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Revolution, Downtown Durham

A few blogs have been buzzing about a new restaurant that is set to open in Downtown Durham called Revolution. According to Bull City Rising, they're shooting for an opening the second week of October. The owner, Jim Anile, was formerly chef at Il Palio. I'm wondering if anyone here knows his cooking, and has any idea how high to set expectations. I've eaten at Il Palio 3 times: once was quite good, the other times were pretty bad. However, they've gone through a number of chefs, and I don't really know who was heading up the kitchen the various times I've eaten there.

The reason I'm intrigued is that the menu looks really interesting. You can find it at this website:


To say that it looks eclectic is an understatement. It could either be a chaotic mess, or it could be brilliant and exciting. It'll just depend on how well the dishes are executed, and I think on the service to help you figure out how you want to put your dinner together. There are several different categories of dishes to choose from on the menu, including Chilled/Raw, Small, Big, and Second Mortgage. I hope the final category doesn't turn out to be an unfortunate irony in these uncertain economic times.

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  1. Wow, the menu looks pretty incredible. I've only eaten at Il Palio once, and it was for brunch and I was not impressed. But I don't think brunch is the way to judge. I'd love to hear more about this place.

    1. I ate at Il Palio twice when Anile was chef there, and it was excellent.

      However, that doesn't mean this entirely different menu/concept is going to be any good ... and frankly, trendy stuff like this turns me off. Something about food as fashion really bugs me, but I know a whole lot of people feel very differently about that.

      It's going to be a lot of work for this to be successful, I think, but who knows. I wish him the best of luck and look forward to reports from anyone who goes there.

      5 Replies
      1. re: romansperson

        I think if he just called it a tapas restaurant no one would think of it as being trendy, but I do see your point. I really like being able to eat a few different things, which is easier to do when the plates are small, so I like this kind of eating.

        1. re: LulusMom

          Actually I consider the tapas thing a trend too! It wasn't so long ago that tapas places were unheard of in this region of the country. Then suddenly they started showing up ...

          1. re: romansperson

            I guess since I'm not from here it hadn't occured to me to think of it as a trend. Then again, I'm not from Spain so ...

            1. re: LulusMom

              Lots of tapas places have opened but hardly any (Spanish tapas places as opposed to generic small plates) survived.

              The menu is all over the place. Lots of individual items look good but I'm not sure how it would fare as a meal. I also imagine the menu structure will be confusing in practice. I imagine people will have a tough time figuring out how to compose an order (3 small, 2 big, 1 mortgage?). A lot will depend on portion sizes as well.

              The tasting menus at Il Palio were wonderful when Anile was there so I'm excited for friends on expense accounts and relatives to come to town so we could try those

              1. re: brokegradstudent

                I'd likely go with 3 small courses myself, and if still hungry share another one. I like the look of the marinated octopus salad, and think it would be great with the heirloom tomatos. But of course just getting one of the small plates and one of the big ones would make it 3 just like the normal appetizer, main type of meal.

      2. The restaurant estimates that they will open in 10 days.

        1. The restaurant opened just before Christmas. We went there last night, and we both had two small plates plus dessert. Venison carpaccio and haybail shrimp were the standouts, but the other dishes we had were very good. The waiter's suggestions for wines (by the glass based on what we ordered) were also very good. Highly recommended; we will definitely go back.

          1. I have loved Chowhound for some time (so much good insight and opinions) and Revolution finally got me to sign up and post.

            I have a small group of friends who get together every Friday night to try out different restaurants around the Triangle. We all live in Durham, so we tend to stay on the western side of the Triangle. But we all love trying new places and enjoying a cocktail with some good food wherever that ends up being.

            We had been waiting to try Revolution (they were delayed a bit in opening) and finally had a chance to go last night. It was a great experience.

            The restaurant is very beautiful. Definitely more of a modern/urban feel about it. Reminded me of many travels to NYC, DC, etc. The staff was incredibly nice. We all commented about how welcome we felt and how nice a job they were doing getting off to a good start.

            They did have a group of 18 doing a tasting dinner so our food was slow to arrive, but well worth the wait. I had the seared scallops off the raw menu. Excellent. And, yes, the haystack shrimp was a big hit.

            I had the sweet potato curry and everyone at the table had some. It was just outstanding. Other dishes tried were the Atlantic Salmon, the hanger steak, and the snapper. All entrees were quickly devoured and well reviewed by the table.

            The wine and beer lists are not extensive but offer a nice variety. Not too overwhelming, but plenty of choice.

            Overall, we will be heading back one Friday in the not so distant future. Well worth the wait for the place to open.

