Best New Restaurant in the Triangle 2009
Of the new, nice, places that have opened in 2009 which one is really firing on all cylinders? I'm wondering about Revolution, Cypress on the Hill, or Solas, to name a few.
I can't disagree more with the negative comments regarding Revolution. I have tried close to half of the items on their menu. Of the dishes I have tried, a couple have been mediocre, most have been very good, and several have been fantastic. The ahi "poke" tuna appetizer with the wasabi caviar, for example, is currently my favorite dish at any restaurant in this area. Most of all, the vibe of the place can't be beat anywhere in the Triangle. I have not had the chance to try either Cypress on the Hill or Solas, but to tell the truth there is nothing on the menu at Cypress Hill that looks at all intriguing. In my mind, Durham has by far the best food scene in the Triangle, and I think Revolution exemplifies the best that Durham has to offer.
I have been dining at Magnolia Grill for years now. In fact, I had the pleasure to dine there just last week. I can assure you that their food is, as it has always been, exceptionally good. If you have the chance, try the fresh pork belly with butterbean puree. I can honestly say that up until this point I had never had a butterbean that I liked, but that dish has made me a convert or at least willing to eat things here that I would not eat elsewhere. Also a must try was the Manchego crème brulee. It was deliciously salty, sweet with great texture. I am still thinking about it. The bartender recommended that I try a glass of dessert sherry to go along with it, which was a perfect match.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure that the chefs/owners of Magnolia Grill are the reason that the food is so good and has been for over 20 years. They have a reputation for giving guidance and nurturing many local chefs who have since gone on to open their own restaurants. From what I hear, they are two of the founders of the restaurant scene in the Triangle. Of course, that is not to say that the chef de cuisines or other chefs that have worked there aren’t talented in their own rights. I don’t think they would have that job if they weren’t worthy. I think working in a restaurant of that caliber, as a chef de cuisine must be akin to us academics getting our PhDs. The bartender told me that the current Magnolia Grill chef de cuisine has been working there for over 9 years (!), and she has been in her current position for the past year and a half. So I guess that is my long-winded way of saying, go back soon. You won’t be disappointed.
Absolutely agree. Alex, for all his talents, is certainly not the reason Mag Grill is awesome. Ben is a bit of an outlier in the sense that despite his fame and success, he is still an exacting chef who demands the highest level of food from his kitchen, no matter who the CdC is. He's there almost every night, and often will be expo-ing. Make no mistake that the bulk of the recipes are his or have his prints all over them.
Just to chime in regarding Solas, my significant other and I ate there over the New Year's Eve holiday. The space is beautiful, with a restaraunt/lounge on the main floor, a bar focused more on dancing and music on the second floor, and an open rooftop bar on the third floor. Solas is a very cool place, quite "trendy" and new, with awesome decorating and mood throughout.
We were initially some of the only people there, since we had a reservation for 8:30 on a Thursday night (day after New Year's Eve) - the bartender said that the place was packed the night before and didn't expect many people out that evening. We decided to sit at the bar and talk to the bartender and get a drink before the meal. The bartender was a great dude, very talkative (in a good way), and very knowledgeable about wine and spirits. As we were some of the only people there, we got to know him pretty well, and he whipped up some special concoctions on the house for us. Once the staff found out that we were from South Dakota, we were comped various drinks and a dessert, as well - I think they were just happy to have some people in the place that night! Some of the best drinks were a Strawberry and Balsamic Martini for her (that actually tasted surprisingly better that we thought it would) and, for me, a creation from the bartender that included Maker's Mark, muddled raspberries and some other ingredients.
For our meal, we decided to just get some wines by the glass. As an app, we went the Hot Rock - a tried and true presentation and just fun to eat! Tenderloin and Gulf Shrimp brought out along with a piece of rock heated to 400 degrees - cook to deisred level of doneness (medium-rare for us), remove and enjoy...nothing amazing, but high-quality product and a fun presentation. For mains, she went with the 8 oz. filet mignon with cabernet goat cheese butter and whipped potatoes. I thought that this had been cooked sous vide, as the meat was perfectly pink throughout, but the server wasn't sure of the cooking technique...either way, a perfectly cooked piece of tender beef - exactly what she was looking for. I went with the veal osso bucco, an immense piece of meat that I later devoured in its entirety (whoops). The best part of this meal, though, was that the chef had left the delicious marrow in the bone and provided some crispy baguette on which to spread it...pure decadence and absolutely delicious, as always. The osso bucco was properly cooked, with the meat falling off the bone, and was accompanied by dark, flavorful sauce that had permeated throughout the vegetables that came with. Thinking that we would want a side, I ordered some asparagus, which was a huge mistake. I should have known that ordering asparagus in early January was a dumb move, but I took a chance and was sorely disappointing - absolutely inedible. Later, when we returned to the bar, the bartender asked us how the meal was - we mentioned the asparagus, and he immediately called the manager/maitre 'd, who apologized profusely and comped us a drink. Nice touch! The significant other loves creme brulee, so we went with an espresso version that neither of us enjoyed. Our own fault for ordering a coffee-flavored dessert...well done, just not our cup of tea (or coffee). A strange addition was the house dessert, which apparently came free with every meal. I'm not sure if they do this every night, but on this particular evening, it was a pile of chocolate custard, placed on the middle of a white plate, with some sliced strawberries. At the risk of sounding crude, this presentation was terrible...when the server put it down in front of me, I literally started laughing, as the dish looked like a pile of poop in the middle of the plate. Needless to say, this made enjoying the dish a bit more difficult! Not bad, but a strange trip-up in otherwise very attractive plating.
Overall, a very enjoyable experience. I chalk up some of the minor missteps to the relatively new staff and kitchen, and remain confident that this place will quickly move up the ladder of Raleigh restaraunts. I would highly reccommend this place, not only for the solid food, but for the warm and engaging waitstaff that truly wants to provide a great dining experience. Now, if only we could have gotten into Enoteca Vin or Poole's Diner...
419 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27603
919 755 0755