The Eschelon Experience group has put together a new restaurant. It’s located near Cameron Village at the base of one of the new apartment buildings alongside several other new spots. If you aren’t familiar, Eschelon is the group that also brought us Mura, Cameron Bar and Grill, The Oxford and Zinda in Raleigh and a sushi spot in Durham called Basan. They have a great outdoor seating area, and take reservations. You can even specify that you’d like outdoor seating in your reservation and they will do their best to satisfy your request. I thought I had read that the restaurant was a throwback to the NC State Fair, because this was the original location. The menu had been described as reminiscent of fair food, but stepped up. I didn’t see any hint of fair food at Faire.
This review is exceptionally hard for me to write, simply because I was FLOORED by the expense of the meal. I will do my best to comment on the food without letting the price persuade me. The menu is interesting. Lots of great flavors and a variety of preparations and sauces are available. One side is a la cart while the other is complete main courses. If I went back, I would certainly only order from the dishes side of the menu.
The first item we ordered was the crispy oysters ($13). It was 4 large, cornmeal crusted oysters served with a carrot purée, asparagus and chives. The oysters were cooked very well, we’re juicy and tender and paired perfectly with the crispy asparagus and sauce.
The Fruits De Mer was our second appetizer. For $33, we were served 7 smoked mussels, 6 shrimp, a lump crab bowl, and there oysters. They were served with horseradish and spicy carrot ketchup. I expected a lot more food for the price. On top of that, the mussels were rubbery and the crab left a lot to be desired. It was bland and had a few pieces of shells throughout. The shrimp were fine, as were the oysters.
Our group decided to order a la cart and share a few of the sides. I went with the diver scallops ($29). I picked the au poivre sauce to accompany it. The sauce was incredible. I dipped everything in it. The scallops were well prepared, however I was shocked at the price. Yes, I ordered it anyway but once I saw it, the price was all I could think about.
Two diners in my party ordered the yellowfin tuna ($28). It was seared but nice and raw in the middle. I think this was the best prepared item of all of the dishes. You had your choice of sauces and butters of which they both picked the smoked shallot and herb butter. They really enjoyed the dish.
The final member of our party ordered the filet mignon. You could get 6 oz for $31 or 8 for $39. She had the blue cheese Cabernet butter served with it. She did say it was “baller” as she happily ate her meal. It looked amazing.
We ordered three sides, each $7. The best of which was the mashed potatoes. They were a delightfully light and airy dish of Parmesan whipped Yukon gold potatoes. I could have eaten the entire dish myself. They were that good.
The second was a dish of roasted Brussels sprouts gratin. We were able to specify the bread crumbs and bacon on the side to satisfy both the gluten free and vegetarian members of our party. I enjoyed them a lot. They could have been roasted a bit longer, in my opinion but I did enjoy them.
The final side we ordered was the burgundy mushrooms. I tasted one, it was not my favorite. I do like mushrooms but wasn’t feeling it. Everyone else loved the sauce and raved about the flavor.
For dessert we ordered the flourless chocolate tort. It isn’t on their online menu, so I’m not certain of the price but most of the desserts range from $6-8. It had a raspberry compote on top and was sitting on some fresh whipped cream. It was a bit dry to me. The flavors were nice, though.
I enjoyed the experience. The outdoor seating is a great spot for people watching, the inside was pretty and very simple. My total bill at the end of the night for my portion (one person) after tip was $100. I was baffled. As much as I liked the food, upon seeing the bill, my first thought was…no, that was NOT a $100 meal. The main courses on the entrees side of the menu range from $22-$24 and most of them sound just fine. I didn’t order one though because there was always one element that didn’t sound great to me. Garlic orange glazed duck…yes please! Served with eggplant bread, nah I’ll pass. Just very strange. So, yeah I’d go back but i would probably order an appetizer and the mashed potatoes and call it a day. Give it a try, just do math as you order so you aren’t surprised.