After too many hours stuck in traffic jams in Los Angeles, Excellent chef alum Katsuji Tanabe has changed California to North Carolina with the promise of more space for his young family in the Triangle. Unfortunately, his timing coincided with the pandemic, and it forced his first Raleigh restaurant, High Horse, to close in the summer of 2020. But now he’s ready to go again with Mexican restaurant A’Verde Cocina and Tequila Library. in Cary.
Why Mexican? Tanabe was born in Mexico City to Mexican and Japanese parents, so he grew up eating many of the dishes that will be on the menu at A’Verde. The food will be a combination of modern Mexican cuisine with Japanese techniques. “I’m not trying to do a fusion, but I was raised with soy sauce, fish sauce and togarashi in the kitchen,” he says, “So it’s Mexican food in through the lens of a Mexican-Japanese chef.”
Tanabe pushes the flavors, as its corn husks combine with chili peppers, nori, sesame seeds and orange zest. “I’m not trying to make carne asada sushi rolls,” he says, “I create layers of flavor with Japanese umami and balance it with limes, chili peppers, and Mexican spices. ”
“All dishes have a story,” he says. 90% of what customers order will be plates inspired by his father, mother and grandmother. Tanabe even predicts that his grandmother’s cornbread will be a smash hit at A’Verde. “It’s like cornbread gone bad,” he laughs, “It’s got tons of sugar, tons of butter, cheese, and fresh corn.” Other dishes mentioned on the menu include octopus tacos, enchiladas, and many local vegetables, from okra to butternut squash.
In addition to Tanabe’s fare, A’Verde will also offer an extensive selection of tequila which the restaurant team says may be the largest collection in the Triangle, if not the state.
Although an opening date is yet to be set, A’Verde will most likely open at 2300 Walnut Street in Cary before spring 2022. The 5,500 square foot space will accommodate 250 to 300 people. Tanabe says he is excited to open a family place in the area.
• Top Chef Katsuji Tanabe Shutters Raleigh Restaurant High Horse
• A’Verde Cocina and Tequila Library