Admiral, Table or Curate in Asheville
Finally made it to both The Admiral and Curate.
I enjoyed the dive bar-esque throwback style of the Admiral and did enjoy the comfort food with a twist. However I do not think it is 'head and shoulders' above other restaurants in town. The highlight was the buttermilk fried quail. Delicious. I normally do not like anything fried but it sounded like a unique dish and it was. The quail had lots of tender juicy, flavorful meat. The beef tartar was just ok. There was some white cheddar on the side which was lovely but it didn't pair very well with the tartar I thought. The crispy sweetbreads were fine, the onion relish added a sweet touch. Disppointing was the pork ragu - way to salty. Pasta was cooked fine but the saltiness of the sauce was overbearing. I wish I would've gone with my initial gut feeling and ordered the mussels as they looked very nice and I have since read on the boards that it's a great dish. The worst part of the meal was the wine. I ordered a bottle of Amarone and it was just terrible. It had a sharpness to the point of sourness to it that I have never experienced with an Amarone. I don't think it had turned and I can usually tell (but it may have) but it was just terrible. Would I go back to the Admiral? Yes, I would give it another try, however I will be bringing my own wine next time!
Curate had the opposite issue - excellent wines, both red and white, and the curate Manhattan was delicious as well. We ordered 7 dishes and everything had the same problem, seriously lacking in flavor and creativity. The most disappointing was the shrimp and garlic. Boring! It was simply shrimp and garlic, nothing more. I would say the best dishes were the lamb skewers as the lamb was cooked perfectly, albeit it was lacking in the 'Moorish spices' it claimed to have. The catalonian sausage sandwich was probably the most flavorful dish, though nothing at all blew me away or was very memorable. I have to say that if Curate is seeking a James Beard nomination, they need to seriously up the flavor content of their food! Would I go back? Maybe for a glass of wine but not dinner. In Atlanta, our favorite Spanish tapas restaurant is the Iberian Pig. It's one of the best restaurants in town and the food is extremely flavorful. I think Curate could take some lessons from them in the creativity department. However, to their credit, the service at Curate was outstanding and the platings were beautiful.
I still think that for it's size, Asheville has some interesting and creative dining to experience. I really enjoyed the Blackbird for its fried catfish and Homegrown for it's pesto chicken this trip.
...atl_gastronome's review of Curate is IMO mostly on target...Curate food is poorly seasoned, a criticism that some local reviewers have made...speaking only of the scallops and fried eggplant dishes, i was very pleased that there was, effectively, no additional seasoning 1. because the flavor of each major incredient was the star (IMO seasoning would have diminished these dishes) and 2. in each case, the simply exquisite olive oil provided "seasoning" to the scallops (only 2 of them BTW) and eggplant...re: the shrimp&garlic: IMO shrimp&garlic does not belong on the menu of any serious restaurant; nonetheless, though i am not fond of shrimp, i am not surprised that this is, reputedly, the most popular appetiser in town...Curate's s&g is not the usual fare because...1. garlic is roasted, infusing a smoky taste pairing well with the shrimp and 2. that superb olive oil...the s&g was much too salty for my taste...in any event...i'd definitely recommend it to someone who likes this dish...
my vote would be Tapas at Curate at the bar and then head to either Admiral or Table - provided you have reservations! The nice part about Curate then going Table is you can walk. Table has had shining moments for me as well as not so great. Admiral is a totally different scene and vibe.The "problem" with Asheville is that there are SO many choices!
I am a foodie from Atlanta and here are my observations:
I have been going to Asheville every year for 3 years during the Christmas season. The Admiral never has availability, it's either closed or booked, however I have heard some great raves from people whom I think may have great taste food-wise.
I usually dine at Fig which is very good but this year was looking for something different (their menu never seems to change, though their Bolognese is to die for). I have been to Bavarian Restaurant in Weaverville which, if you like German food, in excellent.
Table I have visited twice. I find the food just too pretentious and just not worthwhile. I wouldn't consider returning.
This year I have reservations at Curate for the first time. I am willing to give it a try, but don't have the highest expectations. I will hit the Admiral too, IF I can even get a seat at the bar!
