Drawing its culinary inspiration from the region South of the Tropic of Cancer, Raleigh’s SoCa, offers a delightful mashup of Latin and Caribbean inspired street food paired with an outstanding selection of wine.
Elevated International Cuisine
We’re always up for exploring unique restaurant experiences. Last month was Triangle Restaurant Week, so we headed to SoCa, a Latin-inspired Raleigh restaurant that we viewed through the windshield, but had never visited.
SoCa has carved out a unique culinary perch, focusing on cuisine from locales south of the Tropic of Cancer, a geographic dividing line that runs just north of the equator. That adds up to an eclectic menu that includes dishes from more than 20 different countries. Dishes include Guatemalan Ceviche de Camaron, Jamaican Lamb Patties, Peruvian Tiradito de Pescado and Brazilian Feijoada, to name just a few.
The restaurant is one of just 11 Wine Spectator Award winners in Raleigh. We were all smiles as we saw the finely crafted wine list featuring a wide array of southern hemisphere wines.
SoCa, located at 2130 Clark Ave, Raleigh, in the Cameron Village area, has an inviting energy. Servers whisk past with trays of food, guests unwind with friendly chatter at the bar, wine bottles are opened and food sizzles as cooks work in view of the customers.
It was a hot summer day in Raleigh (imagine that!) and so we first wanted a drink to chill down. What better way than a sparkling Brut rosé? We selected the Viña Underagga from Chile’s Central Valley. Not only are South American wines delicious, but they are typically great values as well.
I opted for the three-course Triangle Restaurant Week special and my first dish was Caramelized Pear Empanadas, with savory pastry, Manchego cheese, chorizo and toasted almonds. This dish was not only a sweet and savory explosion of flavors, it was artistically plated. It was a treat for the eye and the palate – something that was true for each dish we had at SoCa.
The evening was a bit toasty outside, but we plan to sit out on the patio during our next visit. It looks like an ideal vantage point to watch the world go by while sipping a glass of wine. SoCa also offers free valet parking, something greatly appreciated by us and certain to remove the “do you see any parking spaces” anxiety from your evening.
Done with my ruminations while gazing out the window, I was ready to pick a red wine to go with my entree. We like to try new and different wines (hey, it’s what we do!) but SoCa has you covered even if you don’t. They offer lists of SoCa reds and whites, focusing on countries in their geographic bullseye, but also have lists of global reds and whites featuring outstanding choices from the rest of the world. For example, they feature Cabernet Sauvignon by Sleight of Hand in Washington State and Ty Catton in Moon Mountain, Sonoma, as well as Albariño from Rias Baixas in Spain and a good selection from France.
To accompany my Grilled Adobo Pork Tenderloin I selected the 2015 Alto Limay Pinot Noir from Patagonia. I’ve been wanting to try a Pinot from this up and coming Argentine region. At SoCa I was able to do so by the glass. The pork dish had poblano pepper slaw, charred pineapple, salsa verde and lime. The Pinot had notes of cranberry, minerality and a touch of cocoa. It was a nice pick to go with my entree as well as my wife’s seafood dish.
A Sweet Ending
It was no contest for the dessert selection. The Restaurant Week menu offered Choco-Latte which, by its description, promised to raise the bar on decadence. Videri dark chocolate cake is topped by whipped mascarpone and Brazilian brigaderos (a chocolate fudge ball!) and accompanied with raspberry purée and chocolate chunk coffee ice cream.
The dessert delivered in spades. Rich chocolate accented with tart berries and creamy coffee goodness – an outstanding way to end our dinner.
There’s a lot to like about SoCa. The cuisine is at a very high level: well prepared and beautifully presented. The menu is also thoughtfully composed with surprising and inviting dishes, most of which you won’t encounter elsewhere and certainly not all together. The wine list is well designed and contemporary in style. Other restaurants may have more voluminous lists, but they likely don’t have some of the great selections featured at SoCa. It has everything to make a wine lover keep filling glass after glass.
SoCa Cocina Latina gets our highest recommendation. Whether you want to explore the world or just have a great meal, head south of the Tropic of Cancer!