Back in 2003 we lived in Bangkok for 6 months and ate Thai food three meals per day, every day and then traveled throughout Southeast Asia for many months including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and China – so we are fussy when it comes to Asian food!
That time period and those experiences are a big reason why we fell in love with Asian food, and to say Asian is our favorite cuisine would be an understatement, so we’re always hopeful of finding quality Asian restaurants in Raleigh to satisfy our taste buds, and wanderlust!
So, if you’re also on your phone searching for “Asian restaurants near me”, in this post we are sharing what we believe to be the top restaurants in Raleigh for Asian food that we have personally tasted, so far!
There are a lot of Asian restaurants I am still yet to try in the Raleigh area, because to be honest, we don’t have high expectations and are typically disappointed so don’t seek them out as much, unlike finding awesome BBQ joints which the state is well known for.
But, with that being said, below are the restaurants we currently vouch for from an Asian food perspective. Of course, my list is subjective, let me see your list in the comments at the bottom!
7 Top Asian Restaurants in Raleigh (so far)
We know Laos food well after spending a few weeks traveling through the country, and as far as the food and ambiance at Bida Manda goes, it is hands down our favorite spot for Asian food in Raleigh, and easily one of the best downtown restaurants in Raleigh, period.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of our favorite Southeast Asian restaurants in the USA, and we’ve been to 40 states!
Well renowned for its Laotian cuisine and showcasing the culinary traditions of Laos, Bida Manda serves a variety of authentic Lao dishes in a beautiful space with Lao-inspired decor that always takes us back to our time exploring this wonderful Southeast Asian country.
The offerings are as authentic as we’ve had in Raleigh, and one of our most recent favorite dishes in the Triangle area can be found here, and a dish we used to eat almost daily living in Bangkok – Papaya Salad.
Initially we were unsure how Crispy Dill and Lemongrass Trout would go with papaya salad, but it was a sensational combination and with the serving portion being huge, allowed for yummy lunch leftovers the next day!
Appetizers we love include the Crispy Rice Lettuce Wraps (hand-tossed crunchy coconut rice with fresh herbs, fried garlic, shallot crisp, peanuts, eggs, lime, and baby romaine lettuce), and the Crispy Chicken Wings (six crispy chicken wings served with a choice of three house-made sauces Panang Curry, Hot Sweet Chili, or Lao Spicy Roasted Habañero Peanut.
Another entree we keep falling back on is the Manda Amphone’s Curry with chicken (slow-cooked house coconut curry with fresh root vegetables, and jasmine rice).
CO at North Hills
Located at the bottom of the AC Hotel in North Hills, CO is another of our other favorite restaurants for Asian food in Raleigh. Again, it reminds us of our traveling days through Southeast Asia with their focus on contemporary twists on staples like Pho, Noodles, Banh Mi and Dumplings.
We’ve dined here a few times now, most recently on a date night in North Hills before attending the Thursday night Beach Music series and the food is consistently flavorful with large portions.
Because of our extensive travels we think we know good Asian food when we taste it and feel the quality here is pretty authentic. Our typical go to order is:
- Fresh summer rolls
- Hanoi noodles with chicken
- Pho with shrimp
Both of those entree dishes are great. The Hanoi noodles could be a touch spicier and next time I’ll be sure to request more spice, but I highly recommend this dish!
Definitely put CO on your list of cool restaurants in Raleigh. Go order one of their signature cocktails made from scratch and enjoy the contemporary decor and attentive and friendly service.
Great spot for a lunch or dinner date. Plenty of gluten-free and vegan options on offer so there’s something here for everyone.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we rank Heirloom Brewshop as one of our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh, but this Tea House and Sake bar also serves amazing Asian inspired dishes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Heirloom Brewshop is a specialty coffee shop, premium tea house, sake bar and kitchen all rolled into one with an Asian-inspired menu and aesthetics – a unique concept for Raleigh!
