Raleigh Restaurant Week
Anyone else take advantage of this week? I would love to hear your experiences. I tried two places. First was Fins:
I have eaten at Fins before for lunch. As a matter of fact, probably the best sandwich I've ever eaten is the Vietnamese pork sandwich that Fin's serves up at lunchtime. However, I hadn't tried Fins for dinner. Restaurant week this week seemed like the ideal time to try Fins for dinner.
We went on Friday night at 6:15. Service was excellent. Food was very good. Due to restaurant-week, there was a $30 pre-fixe menu that we went with. I got the tuna tartare. Other two members of my party got the corn potage with crabmeat. The soup, which I tried, had a very strong corn flavor. They were both pleased with it. My tuna tartare was served on a lettuce leaf with pickled ginger and taro root chips. At first I thought it was a bit boring, but mix the pickled ginger in with the tuna and it really came alive.
Entrees were good also. I had a shrimp filled agnoloti with tomato and spinach, with creamy garlic. Very light and flavorful. The other two in my party had sea bass with shitake glaze & eggplant. They liked it. Dessert for two of us was a banana cinnamon cake with chocolate sauce and it was served with coconut sorbet, but they were kind enough to give me mango sorbet instead, as I don't care for coconut. Surprisingly light and not too sweet. Very nice. Coffee took 8 minutes or so, which was a slight disappointment for us, especially the one who got the cherry dessert who wanted the coffee to offset the sweetness. For the price and quality, this was a DEAL. With two glasses of wine and the coffee, my dinner was around $50 before tip. Very nice! I would not hesitate to go back to Fins for lunch or dinner.
The other one I tried for restaurant week was Solas:
Dined at Solas Saturday night for Restaurant week. It was my first experience at this restaurant, but my sister who went with me had been there before, and had nothing but good things to say about her prior experience. We had 6:00 reservations, and we were greeted warmly, then seated outside, though I had not requested outside. When I questioned it, I was told basically we had no choice but to sit outside. Fortunately for us, it wasn't too hot, and they had ceiling fans that helped. Street noises were a bit loud at times, and there were a few bugs flying, but no big deal. Our waiter was kind enough to fix the wobbly table before anything was served.
For my appetizer, I selected the bbq duck quesadilla, with avocado salsa. My sister had the she crab soup with crab raft, which she had had there before. We decided to share two entrees: the jerk dorado and the scallops with lobster succotash. I LOVED the duck quesadilla. The avocado had a nice kick to it. It was creamy and tasty and absolutely perfect. I got to taste my sister's she crab soup which was delicious also. Loved the sherry in it. She remembered it having a potato type raft before, but this time it was bread. Still good, and very rich. Entrees were also very good. Light and fresh. Scallops could've used a bit more of a sear, but were still good and the lobster succotash is very yummy. Never had dorado before and it was okay. It had a jerk seasoning and salsa. It was pretty light and well done. We were glad to share dishes to vary the experience.
Dessert for me was berries with chambord cream. My sister got the vanilla creme brulee. The berries could not have been more fresh or delicious, not to mention HUGE. Giant raspberries & nice blackberries, plus tasty blueberries and a very fresh strawberry. YUM. My sister's creme brulee was small but perfectly done. She was already full anyway.
Service was very good. Our waiter from Rome, was friendly and professional. Water was served without ice, but if you ask for it, they'll bring it. I liked the wine the waiter recommended, and if you like champagne, the Prosecco for $7 a glass is a great deal. It's served as a small bottle with a slice of strawberry.
I am very much looking forward to dining at Solas again and trying more items on
their regular menu.
We tried the Mint for the first time. Stepping past the claustrophopic vestibule and the corny vault door, it's a nice looking space inside, very luxe. The main dining area has high ceilings, a bar on the second level overlooks the first floor.
