Durham-Fantastic Meal at Vin Rouge
I've seen some very mixed postings for Vin Rouge off Ninth Street by Duke's East Campus. A friend and I went there last night for dinner. We both LOVED it. Although we were seated outside on the patio and it was a hot and steamy evening (in all fairness, they gave us a choice to sit inside or out and we chose outside), the meal I had was about the best I've had in the Triangle. We started off w/the Shrimp Provencal, kind of like a scampi where the shrimp is baked in olive oil, fresh garlic, tomatoes, and parsley. It was divine---simple yet so flavorful. My entree was the Steak and frites, a sizeable serving of NY strip and perfectly cooked french fries. It seems like such a simple meal, but the steak was perfectly done to order (medium) w/the carmelized crust and a hint of butter. The fries were the shoestring kind and seasoned just so w/salt and pepper. I think they must have cooked them in peanut oil b/c they were really flavorful and crispy. My friend ordered the flounder, one of the fish of the day items, and she loved it as well. We finished the meal off w/chocolate mousse, served to you tableside from a big bowl. The bittersweet chocolate melted in my mouth.
The service was great---not too imposing yet not forgetting us. Overall a very pleasant experience!
Went on Tuesday to the wine dinner they held, featuring a small producer from Beaujolais (wines from Southern Season, the joint "host" of the dinner). Five courses, featuring duck (except dessert). Duck fat with herbs for the bread, two kinds of duck pates (pate and rilette) as appetizer, salad of frisee with lardons, but the dressing was duck fat and vinegar, the "lardons" were duck bacon, and the egg was poached, not fried. Then the entree of sliced rare duck breast fanned over spaetzle and cabbage, with an amazing reduction from the Julienas served with the duck, and finally a gelee along side berries in what was not aspic, but rather a Beaujolais infused "jelly". The plating was really lovely, and the portions were perfectly sized for a weekday multi-course wine dinner. The chef did some astonishing things, and with wine it was $69 plus tax and tip per person. When a chef this good puts himself out, and the staff does as well, Vin Rouge is a real local treasure, going beyond what "the Giorgio Group" generally has on offer. They will try to do some more of these, with French regional cuisine and wine to match.
I very much appreciate and enjoy the traditionalist approach of Vin Rouge, but I've found it a bit inconsistent. On several occasions, I've had dishes that were almost inedibly oversalted, and I don't think much of the desserts. I adore the idea of pure-bred French bistro, but Vin Rouge only half delivers. All of this being said, it remains one of my favorite restaurants in the Triangle.