Founded by the husband and wife team of Chuan Tsay and Anna Phommavong, both children of Asian immigrants (Taiwan and Laos, respectively), Heirloom is located in the booming Warehouse District of downtown Raleigh on the first floor of the Dillon Building.
When you first enter Heirloom you are struck with how light, sleek and clean the space is. Then your gaze moves to the impressive wood slat ceiling, a highlight of the space inspired by traditional Asian woodwork that we saw many times on our travels through Southeast Asia.
Complimenting the space are the large street facing windows that bring in that beautiful, soft natural light.
Besides creative drinks, food is central to their creativity and offerings for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with gluten free options and menu items for vegetarians/vegans and carnivores.
Consider the Taiwanese Fried Chicken Bowl and the Chicken Rice Porridge (I added a fried egg). Other options include a “Mapo” Tofu Rice Bowl, and Salt + Pepper Tofu. And their Mochi Donuts (gluten free) are a hit too.
Six weeks of our 12-months in Asia was spent traveling through Vietnam, and Vietnamese would probably come a close second to Thai for my favorite Asian food and I miss eating authentic Vietnamese, especially Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup).
While Anise Pho is not quite like sitting in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s the best Pho in downtown Raleigh we’ve had (so far), let me know your favorite spots for Pho?
Here you can choose from typical Vietnamese classics like Pho, Banh Mi, and Spring rolls – their peanut sauce is a hit. We found the Pho to be flavorful and the portions large, and the service friendly and fast.
Indoors is quite small, but cozy, or pull up a table on the sidewalk on a nice weather day.
City Market Sushi
We love visiting the historic City Market area of downtown Raleigh for its casual restaurants like our favorite breakfast spot, Big Ed’s and one of our go-to Italian lunch places, Vic’s Italian, but if you’re seeking a slightly upscale Sushi restaurant in the heart of the city, put City Market Sushi on your list.
It might be small, but the ambiance is on point with black and white decor, decorative art adorning the walls, overhead lamps providing warm lighting, and modern wooden tables and chairs creating an intimate space perfect for a date night or dinner with friends.
On the menu are creative sushi rolls, sushi plates, nigiri & sashimi and great bento box options for lunch.
The Sushi is fresh, the flavors well-balanced (the tuna melts in your mouth), and the rolls have a lot of filling. Other popular dishes include the Soft-Shell Crab Sliders, Squid Salad, Pork belly, and Shrimp tempura.
Prices are a little on the high side for a Sushi restaurant, but the quality and presentation is definitely there. Reservations recommended for Fridays and Saturdays.
If you love Ramen, we previously interviewed the founder, Tom Mukoyama, and they specialize authentic ramen made from scratch. Each bowl is crafted in an open kitchen where you can see them prepare your ramen bowl from start to finish.
You can choose from one of their slow cooked ramen broths including the signature Pork Bone Tonkostu broth, a light soy Shoyu broth, or a pure vegetarian option broth. They have a seafood ramen and a “broth-less” dish too!
Each bowl is prepared with toppings that pair well with the different ramen noodles and different broths – Berkshire pork belly, dumplings, seafood, and even a fried chicken quarter are some of the toppings available.
Upstairs, they have a cozy Izakaya (Japanese small plate) bar where they serve craft cocktails, sake, Japanese whiskey, cold beer and even “adult” slushies. The Izakaya menu consists of small plates that are great for sharing.
Popular items are the pork belly buns, soy marinated crispy chicken, and spicy tender miso wings that are grilled over an open flame.
For dessert, they have matcha mochi doughnuts served with chocolate ganache and a blackberry apple brandy sauce or a savory ice cream made from black sesame seeds and served with a bit of waffle for fun.
Most popular dish on their menu is the Tonkotsu Ramen Bowl – the broth is a slow cooked pork bone broth that they simmer for 20+ hours. It’s served with a specialty heritage Berkshire pork belly and house-made pork/shrimp dumplings.
The ramen noodle is a straight white wheat noodle (vs yellow curly) that balances with the broth. A soft, cooked soy egg and some roasted root vegetables complete this dish.
