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Apr 9, 2009 11:25 AM

Recent Asheville Meals - Fig, Cucina24, Stoney Knob and more

We ate at Fig last night for the first time (I'm not sure what took us so long!) and found it really delicious - this has instantly become our new favorite. Although we weren't overwhelmed by the salads we had for the starter course (fine, but nothing to write about) the entrees were so delicious we couldn't stop talking about it. Although I rarely enjoy pasta when I go out, feeling that I usually can make it just as well at home, they had a special pasta with local morels and ramps, which was as good a plate of pasta as I've ever had. Salmon was also perfectly cooked and delicious.

Cucina24, on the other hand, served a plate of pasta much less well-prepared than what I would make at home. Bland, gooey sauce, with barely a trace of the promised mushrooms and a whole heap of asparagus pieces, mostly stems! I'm all for using the whole vegetable and avoiding waste, but please make an asparagus soup and leave the stems off the pasta - especially for $16! The rest of the meal was equally uninspiring, with distracted service (we asked for our check, stating that we were in a hurry to pay and leave, the server dropped off the check without pausing for us to hand over the credit card, and went off to take orders from a table of 6 before returning!) and a stingy portion on the olive oil for bread dipping. We won't be bothering with this place again.

If Cucina24 was mediocre, Stoney Knob has recently been a disaster. We went a while back and were served fish that had gone off and had to be sent back. After staying away for many months we returned not long ago to try again, after all we'd always had good meals in the past, so one mistake should be forgiven, right? In retrospect, bad fish should be considered unforgivable and is probably just the tip of the iceberg, since the return visit showed clear signs that this place is going down the drain. If anyone knows anything about possible management change at this restaurant I'd be curious. For one thing the menu has been lengthened considerably to include an "asian" section, as well as american, greek, etc. This kind of wide variety is never a good sign in my experience, implying desperation to get customers in, and sure enough, everything was canned, frozen, bland and just awful. At those prices, I will never return here, and would advise anyone who is recommending this place without having visited recently to rethink it.

On a brighter note, Admiral is great. Although they seem to love serving every kind of imaginable meat, they actually make a creative and delicious veggie burger so even a vegetarian can enjoy eating here. Clearly a lot of care with the quality of the food. The atmosphere is casual, but I'd prefer it any day to Cucina24, a place with clear pretensions of fine dining, which just can't deliver on the food.

That's all for recent meals. Oh we did try Nine Mile. I give that a shrug. Was fine, but REALLY something I could have made at home. I'm not sure why this place has been billed as "Jamaican" since the spicy food isn't spicy and it's basically just a pasta joint. Not bad and it is affordable, but I'd reserve it for a night when I just need to eat something and I just don't have it in me to cook it myself.

So my rant doesn't appear too negative I'll add that we love Umi in Hendersonville for Sushi. Great! Of course, there are lots of places to love in Asheville, this is by no means a summation, just notes from the last couple of months...

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  1. Thanks for the reviews! I'm no longer the only person on the board to not like Stoney Knob!

    Cucina 24 is a little schitzo to me, I've had some really delicious, well prepared stuff there - like the goat cheese panna cotta I had on my last visit, and some stuff that was just OK, like the canneloni. I haven't written it off, though. I like the space, and I've had very good service both visits.

    Nine Mile, I'm also in agreement with. It's fine, but nothing special. Can't wait to try the admiral, I just wish they would do lunch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: danna

      That's interesting that Cucina's been hit-or-miss for you. I kind of feel like I should give them another try, but on the other hand the problems with the food were so basic. I know I sound like a judge from Top Chef, but the food we had was not just poorly seasoned, which could be a problem on a given day with execution. But the subtlety wasn't there in other ways: some items could have been vastly improved with just a dusting of a fresh herb, even parsley, or a bit of fresh tomato or other acidic element to brighten the flavors. Everything was flat.

      Stoney Knob, though, seriously! Something is going on there...

      1. re: angelaf

        I agree with you on almost everyhing! C24 - we have not been crazy about it the last 2 times...bland is a good word. Not good enough when you have Fig at around the same price point. I also agree with you there...Fig is always incredible in my book. Nine Mile - I also concur...just OK. I thought my pasta dish was pretty greasy. Too bad b/c it is a cute place and close to my house. Our server/bartender was not the friendliest, either. The Admiral rocks...I wrote a review about it recently.