However, the meal and the service didn't match the decor. Frankly, it all came off as a bit amatuerish. A truffle mac and cheese appetizer was drowned in truffle oil. While this dish is on the tail end of a fad, it's something I've still really enjoyed at other places, but not here. A tomato soup was served lukewarm - give me either cold warm, but not room temperature. The first few bites were still good, but by the end I was ready to be done with it.
The highlight was a expertly cooked trout with lentils. But the servings were so small (and I typically complain about portions that are too large!) with two small dollops of lentils. Even with an appetizer, I was still very hungry. A scallops dish was also diminutive, two small little guys served on a tiny bed of pasta with a smear of sesame paste. The paste didn't really fit and it just distracted from some tasty scallops. Desserts were also blase: a bland pear tart and a lopsided disk of mousse.
The service was friendly, but a bit rough around the edges for a fine dining restaurant. We were greeted with the standard Applebees line of "My name is ___ and I'll be taking care of you tonight." That was the last we saw of this person.
At the end of the night, we left hungry and disappointed.
I tried the Mint as well. I really enjoy the food - I had calamari, the pork osso bucco, and the pear tart. Everything was prepared well, ingredients were fresh. No complaints at all about the food.
The atmosphere and service, on the other hand, were just not that great. It felt like the whole place was trying too hard, like the owner/manager/designer had chased down every trend of the last few years and crammed it into the space. The plates were comically large, the glasses for iced-tea were comically small. Our waiter was obviously disappointed that my dining companion and I weren't ordering alcohol - I rarely drink (definitely not on a Thursday night when I have to drive home to Carrboro and get up early the next morning) and have never had a waiter react with such disdain to my not ordering alcohol.
Several people have asked me how it compared to Second Empire. The biggest difference to me is that Second Empire is formal, but warm/welcoming, the formality and fanciness seems effortless. The Mint felt over worked, forced, and pretentious.
That sounds about right. After doing the DC restaurant week for years, we eventually quit participating. We found that, among the few restaurants that actually were a deal at the given price, fewer still provided an experience that made it worthwhile, offering diluted menus, annoying upcharges for anything interesting, and half-hearted service. There were a few diamonds in the rough, but after the initial couple of years it became pretty pointless.
Based on raleighchow's report, it sounds like Fins is one of the rare places that is both a deal and makes it worth the while.
Like raleigh chow, my wife and I dined at a few restaurants for restaurant week. We ate at the Mint and agree with other chowhounds the service is rushed and attemping to push alcohol with thir meals. In all the price fix was good and the best quality of the 3 dining experiences we had. Unfortunalely we couldn't get a reservation for Fins, We use to visit the leadmine location when it first opened and really enjoyed their fish dishes. Glad they are still doing well. We made a second visit to Seaboard 18 ,Unable to secure a 8-30 pm dining we were told to come in early . We visited and told them we called but were told we could sit outside on the bacony. It was hot outside and asked for inside table /it was done with a little coaxing. Okay, We selected the 3 course for $20.. meal. She Crab soup was excellent, DW had the heirloon tomato salad also very good, Penne with shrimp was also very good. The meatloaf was a little dry but, was spiced and grilled well. Dessert of sherbert and creme brule too were very good. Service was good and waitress pleasant. The Chef Smith greets the guest and this was a nice touch doing a busy week.
Our last dining spot Solas didn't go as well as raleighchow. We had a 8pm reservation. Got there told to wait 10 minutes for inside table (which we were offered on the call to reserve). After seated inside waited for service . Water poured and waited for drink order, waited again. DW odered drink prosceco ,and arrive promptly. We ordered price fix. She crab soup, duck quesadilla, for starters .The she crab had speck of crab and a salty taste to it also served cold. The duck was tasty but, could barely see the duck in the cheese sauce. The entree of Scallop lobster was overcooked . The hanger steak was tough and need more time marinaded to soften up the meat. Chewy to say the best. Oh, When the entrees arrived they didn't clear prior plates. This