Cary/Umstead hotel - Heron's
My wife and I went on a whim to satisfy a mutli-course fine dining fix about a month ago. While nearly everything we had was tasty, I can only say that I felt ripped off when it was all said and done. The service was adequate but lacked the professionalism I would expect at a Mobil 4-star restaurant. One young bloke felt the need to characterize the dishes he presented as "very delicious". The sommelier, on more than one occasion, pointed out the good value of the wine he was pouring. We opted for the priciest wine pairing option. I don't want to hear that the wine is a good value (even if it is). I want to hear, "I opened this bottle especially for you."
The amuse of pan-seared oyster with mango salsa. The salsa was excellent, but I'll never understand why anyone wants to cook an oyster.
The dessert entitled "Le Cupcake". Once we got past the utter stupidity of the name (in fact, I stil haven't gotten past it), the rich chocolate mousse-like frosting suffocated a miniscule chocolate cake. A lame milk shake accompanied the cupcake. A terrible way to end the meal. Actually, there were a few mignardises. I only remember the terrible praline.
Pork and beans. Nice Korubuta pork was overcooked. Collards...yawn. I guess I'm a little sick of the upscale twist on southern cuisine that so many fine dining places do here.
Seviche of shellfish and kampachi. The portion was way too big, but the dish was excellent. I didn't think I would like mussel seviche, but I did.
Fettuccine with truffles. Pasta was freshly made and it was truffle-icious. 'Nuff said.
We won't be going back.
I just had a birthday dinner there last night (Nov 21, 2008). On a Friday night at 6:30, there were about four tables occupied and an overabundance of almost painfully helpful and effusive employees.
The meal started with a complimentary amuse bouche of a cold pumpkin puree served in a little shooter glass. The taste and preparation were fine, but we both thought it was too sweet to start with.
I had the she-crab soup as an appetizer. It was excellent. No complaints. My SO had an apple salad, which was a collection of thin julienned apple strips lightly vinegared with some apple liquor. It was served with warm camembert fried in phyllo dough. It was accompanied by a little shooter glass of apple cider. Good if you are looking for a serious apple fix. She was hoping for a little more "salad", so the description on the menu wasn't descriptive enough.
My main course was what they called lobster "soup" (the quotes are theirs). This was absolutely incredible and a highlight of my lobster dining history. A small whole lobster is butter poached, suffusing it with buttery flavor all through the meat. The meat is removed in a big chunk, with the claw meat added as well. It was floating in a lobster-infused cream base with some tiny cubes of root vegetables. I would have eaten a double helping of this if my wallet had allowed (it's not a cheap dish).
She had the pistachio crusted lamb, which was cooked nicely medium rare and dark pink. Very nice.
The big disappointment was the dessert. We ordered something called "Beggars Can't Be Choosers" and described as creme brulee and chocolate cake. It turned out to be a deep fried wrap of a crepe around some chocolate cake around some creme. Messy and not doing justice to any of the ingredients. I wish they wouldn't be cute and would just tell you what you are going to get! Oh well.
I also love the fact that you can make your own flight of small pours of any three wines by the glass. This is a great way to try some things you aren't familiar with.
The service here is almost too much. All servers help each other, so you never have to wait. Everyone adds their greetings and excuses themselves. A few times I just wanted things to appear and disappear without a fuss and a greeting. But that's being awfully picky in this day and age when any kind of attentive service is a shock.
Oh, by the way... There is no salt or pepper shaker on the table. For an interesting experience, ask for a bit of salt for your food. It's quite the surprise. And not in an embarrasing way.
Oh yes, they also threw in a complimentary glass of Prosecco for my birthday. Not extravagant, but nice. Kind of weird at the end of the meal instead of the beginning, but who am I to look a guest drink in the mouth?