Jun 20, 2023 - Food and Drink

Cheetie Kumar's Ajja marks a delightful return to Raleigh food scene

The Ajja team, from left: Paul Siler, Cheetie Kumar, Gaëlle Laforest, Lindsay Ogden and Chris Gamble. Photo: Baxter Miller

Cheetie Kumar's new Five Points restaurant Ajja has arrived with a delightful menu that tastes like hopping across the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Driving the news: Ajja opens to the public on Thursday and is already accepting reservations.

  • We got a media preview over the weekend of the restaurant, which features a sun-soaked 1970s aesthetic, a cozy outdoor patio and a refreshing menu of fresh vegetables, skewered meats and dips.

Why it matters: Kumar is one of the most influential chefs in the Triangle and was often in the running for James Beard awards at Garland.

  • Kumar and her partner Paul Siler have been fixtures in Raleigh for two decades, playing in bands, running the music venue Kings and the bar Neptunes, making the closure of Garland last year particularly disquieting.
Ajja's menu features veggie plates, like summer squash wrapped in zucchini (left) and tomatoes and peaches (top). The grilled meats, like the lamb seekh (right), are tender and richly seasoned. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

Details: Ajja is small, meaning most of the action takes place on the restaurant's spacious patio and bar.

  • Thankfully the menu plays well with the current climate, with cool dishes, like the minty pea dip and a tomato plate featuring peaches, feta cheese and a slightly sweet sesame brittle.
  • The bread used for the dips comes from an in-house recipe fine-tuned over the last few months by co-chef Chris Gamble.
  • And the drinks menu, designed by beverage director Lindsay Ogden, also lowers the temperature, with a diverse cocktail offering and a wine list featuring less-trodded regions, like chilled whites from Croatia and Slovenia.

The grill is the center of the restaurant's menu, with tender and richly seasoned meats, like a chicken kebab, lamb seekh and spare ribs that were a popular order around the patio.

Ajja's dessert option is the Middle Eastern dish konafi. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

The meal ends with a Middle Eastern dessert called konafi that you'll want to make room for.

  • The sweet-and-slightly-savory dish features a delicate semifreddo topped with a crunchy phyllo tart, pistachios and a blueberry-lemon glaze.

Hours: 5-9:30pm Thursday-Saturday; 4-8:30pm Sunday.


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