Photo by Angela Perez
This poor salty chicken didn't make it across the road. :(
When I asked a friend if she wanted to join me for dinner at Faire
, a steak-and-seafood restaurant in Cameron Village, her dismissive response was, “Oh, you mean that place where everybody’s parents like to go?”
I took her quip to mean she believed the surf-and-turf restaurant concept to be an out-of-date one, appealing to the same folks who shop only at The Fresh Market—an outdated culinary shibboleth, geared towards the moneyed, traditional Raleigh set.
“Yes," I shot back, “but this place claims it runs from ‘traditional to trendy,’ so you’re coming with me.”
She agreed, albeit with a raised eyebrow.
On a mission, I sojourned to Faire, located on the ground floor of the rather new Berkshire Cameron Village apartments. The restaurant is part of Raleigh-based hospitality group Eschelon Experiences
. The food empire, owned and operated by N.C. State grad Gaurav “G” Patel, includes Mura, Cameron Bar and Grill, Basan Bull City Sushi, Zinda, Edwards Mill Bar & Grill and the now-defunct The Oxford
Upon arrival at the urban, modern space, I immediately remembered countless bars and restaurants in Washington, D.C., where I lived for a time, typically full of well-dressed, young Capitol Hill go-getters. My dinner companion had given me the impression this was going to be some sort of overblown K & W Cafeteria filled with nodding retirees and slightly better furniture. But the restaurant instead exuded a Nordic cool, with the dim, airy room brightened by pops of persimmon and stark white. Faire didn’t feel
like a run-of-the-mill Raleigh restaurant, although its name is a nod to the North Carolina’s agricultural roots, as celebrated by the first state fair held here in 1853. Rather than being jammed by walkers, it hopped with happy, chatting patrons of all ages.
Now, on to the surf and turf—or rather, lack thereof.
The Triangle Restaurant Week menu was a far cry from the trendy-to-traditional, steak-and-seafood fare that Faire promises. “Traditional to meh” felt more accurate. For the first course, our options included a wedge salad of tomato, bacon, blue cheese and green goddess dressing; a butternut squash soup made with green curry yogurt, coconut oil and pumpkin seeds; and a salad of mixed local greens, orange scented fennel, carrot, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
I opted for the butternut squash soup. After the first bite, I winced at a texture indicative of lukewarm baby food. I let my dinner companion, who is a nanny, taste the soup: “Oh, this is exactly like what I mashed up and fed to the two babies this week,” she exclaimed. The worst validation.
The entrée course, devoid of either steak or seafood, offered options of Joyce Farms chicken breast with brussels sprout hash and red wine reduction; certified Angus beef short rib with aligot
potato and asparagus; and honey-glazed Scottish salmon with winter vegetable ratatouille, Peruvian purple potato and lemon gastrique. None of the choices wowed me, but I went for the chicken, anyway.
We waited for 30 minutes. At last, our very personable server apologized, noting that “something had happened to the chicken." But it was about to arrive, she promised. I worried about what sinister fate had befallen the bird, and the mystery was solved when she passed off the plate. The roast chicken and blackened hash were strewn across a wild splash of red wine reduction. It looked like the poor fowl had tried to cross the road and been flattened by a Vespa. I didn’t mind the brutal aesthetic, necessarily. Perhaps Faire was starting a culinary movment after all?
No: The chicken was dry and devoid of all flavor except salt. As for the hash, it was slap-dash and without character. For all that mastication, the main entrée gave me absolutely no payoff. I sampled my dinner companion’s short ribs to see if she fared better. She did not. The ribs wallowed in a bland sauce—crockpot-level cookery at best.
Hungry and despairing, I held out little hope for dessert. Ah, but what grand redemption from the chocolate ganache! A perfect, glistening rectangle of dark, semi-sweet chocolate and cream arrived over a spread of pistachio butter and a thin layer of toasted marshmallow. It was almost too lovely to eat. But I inhaled it. The silky ganache mingled with the grainy nuttiness, and the marshmallow finished every bite with a toasty sugar rush. I licked the plate clean.
We asked our waitress if she ever gets to eat the pistachio butter. “It’s so
incredible, isn’t it?” she said before noting it is so expensive that, to taste it, she has to lick the utensils they use to mix the spread to get any. Her good humor and that dessert, at least, provided a pleasant end to what began as a disaster. While Faire’s Triangle Restaurant Week menu fell short, I decided I’d give it another shot sometime soon.
After all, I like happy endings. Don’t you?