Zinda, meaning “Alive” in Hindi, is Eschelon Hospitality’s newest addition to the Raleigh restaurant scene. Zinda offers traditional, innovative dishes featuring Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and other Asian cuisines. This New Asian style restaurant opens to the public on Friday and Saturday for dinner and regular business hours begin Tuesday, September 4.

I attended Friends and Family Night at Zinda for a foodie sneak peek. Before trying the delicious food, Amber and I enjoyed a glass of white wine at Zinda’s sleek bar. The friendly bartender, Mikey, then took us on a tour of Zinda’s dining rooms, two bars and the second floor mezzanine. Zinda plans to turn the second floor mezzanine into a late night dance floor, which overlooks the first floor dining rooms. The décor throughout the restaurant is unique and eye-catching, including root balls hanging from the ceiling and a private dining room ordained with a wall of golden Buddha statues. Eschelon Hospitality owner G Patel, also explained to me that he strives to support the local movement and used wood from the oldest barn in Greenville for Zinda’s floors. The atmosphere of Zinda is unlike any other restaurant in Raleigh, mixing New Asian culture, Southern hospitality and most importantly, class.

Amber, Autumn, Courtney and I made our way to one of the private dining rooms to enjoy a three course dinner. The rosemary tandoori chicken is a dish not to be missed. The aroma of the dish and beautiful color were enough to make my mouth water. I topped the warm, oven-baked naan with the tender rosemary tandoori chicken and cilantro chutney. It was love at first bite!

The “shaking beef” was my favorite first course dish, Zinda’s version of the Vietnamese “Bo Luc Lac.” I wrapped pickled red onion and juicy wok tossed beef inside a piece of fresh butter lettuce. The lime black pepper dipping sauce was delicious and added a tangy element to the dish.

For the second course we ordered the Singapore style laksa. The dish was a brilliant yellow color, with a fresh seafood smell. The plump shrimp and rice noodles were served in a rich lemongrass scented spicy coconut milk. The bean sprouts, fried shallots and cilantro were nice additions to the dish and helped to cool my palate. I enjoyed the mixture of sweet and spicy in the Singapore style laksa.

We also tried the crispy chana with roasted beets. The cumin scented chickpeas added a nice crunch factor to the baby arugula salad. The yogurt cucumber dressing was refreshing and paired well with the spices used in the dish.

For the third course we tried the shrimp and grits, a New Asian spin on this traditional low country, Southern dish. Succulent shrimp and Chinese sausage in an egg garlic sauce were served over a bed of lemongrass grits. The dish was delicious and innovative; Zinda’s chefs have successfully married Southern and New Asian.

The colorful mango bison dish was sweet and tender. Wok tossed bison in a rich dark sauce was served with mango, bell pepper and red onions. I highly recommend this dish if you’re looking for a perfect combination of sweet and savory.

The eggplant makhani finished with cilantro chutney and yogurt was amazing. Words really can’t explain how much I loved this dish. Eggplant was layered with spinach and Zinda’s fresh paneer, a South Asian cheese. The spiced tomato sauce served over the eggplant was creamy and delectable. I almost asked for a basket of naan to soak up the remainder of the sauce, I wanted to eat every last drop! I even had a dream about this eggplant last night. Tuesday can’t get here fast enough; I need more of this dish in my life.

Zinda’s head chef, AJ Faung, and Eschelon’s culinary director, John Anderson, worked hard to develop Zinda’s incredible menu. Friends and family night was a great way to showcase their talent as well as the beautiful new restaurant. I’m positive the atmosphere of Zinda will overwhelm you and the food will excite your taste buds. You won’t want to miss the opening of Zinda.

Written by local Foodie, Kristen.