Saint Jacques in Raleigh -- Very good French food, not as good as I expected
I just had dinner with a colleague at Saint Jacques on Falls of Neuse Rd. Based on reviews here, on Yelp, OpenTable, etc., and also based on looking at their menu online, I really was expecting to be blown away. Perhaps my expectations were too high -- I'll certainly own up to that. Overall, we both felt that while the meal was good, maybe even very good, it was not great. And it certainly didn't blow us away. I am definitely planning on going back, and I'll update this review when I do -- I hope to be able to rate the rating to 5, since I can see the potential in the menu and the dedication of the staff.
First came the amuse bouche, which may have been the best thing I had all not. It was parmesan crusted fillo with goat cheese and truffle oil inside. Perfect and delicious.
We then started with a pair of appetizers -- the Creamy Risotto of Fresh Seafood and the Sweetbreads in Truffle Aroma. The scallop on the risotto was cooked perfectly, but could have had a better sear on it. The risotto itself was good, but could have been creamier -- it actually made me wonder when it was made. The sweetbreads were tender, but could have been crispier on the outside. Both the scallop and the sweetbreads suffered from a bit of sogginess -- both should have been on the fire longer. The sauce on the sweetbreads, a "dark veal and truffle reduction," was tasty, but lacked intensity -- I don't think it was reduced enough. The "galette of truffled whipped potatoes was the best part of the dish, although even though both the reduction and the potatoes had "truffle" in the name, I couldn't really taste any in the dish (and I LOVE truffles!).
For main courses, I ordered the Braised Veal Pied Paquets, a recipe that the owner said has been in his family for 3 generations. My colleague ordered the butternut squash-stuffed Pork Tenderloin. The veal was tender, but a little dry. I do a lot of braising, and I'd expected the meat to be moist and succulent all the way through. Also, like the sweetbreads, the reduction that it came with needed more reduction. The pork tenderloin actually had great, intense flavor -- after the amuse bouche, it was easily my favorite dish.
The wine selection is classically french, no complaints there. Although I felt like both of the wines I ordered by the glass needed more time to breathe -- it was a slow night, so they probably had to open the bottles. Not a big deal -- I just drank slowly.
Reading through the above, I realize that it sounded like I didn't enjoy the meal. That is far from true -- everything was really good! I wanted fantastic from this meal, though. Go look online and peruse the menu, and you will too! It is a great menu. They take french cuisine very seriously, and it shows. The service was impeccable (I especially appreciate switching out the white napkin for the black -- I love that kind of detail).
I will definitely be going back. The menu is worth exploring further. I have faith in the intentions of everyone involved, and it is possible that I just caught them on an off night, or that I'm just an asshole tonight for some reason. This particular meal just left us both feeling heavy and a little underwhelmed.
Saint Jacques French Cuisine
6112 Falls of the Neuse Rd., Raleigh, NC 27609
Thanks for the review, Skid. I love detailed descriptions of dinners like this. I haven't been to SJ yet, so no personal opinion. But I did note with interest that it was the only Raleigh entry on OpenTable's "Best Service In The US" restaurants list released today. http://bit.ly/fI2gNx
The other NC showing was The Fearrington House Restaurant.
Fearrington House Restaurant
2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC 27312