Piedmont: Durham, North Carolina
Experience Date: Saturday, February 25, 2017
Price: $60 per person, with wine pairings, four courses
Mr. SFR is up in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina for a period of time due to his job, so I flew out this past weekend to go see him. He made reservations at Herons, which I hope to write a future post on because it was fabulous and magical, and Piedmont which… was not. I don’t think I’ve ever written a truly negative restaurant review here – but if nothing else, Piedmont has inspired me to do that.
Before we get to the food, I’ll start with saying the atmosphere wasn’t great – right off the bat. We were seated upstairs and it seems as if the kitchen doesn’t have enough ventilation because looking across the restaurant there seemed to be a low level of haze.
Next let’s talk service. We ordered cocktails almost as soon as we sat down along with a snack of buffalo brussel sprouts. (I’ll get to the flavor in a moment.) The brussel sprouts came – no cocktails. To be fair the waiter did apologize for the delay. We went ahead and put in our order for the tasting menu – no cocktails. We finish the brussel sprouts and finally – cocktails! Literally two minutes later we get the first course of our tasting menu, which we’re not at all prepared to start because… you guessed it, we hadn’t finished our cocktails. Granted, $60 for four courses, plus wine pairings isn’t super expensive – but it’s expensive enough that I expect the kitchen and bar to be able to properly time out cocktails, food, and wine.
Okay. Let’s talk food. Apparently the prix fixe menu changes monthly. February was beets. Again, to be fair, I’m not overly fond of beets, but Mr. SFR threw down the gauntlet and I accepted the challenge. I’ve had many dishes that featured beets, which in the hands of master chefs, were absolutely delicious. But let’s start at the beginning.
Buffalo Brussel Sprouts
As I mentioned, we started with buffalo brussel sprouts with blue cheese. These were absolutely delicious. They were roasted and then I assume, tossed in a buffalo wing sauce with some mild blue cheese sprinkled over it. No complaints here.
Ramos Gin Fizz
The long awaited cocktails came out and they were absolutely delicious. The Bees Knees had just the right amount of honey and the Ramos Gin Fizz was a new concoction for me, I really enjoyed the heavy cream, citrus, and soda. So far, so good, right?
Rockfish, Green Olive, Beet, Sunflower Seeds, Almond Milk
First course. Since there were no preparation notes on the rockfish I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the server just dropped off the dish without explaining it, I had to pull out my phone and look at what we were eating again. Luckily I took a picture of the menu. This wasn’t quite a carpaccio – it wasn’t pounded out thin enough. It was raw, however, and the rockfish was largely tasteless. I tried to mix in the green olives and sunflower seeds for flavor, but I found in those bites the green olives completely overpowered everything. Underwhelming, but not bad.
Slow-Roasted Beet, Scallion, Trumpet Mushroom
Second course was where Piedmont truly lost me. What you’re looking at is literally just a pile of beets. The sauce underneath was okay, but seriously. It’s just beets. Where the scallion and trumpet mushrooms ran off to – I don’t know. But this dish was nothing short of awful. Presentation wasn’t exactly stellar either.
Lamb Mezzalune, Lindale, Beet-jus, Beet Greens, Pistachio
The third course was the main course, and had it not directly followed the pile of beets, it might have been decent. As it was, I was disillusioned by this point. The mezzalune pasta was a little overcooked and the lamb a bit gamey. I thought that with the earthiness of the beet-jus that maybe a beef or even a duck center might have been a better choice as it wouldn’t have been quite as gamey as the lamb. But, the dish was flavorful and the beet greens actually were surprisingly delicious as well.
Beet Cake, White Chocolate, Vanilla
Fourth course: dessert. Now, before we had even started the adventure, I knew that from previous experience that there was no way a beet cake was going to be any good. My own misadventures in beet cake came through an exceptionally terrible Weight Watchers recipe. Still, before things actually got started in earnest, I thought maybe in the hands of a talented chef – even beet cake could be turned around. Well, in the hands of the Piedmont chefs – it could not be. The cake was dry, those red crumbles to the side? Those are beet cookies – and they were completely inedible. I did take the little vanilla frosting dollops off the top and eat those – it was basically butter cream frosting – hard to go wrong with that.
Overall: This will come as no surprise at this point – don’t do it. The prix fixe menu experience – top to bottom – was terrible. Morbidly, I asked the waiter what the seasonal prix fixe menu for March is: rice. I can’t recommend trying that out. What I can recommend is maybe stopping into Piedmont for a cocktail before moving on to somewhere else in Durham for a nice dinner.
That’s all I got, Reader. Anyone else have any misadventures in beets? Maybe yams?