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Over the past several years, while downtown Raleigh has grown dramatically, so have other popular areas within the city limits. North Hills is a perfect example of what’s come about in the Triangle. The addition of the new North Hills East area has brought about a slew of fun restaurants like Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, Chuy’s, Capital Grille and more. The newest restaurant on the block is the new CO Restaurant located at the base of the AC Hotel! A smaller chain of restaurants with eight locations in the Southeast, CO Raleigh opened on March 17 and I was able to get in for a media lunch and visit. And while the glam decor may immediately catch the eye, I was so happy to find that its food exceeded my expectations…
From the outside, CO throws off a super modern and chic face to the street. Both the front and side of the restaurant front is lined by large glass windows and highlighted by some bright red signage above. And once you get inside, that theme of gray, black and red continues. The dining room is quite modern with a large bar and funky sitting area to the right, main dining room and side dining room to the left. Seating is primarily in red and black leather with some neon lighting to the side. The whole space feels a bit clubby and fits in quite well with the ambiance created by the AC Hotel it’s located in.
For our media visit, we’re pretty much given the entire menu to choose from which is a wonderful luxury. What’s interesting is that CO has the same menu for lunch or dinner with entrees in the $10 to $15 range, very affordable! Choose from dumplings, banh mi, noodles, rice, along with poke bowls and a handful of desserts. There’s also a nice selection of appetizers which are discounted for CO’s happy hour, 4 to 7pm from Monday to Friday. (Note: I came back in a week after my first media visit and paid out of pocket, this post covers both visits.)
For the small plates, I managed to try both the pork belly buns and Malaysian chili wings. The pork belly buns were spot-on, nicely steamed and showing off some unctuous belly paired against crisp cucumber and shredded carrots. A delicious start and things only got better with the wings! CO’s Malaysian wings are sticky-good, perfectly tender and tasty. At five to a plate, it makes an excellent starter for two people but you may be fighting over that 5th wing!
And now on to CO’s entrees which are fantastic! CO has managed to serve up Asian cuisine that’s been fancied up a bit but stays true to its roots. The delicious com chien (Vietnamese fried rice) is a heaping portion of fried rice packed with edamame, chicken and sausage. Adding the optional fried egg on top makes it a wonderful meal, there is a lot of food here. I also tried the Hanoi noodles with curry. This fragrant dish is loaded with zucchini, onion, shrimp, sausage and is again, super filling and tasty. I love how that even with the upscale environs, CO keeps the food real and plentiful for diners…
My tablemate’s chicken hibachi also looks wonderful, served with black sesame seeds and a wonton on top with two sauces on the side. All of CO’s dishes are colorful and well presented, making them pleasing to the eye and stomach. And I ended up bringing home leftovers from both visits. I’m looking forward to future meals and working through the banh mi and small plates menu!
Even with all that food, we are totally tempted by dessert and CO has four options, all at $5 (very reasonable). A big thumbs-up for the crispy cheesecake wontons and strawberry spring rolls, two plays on traditional dishes. The strawberry spring rolls are served with a nutella dipping sauce, wonderful! And the perfectly fried wontons are beautiful crimped brown purses filled with creamy, lemon cheesecake. Slide them into the cream sauce and you’ve got some yum on your fork…
Over the course of my two meals at CO Raleigh I’ve been impressed with the service here. While the staff seems a bit new, they are well-trained and friendly. So I can honestly say I was very pleasantly surprised at both my CO Raleigh meals. I had expectations given the location and decor that the menu would be a bit over-priced, that’s been my usual experience at North Hills. BUT CO is anything but, offering spun-up, gourmet Asian cuisine with great presentation and taste without breaking the bank. And it all stays true to the food’s roots which is a nice change of pace to me. So thanks so much CO for doing so many things right! So happy to have you in the city and can’t wait to get back for visit #3..
101 Park at N Hills Street
Raleigh, NC 27609