1. If you hit The Admiral without a reservation between 5-5:30 bar availability is a very good bet
2. I will qualify what I am saying simply to insure that I won't be sued; however, IMO Fig is the biggest rip-off for the $$ in town; I would wager good $$ that this venue has the lowest food costs in Avl (ie way less than 20%); not to extend this to monograph length---in no way is Fig a French bistro as strongly implied on their webpage...enough...
yes, if you show up at the admiral at 5, you can eat at he bar. I have never failed in that endeavor. Show up at 6 and it's another story.
I suspect Curate will give you a pleasant dinner, even if it doesn't knock your socks off. Eating there at dinner is a good choice, because for some reason the price doesn't stick in my throat as much for dinner as it does for lunch.
If you have extra meals, the Junction is fun as is Storm. Have you been to Zambra?
Please give us your reviews after your trip!
I think Admiral and Curate are both worthy. It depends on what kind of experience you're after. If you want creative daring in the flavor combinations, go with The Admiral. If you prefer quality ingredients simply prepared, go with Curate. I would skip Table.
P.S. Unless you want to eat at the bar, you'll need a reservation at either of the above.
I think Admiral is in another class from other restaurants in Asheville. The cooking is at a level of creativity you aren't finding elsewhere. The only way I would select Curate instead is if I were dining with a large group of people, some of which were problem-eaters when it comes to trying new things, or if a shiny new, modern dining room were important to me. Or if I couldn't get a res....
I liked Curate, don't get me wrong, but the Admiral is special.
I don't like Table at all. I admit I have not been there at dinner, but the lunches I had there were both quite mediocre.
I agree that The Admiral is in another class. I have not been to Curate, but the meals I've had at The Admiral are among the best I've had anywhere. I would definitely choose it over Table, even though I have enjoyed my meals at Table. But any time I go to Asheville, I want to do a dinner at The Admiral.
1. I've expressed my views about Avl restaurants before, arousing much ire.
2. I live in N Avl having moved very reluctantly from W Avl...originally from NY-NJ...not Italian but raised in working-class Italian neighborhood.
3. ----enough resume...
4. IMO Admiral is worth visiting in order to sample a true "W Avl Experience" that isn't too young eg Universal Joint or that isn't primarily a bar ie bar in building with El Dorado painted on side. IMO W Avl experience is great in latter 2 venues, also
5. As an aside People here either ARE W Avl people or not...I am
6. Have not eaten @ Table though it is my best female friend's favorite restaurant in town
7. Have eaten @ Admiral many (too many) times only because it is my best male friend's favorite restaurant
8. Have eaten @ Curate a few times alone which for me is typical...
9. IMO it is not appropriate to compare A & C---simply no way in similar categories
10. Were I forced to choose however I would definitely go to C...I like Katie...the food is no way pretentious (and for many reasons one might expect it to be)...and the plates are attractive, quality of ingredients high...very simple though tasty food that is prepared well (though it doesn't take much skill to cook what's on the menu...seasoning & presentation however are IMO consistently better than average)...I have had several disappointments (understatement) & the gazpacho is insipid...however, I adore the fried eggplant including the absolutely stunning olive oil used by the kitchen; I also enjoy Curate's scallops...presentation is sensuous, scallops cooked exquisitely...could eat these any day...the shrimp & garlic is their most popular dish among townies; I am not fond of shrimp but tried it as a good way to evaluate the restaurant (I have a precise set of rules for testing & judging a place...); anyway, the dish is addictively good; I still don't like shrimp & won't order the dish again; however, I would highly recommend it...
11. My opinions about The Admiral and rationales for my opinions could, at least, end up as a Master's Thesis...will make 1 comment...I return from time to time for the atmosphere and because it is my best friend's favorite restaurant. However, The Admiral is the most consistently uneven restaurant I have ever frequented (and I am old & a foodie etc etc); admittedly, quality of ingredients very high; however, the cooks have for one reason or another ruined high-quality food items so frequently that literally I can almost cry thinking about it...I really would like the the place to live up to its reputation...
12. BTW I do not ever mind spending $$ on food that I consider worth it (according to my system); however, I resent paying for food @ The Admiral...lunch @ Curate has cost me as much as $45--without wine or bottled water or dessert...I mostly don't mind...BTW IMO the decor is tacky...
13. I don't think there are any good Avl restaurants by serious standards; however, the best of what is here (by the criteria I use) and, also, compared to other restaurants in its price range is Bouchon...