As for Tom, he loves their Izakaya Chicken Karage – it’s Tonbo’s version of a chicken nuggets/popcorn chicken.
Five Star Restaurant
Surprisingly, I’ve only just dined at Five Star for the first time after being recommended to this restaurant many times and knowing that it is popular with locals.
Upon arrival, they had a parking lot that validates your parking for 2-hours which is nice considering it’s getting harder to park in downtown Raleigh.
I dined in early, 5pm as I had an event to attend to and initially I was the only one in the restaurant but as I was finishing my meal the place was filling up and I enjoyed the atmosphere and vibe – apparently, they are known for their cool background music.
Five Star Restaurant is named after the owner’s grandfather, General FM Hsu, who was the equivalent of a Five Star General in the U.S. Army and who served in the Republic of China (Taiwan) armed forces.
When I dine out, I always ask the hostess and servers what their signature dishes are, what’s popular, and tend to stick with those suggestions on a first-time dining experience, and they gave good suggestions.
For my appetizer I had the Pork Dumplings which were tasty and cooked nicely, my daughter loves dumplings so I’m happy I found her another place to try!
And for my entree, I went with the Crispy Sesame Beef with steamed rice (you can choose chicken). I love beef, and I love sesame, and it was crispy and tasty! Some of the beef strips were a little over cooked to my liking but overall, another very satisfying dish.
Many of their items can be made gluten free, and Tofu and Tempeh substitutions are available. And the prices are very reasonable for such large portions.
The bar area looks inviting, the interior decor is very interesting and worth checking out, and their outdoors space seems like it would be lovely for dinner and cocktails on a nice evening. I’m looking forward to trying more dishes here.
Seoul Garden (Korean)
We haven’t been to Korea, yet, and I’m not that familiar with thier style of food so thank you to everyone in our community who emailed and left comments on Instagram suggesting we try Korean food at Seoul Garden.
I ordered the Boiled Dumplings for my appetizer which comes with all these sides, and for my entree the Woo Guh Ji Tang; Beef ribs, Korean cabbage with sliced jalapeno, green onions, and soy beansprouts in a spicy beef broth.
While Caroline ordered the Bibimbap; assortment of lightly seasoned vegetables (daikon radish, bean sprout, carrot, zucchini, watercress, and sweet potato stem), topped with a fried egg. Served with rice and Korean red pepper paste sauce on the side.
Both those dishes were a great introduction into Korean food as suggested by the manager, Joanne (tell her we sent you), and I’m looking forward to trying more menu items here, and using the grill at the Raleigh location to prepare my own foods, or should I get the chef to take care of that?
Asian Restaurants near Raleigh
Kababish is a unique and tasty dining experience in Cary as they create dishes that are authentic Pakistani and Indian with western adaptation, all made from scratch!
Locals in Cary recommended this to us as one of the best Indian Restaurants in the Raleigh area and from the minute we walked in the stylish interior and beautiful ambience made a positive impression, as did the warm customer service.
Located in downtown Cary, Kababish focuses on authentic, modern Pakistani cuisine, serving up generous portion sizes so your table can share dishes if you are new to this type of food.
They offer a richly-varied menu of fresh, natural ingredients, wholesome sauces and flavorful spices and are well known for their range of Vegan options!
Taipei 101 (Cary)
When our Chinese friend said this is one of her go to spots for the best Chinese in Raleigh I listened.
Taipei 101 is a popular Chinese restaurant specializing in cooking from the Sichuan and Taiwanese regions, plus a dim sum menu.
We ordered to-go from here several times during the pandemic and have eaten inside once. There’s plenty of seating and it’s always pretty packed which is a good sign and the criteria we use when in Asia – if the locals are eating here, it must be good!
My go-to is the Beef Hot Pot which is HUGE and I always have leftovers for lunch the next day!
We have dined at other Asian restaurants in Raleigh, but the above are the places we keep going back to. Now it’s your turn, what do you think are some of the best restaurants in Raleigh for good Asian food? Share in the comments below!