New chefs at One (Chapel Hill)
While I've eaten at a number of Michelin starred restaurants over the years, I confess I've never eaten at the French Laundry, or Alinea, or Per Se, or even (gasp!) El Bulli. But the two new chefs at One have worked at all those places. It shows.
Our meal yesterday was remarkable. The previous chef, whom I liked, seemed to get more and more "fussy" and over-complicated with his dishes, like his mentor at Four Square. The food had been good, sometimes even very good, but not on a consistent and thoughtful basis like Magnolia Grill, Nana's, or the like. What we had yesterday sets a standard that, for us, dominates Heron's, Nana's, Oakleaf, and certainly Fearrington House.
There were two amuse bouche -- the first a sort of of mocha cookie with a brie like cheese inside, the second a rolled chickpea (?) wafer around a radish of sorts.
The appetizer we shared was described as
pinenut ∙ squash hummus ∙ crispy garlic" which involved small marble sized balls of really tasty falafel on a bed of a mild squash "hummus" with several other pipings of sauce, toasted pinenuts, all mounded with some greens.
The mains we had were seafood: mine was
sour cream gnocchi ∙ brown butter ∙ broccoli ∙ currant ∙ caper" which was a half dozen of the best scallops I've ever had, perfectly crusted on one side, arranged in a curve as if taken off a skewer, with a decadent small gnocchi in between each scallop, with tiny broccoli florets that had been cooked in a broth I assume, all on a mild broccoli puree with a caper and current garnish. The fish, capers and currents recalled Sicily.
"[east coast snapper]
hazelnuts cooked in garbanzo broth ∙ okra ∙ chorizo ∙ cooked egg aioli". The beautifully cooked -- roasted ( or sous vide?) fish was finished to give the top side a fine caramelized exterior to a moist interior. It was sitting on a bed of cooked hazelnuts (visually suggesting a Tuscan fish on a bed of beans) -- the chef came over and poured some chorizo infused broth, a sort of aioli, over it all.
Wine list is comprehensive, with a couple of sparkling wines, and a half-dozen each of white and red wines by the glass. We were too bedazzled to attempt dessert. With four glasses of wine, tax, and tip the bill was around $140.
I can't believe that Greg Cox hasn't written up this "new One". Someday we'll go into training to try the tasting menu.
Interesting. I was there for first time a few weeks ago with some one who likes to say he could eat a tv dinner every day of the week, but nevertheless volunteered that the pomegranate seeds overpowered the pickled persimmon in one dish, and declined to finish his scallops in another citing 'sand'. (That said, I swallowed the last bivalve and found it clean. Lucky? Perhaps. More indulgent? Not a chance.).
The tilefish I ordered was not well served by its presentation (oh, a rectangle. Got it.). I first had tile as a quenelle some 30 years ago and it's lovely soft and poached that way; North Carolina has amazing tile fish and since I've settled here I've learned its more robust charms grilled, pan fried, and otherwise on centre stage.
One's presentation tiptoed between the poles and across the 'tiles' of squash cooked to the same texture, which came across as flabby, not to say patronising.
And did nothing to showcase the fish or make it more delicious.
Practically and conceptually, it would have been as simple and more visually and texturally interesting to fry up a half moon of skin from both fish and veg as a boat to convey the succulent innards (perhaps as internal 'scales'?)
Just a thought.
Sweetbreads were beautifully CLEAN. I have been surprised to discover how infrequently bistro standards appear on bistro-assertive menus in the Durham-Chapel Hill region, and how poorly they perform in certain categories (e.g., sweetbreads, steak tartare, frisee aux lardons, rais aux beurre noir) when they do. 'One' clearly understands the basics in the kitchen and how sweetbreads must be soaked and cleaned. Maybe they have a better source for veal or lamb than I have been able to discover, as well. Likely.
I'm not a fan of the unexpected sweet-and-sour preparation of but would not hesitate to order ris de veau in future.
