Pacific Rim comes West?

Students lamenting the lack of variety of food on campus will soon have reason to cheer, as Duke Dining Services looks poised to introduce in less than two years, a Pacific Rim restaurant on Main West.

Jim Wulforst, director of dining services, said the new eatery's menu would be a combination of Thai, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine that would incorporate steamed and grilled items as well as soups and noodles. There might also be a Sushi/Noodle bar for quick service or take out.

Although no particular vendor has been identified at this point yet, ARAMARK Corp., which operates The Great Hall and The Marketplace, is a possible contender.

"Think of merging the infamous China Grill with P.F. Chang's," Wulforst said. "We're talking about top quality, fresh, nutritious menu items."

P.F. Chang's China Bistro and China Grill, with branches in New York, Miami and Las Vegas, are known for their stylish high-energy bistros serving American and Chinese fare.

Franca Alphin, a dietitian at Student Health, pointed out that in general, the cuisines in consideration are healthier than American food because they do not resort to nearly as much frying.

"Their diets are richer in vegetables and often lower in meat based protein," Alphin said. "The types of fats they do use in cooking, with the exception of Thai, are often healthier."

Thai food, she said, uses quite a bit of coconut milk in their cooking, which is very highly saturated.

Emma Batchelder, co-chair of the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, said that from her interactions with students over the past few years, one of the main requests for future eateries has been for greater ethnic diversity in food options, and specifically, a call for a Pacific Rim concept.

"I think this new concept could fill a specific niche on campus," Batchelder said. "The key lies in offering a wide variety so that there is something for everybody."

Wulforst said the "next generation" Pacific Rim would have an open air kitchen with everything cooked to order and spiced based on customer request. It would also feature a section of large tables, and an intimate "table for two" area out of the hustle and bustle of a large dining room.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta seemed enthusiastic about the dining concept and thought it would fit well into the West Campus student village theme.

"Every food type fits," Moneta said. "If Jim wants Pacific Rim food, I say go for it."

Senior David Chen, president of the Asian Students Association, said he thinks the new dining option will attract a diverse crowd.

"While Asian/Asian American students would appreciate ethnically Asian food in the new student [center], I think the entire Duke community would enjoy having a more diverse selection of food on campus," Chen said.

Freshman Anisa Keeratiworanan, who hails from Thailand, was thrilled to hear about the eatery.

"The food at the Marketplace is not too bad at first, but it gets worse because we have to eat there all the time," Keeratiworanan said. "I want my tom yam soup and pad thai."


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