        Too bad about Stoney Knob. We had lunch there this week and have had very good dinners there...but I admit, not recently. But lunch was great.

    2. With the economy going sour, a lot of our local small restaurants had to make some drastic cuts to stay afloat. While we'd like to think our standbys can survive, they may have made some deep cuts in labor in order to make it through a harsh winter. Let's hope with spring here again, and places hiring, that some of the places who had to let quality help go will be able to afford them again.

      1. I guess we can just agree to disagree. While I whole heartedly concur with the thumbs up for Fig I disagree about Cucina 24 and definitely about Stoney Knob. We've had two dinners at Cucina and both were stellar. It has been a couple of months so I guess if there have been problems recently like changes in staff/chef I might have missed this. On the other hand, we can be considered regulars at Stoney Knob and have rarely had a bad meal. We had an escolar or some other white fish in a lobster cream a couple of months ago that was melt in your mouth and perfectly executed. I also feel like Stoney Knob has really good customer service and a consistent wait staff, always a good sign.
        Granted, SK is not in the same league as Fig, but for a neighborhood restaurant it always delivers.

        1 Reply
        1. re: leahinsc

          Agree with you re: Cucina 24. We were there last night and it was very good. We both had the linguini, clams and pesto and I was actually surprised as to how good the pasta was. I've only had one dish there in the past that wasn't good. Our friend had the scallops and loved them. I also think their pizza is yummy. It's still one of my favorites in Asheville.

        2. Haven't been to Stoney Knob in over a year and am not anxious to go after your review. It sounds like they are really struggling.

          Have only been to Cuchina 24 once and liked it but also found it overpriced and a bit stuffy. (Best reserved for when you want/need to impress your dinner guests.)

          Nine Mile is better for lunch than dinner, and, yes, they definitely need to kick up the spice a notch or three.

          The Admiral has the best food and coolest jukebox of any self-proclaimed "dive bar" I've ever visited. (Not that I frequent that many dives.)

          Umi may not have New York City quality sushi, but it's definitely pretty good for Hendersonville, NC!

          Has anyboy been to Nova yet? Just saw their new TV ad. Looks great--but maybe that's just fancy camera work.

          Still love the Salvadoran cuisine at Tomato Cuchina Latina--fresh, fun, unpretentious, and moderately priced.

          Ate at Fig on my 23th anniversary (just celebrated my 24th) and was decidely underwhelmed--dismissive service, too. Maybe it was an off-night, so I'll reserve judgement and try again.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Jeff C.

            At first, I couldn't remember what Nova was, but now realize it's Scratch renamed. I knew that, but forgot. :-/ anyway, googled it and found a few reviews on TripAdvisor and on Yelp (which I don't always trust). ALL were excellent, so am guessing it's pretty good! So thanks for reminding me about this place. I need to try it.

            Also want to try Tomato Cucina Latina - sounds perfect for a wallet friendly meal (which we are trying to do more often these days!).

            We have always had great meals at Stoney Knob (always dinner), but we haven't been in several months. I hope it is not going downhill. I love their Red Room. I do agree though on the menu. A huge menu is not usually a good sign. Jack of all trades, master of none..... :-/

            1. re: Jeff C.

              That's too bad that you didn't enjoy Fig (congratulations on the anniversary!). We had really attentive and friendly service, but we also have only been there the one time, so who knows which is more common.

              I would say that Umi actually IS New York quality sushi. I have eaten a lot of sushi in New York and while Umi clearly won't stack up against Blue Ribbon or any of those top NYC places, it is right in there with the pack of moderately priced, less high-end restaurants. It's great for Hendersonville, I agree, and better than any of the places I've tried in downtown Asheville - we often make the drive down for Umi!

              1. re: Jeff C.

                Stoney Knob is definitely not stuggling....
                I agree w/ you about of my fav's

                1. re: Jeff C.

                  Nova is excellent!!!!!! You should try it. I am so surprised to hear about your experience at Fig. When we are in town, we eat there at least once a week, and the food is always delicious and the service top notch. You should try it again. It is #1 on our list of Asheville restaurants and I think Nova is now #2.

                2. I have never had a bad meal at Cucina 24. The service and food has always been above average for Asheville. The food at Nova is also great but the drinks are beyond description....Original and tasty. Those are definitely my two top choices.