I would agree that One's kitchen is already ONE of the best in the area, but One has more to work on to overcome the region's most chronic, significant problem: service. In this case, the servers offering bread, refilling water and otherwise attending were impeccable. Many were young and obviously new to the business and it was lovely to interact. It was jarring to be addressed repeatedly by those who seemed in charge, however:
'How are we enjoying this?'
'Are we still working or can I remove your plate?'
That's just bizarre, and I can't imagine it's part of the training.
So, I am thinking that perhaps One has hired smart people with good records in other parts of the industry, and just needs to work a bit on polishing their presentation skills?
For now, and based on my limited experience in the region over the past 5 years, I continue to accord Lantern my personal first place overall. Nowhere else-- including One, so far-- comes close in terms of assurance, consistency and polish delivering on well-timed, well-pitched, and well-sourced invitation and promise-- seamlessly from kitchen, bar, and floor.
We had a good meal yesterday. Sorry no pics BF :-). Some beautiful dishes though - the squash falafel and scallops walras had, also the beet salad. Those tasted every bit as good as they looked, amongst the best dishes I've eaten in in the Triangle. The duck wing bbq was close - duck nuggets and small peppers on a sauce, served with "refreshing leaves", some familiar flavorful herbs of Vietnamese cuisine like purple tiá tô. A veal dish with long tender slices of tongue, sous vide loin cooked in whey, and fried sweetbreads over risotto was good-plus; beautiful with rosy thin slices of fresh turnips and roasted turnips, but missing a punctuating side - too laid-back for me. The snapper and bread soup with shrimp and olives were my least favorites, a little one-dimensional.
The menu descriptions take some getting used to. Prominently mentioned ingredients often play just a minor supporting role. For instance the goat cheese in the beet salad is in a few drops of sauce instead of a slice of fresh chevre; the kale in the veal dish was a bit of dried frizzly garnish rather than a serving of kale. The brilliance of the squash falafel has little to do with falafel, rather it is flawless squash six ways :-).
Only a few minor complaints - the server mentions when you order apps and mains that the souffle requires extra time, so we ordered one then, but two showed up, a misunderstanding. As a result, we didn't have room to try some of the other desserts. Nice souffle though :-). All three amuse-bouche were either too sweet or too sour to my taste. I understand the point though, i.e. it's a let down when a taste tease isn't intense. Our table in the middle of the room was near a vent and too cool - ok if I'd been wearing a jacket. The wine list is very good but could stand an infusion of interesting, artisanal bottles $40-60.
I agree, would like to do the tasting menu sometime, although I much prefer those with more than one selection per course, when the entire table has to order it. Overall an excellent meal, although I don't see it dominating the small handful of best places in the Triangle yet.
There was just another thread started on this topic within the last two weeks.
I was there this weekend as well and would concur with the other posts. Too bad you didn't save room for the desserts, though, as they were the highlight of the meal.
I met the new chefs at TerraVita and I was really impressed. Their dish was a small bite of something tasty served on a piece of fried beef tendon. I love beef tendon as it's served in Chinese restaurants, but this preparation was unique. The tendon was reminiscent of a thin pork rind. I think it takes guts to serve a single, perfect bite, rather than an actual dish. I had a lot of dishes at TerraVita, but the only one I had multiple servings of was this dish from One.
We're going to One in 2 weeks and I'm excited!
re: Tom from Raleigh
I was sad to not have been able to make it this year as I thought I'd be able to convince my relatives to go since they were in town AND I know the person that runs the event. In any case, it sounded like a great line up. I'll see if I can figure out what the whole make up of that dish was and get back to it on here. I just hope they stick around for awhile.
re: Tom from Raleigh
re: Tom from Raleigh
re: Tom from Raleigh
My lovely wife and I had a great meal at One tonight. Great food, really great service, and overall a wonderful experience. To top it all off, this was as reasonable as most other places in town and less than many. We shares eight small plates and had 2 drinks each. Our total pre tip was $124.
Plus I loved how they plated dishes. Very creative! This restaurant is worth a drive in rush hour traffic from anywhere in the Triangle. I expect the new One will get 4.5 or 5 stars from Greg Cox in the coming months. Go now while you can still get a table. Oh and try the beef tartare.