty.

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