            1. Ok, so it's been a couple of months now - has anyone been back to Revolution? I have foodie family coming into town this weekend, and I'm making dinner plans for our Big Night Out. It's probably between Watts Grocery and Revolution. Or Piedmont, which is always a favorite. But I'm intrigued by the menu at Revolution.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ksherk

                A friend took me for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It was a fabulous meal, though I couldn't tell you what it cost. I'm sure it wasn't cheap. I don't see any of the specific dishes that I ate, on their current web menu. I started with a sashimi appetizer from the raw/chilled section of the menu (hamachi). It was velvety good and about the freshest I've had in NC. As proof, I convinced my friend to try raw fish for the first time, and she had a little epiphany. If you're going to try raw for the first time, that was a good example. For a second course, from the "Small" section of the menu I had an octopus salad. It was a generously sized salad and the flavors were very good, though the octopus was a tad on the chewy side, though I would by no means categorize it as tough. I have had tough octopus before, so I generally avoid it unless I know I'm eating where they know what to do with it. For my "entree", I had another dish from the "Small" section...a flat iron steak with a side of sauteed greens. It was tasty...cooked perfectly rare, but the greens were a tad salty. I say "iirc" because I started the meal with a cocktail that was pretty strong...then had a flyte of 3 wines chosen by the house to match the hamachi, octopus and beef courses. They gave me very generous pours that perfectly accompanied each dish...so by the time I reached the 3rd course I was feeling pretty good! On hearing that it was my birthday, I got a complementary glass of dessert wine to go along with the excellent cheese platter that I had selected for dessert (I don't have a sweet tooth). I'm trying to remember what my friend ordered. The only course I can remember was the braised buffalo. I don't think she was just being polite on account of my birthday when I say that she thoroughly enjoyed her meal.

                1. re: ksherk

                  We went to Revolution 3 weeks ago and did the 5 course tasting menu. It was fantastic! The restaurant decor was also very refreshing. You don't even feel like you are in Durham. I am looking forward to going back.

                2. I posted a message on Jan. 6 stating that we had eaten at Revolution, enjoyed it, and were going to return. We returned last Tuesday and won't go back, for the following reasons:
                  1. I chose an expensive lamb dish from the "second mortgage" listing. For the price I expected something outstanding, but it wasn't; I've had much better lamb dishes for half the price.
                  2. My wife had the fish special; it was reasonably priced but average.
                  3. Service was poor; our food was moderately warm.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: karrlink

                    I would encourage you to give Revolution another try. I've gone there four times since they opened, twice just having drinks and apps at the bar, and twice having a full dinner. We've very much enjoyed ourselves each time, though there have certainly been a few glitches. The first time we went we had reservations, but there was a substantial wait time nonetheless. However, they were very much aware of it, we never felt forgotten, and the customer service more than compensated for the wait. I can't say that every dish I have eaten there has been perfect, but all have been good, and a few have been really exceptional. Their ahi tuna tartar, for example, is so darn good that I can't get it out of my mind. And the scene and ambiance are just brilliant. It is somehow swanky and upscale without being in the least bit pretentious. There is a very diverse, vibrant crowd there, it's always full without being over-crowded, and it's great for people watching. As an added bonus, it's right next door to Pinhook, so you can have before- or after-dinner drinks over there. Overall, Revolution is a terrific addition to Durham's dining scene, and I can overlook a few imperfections, particularly when they are such a new establishment.

                  2. My wife and I went to Revolution in Durham for brunch on 5.17.09. We were not very impressed with the food and quite annoyed by the behavior of the staff. While most of the food was just OK, the rice milk flan was outstanding. The room and decor were chic, but the staff ruined the entire experience. Evidently there was no manager on duty at that time and staff behaved as such. The place was empty when we walked in and a staff of about five were watching a movie at the bar and didn't seem too pleased to give that activity up. A Jim Carey movie was blaring in the bar above the smooth jazz playing in the dining area. It was chaotic and none too pleasant. I wanted to walk out before ordering, but my wife had looked forward to trying the restaurant. We decided to order our first two courses to be brought simultaneously and ask for the movie or the music to be turned down or off after the food arrived (for fear of displeased staff tampering with our food given their evident indifference to our dining experience). The competing noise was so annoying I asked the server to lower the TV or music (I didn't really care which) before the food arrived. The staff turned down the movie for a short, delightful, amount of time before cranking it up and down every 5 minutes or so, evidently also annoying another couple that were seated after us.

                    Overall the experience was a bad one. We paid $75 to be tortured and the food and service were adequate at best.