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Feb 17, 2010 08:53 AM

Piedmont, Durham

After walking by this handsome restaurant after a trip to the farmers market, I've been meaning to try them for dinner. Finally did a few days ago. The menu, which changes daily, consisted of 5-6 big plates, 5-6 small plates, a couple charcuterie (forcemeats actually), cheese and a few side items.

This style menu is usually right up my alley, although on my visit nothing was screaming "order me". The first three items to hit our table were tasty - cheese, a country pate and a disc shaped house-made sausage set over lentils and drizzled with balsamic. We had high hopes for the rest of our meal. The food that followed, however, was badly underseasoned and bland. Arancini with spinach and pine nuts (no salt), Spaghetti with meatballs (underseasoned), gnocchi with pancetta and beef ragout (slightly floury with a funny flavor to the sauce), and butternut squash ravioli (again underseasoned and sauced with what tasted like old orange juice without sugar).

Service was pleasant, the wine list well chosen if a bit too small and the space is neat. I hope we hit them on an off night because there seems to be some potential, but the food on our visit was below average. If I make it back for a second try, I think I'll wait until the farmers market is in full swing.

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  1. The N&O loved this place when it opened a few years back. But my experience was pretty much like yours - there are so many fine options almost within walking distance like Watts Grocery and Rue Cler that ironically received the same review "score" in reviews that were only weeks apart. I don't plan to return.

    2 Replies
    1. re: D R C

      I've only been to Piedmont once and it was good. The posts I've seen seem to hint at inconsistency. Rue Cler I didn't like the one time I was there though it is in walking distance. Watts Grocery is not. At least not that I know of. Though Toast and Beyu are and so are Revolution, Dos Perros and if they ever open.. the Eno River Restaurant..

      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

        Haven't eaten at Rue Cler in a year or more so I'm not quite current - still go a couple times a month to get bread though, I think they run one of the best bread bakeries in the area, one of the best values as well.

        After Watts opened I was eating there and at Magnolia when I made it over to Durham at the expense of what had become regular visits to Rue Cler. I need to go back and see what they're doing now. At the time I thought the QPR was quite good.

    2. I dined at Piedmont on Sunday the 21st with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday. This was my third dining experience at the restaurant and I still believe the food to be outstanding. I enjoyed my entree the best. It was the "housemade italian sausage with broccoli raab, creamy polenta & tomato jus". The sausage was seasoned perfectly and was frankly enormous. The polenta was deliciously creamy but not overly so.

      The only downside was the speed of service and the way the food was brought out to my party of ten diners. Most diners ordered charcuterie dishes to start off with, including me but they were brought out almost 30 minutes apart. My chicken liver mousse, a cold appetizer, was brought out at the same time as soups even though those who ordered country pate received their appetizers way before me.

      The restaurant seemed quite busy for a Sunday night but I am puzzled why the appetizers or at least all cold appetizers couldn't have been brought out together.

      My overall impression is that the restaurant isn't accustomed to handling large parties of diners, both in terms of service and seating (there aren't any tables on the ground floor that can accommodate more than four from what I saw that night).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chow Penguin

        I was there with a group of 4 on the same night. It may have just been an off night. The food was quite good, (I had the endive goat cheese apple risotto -- wonderful) but it took an extremely long time to get to our table. What's more, the server was indifferent to our plight as we waited 30 minutes for our salads and another 30 for the mains. We all agreed we would not return again soon.

      2. Scratch Piedmont off Your List
        I’ve gone to Piedmont a handful of times each year since it opened and loved it. The ingredients were of the highest quality, the preparations skillful and the result was a fantastic meal.
        All of that is gone. I walked in last and noticed very few familiar faces on the staff, less in the kitchen. The menu has lost focus. It’s now a hodge-podge of “hot” ingredients (ancho chiles and quinoa) and techniques. As a result it’s difficult to put together a coherent meal with all the different flavors and approaches.
        The portions have become miserly. The oh-so tired “squeeze bottle” presentation has shown up.
        I was served a portion of pork loin that consisted mainly of fat and connective tissue. I would never have served it to a guest in my home.
        I don’t really mind that they’ve dumbed down the wine list, but the wines in the various categories don’t make a lot of sense.
        More important, they don’t taste very good; at least the 3 we sampled. How hard can it be to go down to Craig and Seth’s find some great $15-$20 bottles and double the price?
        Piedmont also doesn’t take Amex anymore, so be prepared if you are on a business dinner.
        It would have been better if they changed the name to signal a break with the past; I wouldn’t have had such high hopes dashed.

        401 Foster St Ste B2, Durham, NC 27701