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Triangle: Vin Rouge Update

  • d

I paid my fourth or fifth visit to Vin Rouge this weekend. My initial enthusiasm is souring just a bit. The room and the menu admirably resist the trendy and the fusiony, but my quibbles with the cuisine are growing. First, I find just about everything on the menu a tad or more than a tad too salty. In more than one instance I've felt that dishes have been ruined by oversaltiness. I have no problem with salted food, so the problem is not my own unusual sensitivity. Second, I find the desserts mediocre. The chocolate tart is good, but everything else is so-so at best. This weekend I tried the chocolate mousse special. It was gummy and sweet, rather than light and bitter -- one of the worst chocolate mousses I can recall. The place is still worth visiting, but one must not expect an unmixed pleasure.

David A.

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  1. My suggestion is to walk a few hundreds yards down Ninth St. and see if you can grab a small table near the bar at Magnolia Grill. MG's own coffee (which you can buy at Whole Foods) and Karen Barker's desserts are always a treat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sant

      I second Sant's emotion. I have always been an advocate of getting dessert at Magnolia - they are only a dollar or two more expensive than anywhere else nearby, and at least twice as good.
      Vin Rouge never seems worth the money to me, except maybe at brunch.

    2. vin rouge (just like any of giorgio's restaurants) is deeply mediocre and inexplicably popular. i agree about the desserts and the seasoning of the food. I feel like Durham is seeing so many new and interesting places open up that there really is no need to visit a place like VR anymore

      1. I've only been for brunch (about three times over the last two years) and it's been quite good -- their hollandaise is v. tasty on Eggs Florentine -- very lemony, fresh...last visit was about three weeks ago. I do prefer dining on the patio to the restaurant itself -- more room, less NY-claustrophobic-feeling. Never have been to dinner there, as I'm not a fan of French cooking/beef.....

        1. Since this thread has been resurrected, I'll join in. I wasn't very impressed with anything at Vin Rouge until my last visit (several months ago), when I had the skate special. I'd never had skate before, and this was a simple dish (breaded skate in brown butter) that was really, really good. I've had skate twice at good restaurants since then, where the preparation/presentation was fancier, and I didn't like it as much as what I had at Vin Rouge. I didn't have a dessert this last time--before that I'd had the mousse scooped out of the big tureen (ho-hum, as I recall), and what was billed as a tarte tatin, but which seemed more like a giant apple dumpling.

          1. I also feel that Vin Rouge is consistently good with outstanding moments since chef Matt Kelly took over. I've had the chocolate mousse in question and found it to be delicious, and I am extremely critical of local restaurants. It is quality French bistro fare and stands out from all of George's other restaurants in that it is the least phony of them and the food has soul which the others lack.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tablewines

              I really want to try Vin Rouge again now that I've been hearing it's changed. The patio there is really one of the nicest outdoor places to dine in Durham. I think that several of the restaurants in George's "group" are more independently run now. I do believe his group is still involved in owning Jujube, but Charlie is in charge of the food there, not George, so it's very different. Same for Vin Rouge? What I didn't know until recently is that the Fed, James Joyce and Alivia's are all supposedly owned and run by the same guy. In my opinion, the food and service at the Fed are far superior to that at Alivia's. That place is still such a mess in terms of service, but it's a fun place to go at night after a movie and sit outside.

            2. I went for my second time this past Wednesday night. It was a dinner w/a group of consultants on an expense account and we ate accordingly (cost was pretty much no object). The restaurant was only about half full and we were seated promptly outside as we requested. I found the wait staff to be very nice, prompt, and professional. While I was not overjoyed w/the charcuterie (sp?) plate of mixed meats as one of our apps and the hangar steak was just so-so (should have ordered the strip instead), the whole experience was really pleasant. The five of us ordered 4 appetizers, two bottles of wine, a round of cocktails, entrees, desserts, AND after dinner drinks. The lemon tart was really tasty---not overly sweet, just the right amount of tang in the custard, and light pastry. Overall, may not rank as one of my top meals as far as flavor but it was still an enjoyable experience.

              1. My wife and I go to Vin Rouge about once a month--almost always on Thursday because it offers sweetbreads, which are very rarely found at restaurants in the area. When we go on another night I get the sauteed liver and occasionally the escargots, two more rarely found dishes. My wife (who doesn't like any of those) is very fond of the cassoulet, which is occasionally offered, and the bouillabaisse. We both recommend the pommes frites.

                1. We took my parents to Vin Rouge Sunday night. While we love the patio, they thought it was just a little too steamy to sit outside, so we went for the red room. We all had different dishes, except that several of us got the soup du jour. The tomato-fennel-saffron soup was excellent - hot, tasty, great portion - almost too much as a first course, but I was just having salad, so it was great. My dad (a European) was excited about the Steak Tartar. Hub had the special of ratatouille over frites with fried eggs. Some might consider this strange, but I thought it was a delicious guilty pleasure and stole several bites. He also had the goat cheese tart as an app, which I thought was fine, but not fantastic. The salads were yummy and my son went nuts over the mac and cheese. Okay, so they don't have the best desserts in the world - we didn't have room anyway. I'll be back, and soon. If you haven't have a glass of wine on their patio, you haven't enjoyed the best outdoor spot Durham has to offer.