GREAT EXPECTATIONS…MET!

Stanbury

Over the last month of blogging, I’ve been pretty let down by my restaurant choices for review.  I’ve gotten my hopes up, only to have them crushed by poor service, dry seafood, poor seasoning, too much oregano or an overcooked egg.  When we made our plans to check out Stanbury, I tried to keep my expectations low.  This is difficult for me, because food excites me.  Not only cooking it, but the whole meal experience.  From “right this way” to “have a good evening,” I look forward to every second.  I will read the menu weeks in advance and plan each course of my meal, changing it every so often, and plan my meals for the week prior in preparation for what I intend on ordering.  Reviews on Stanbury are fantastic, and they do that whole farm to table, local ingredients, made from scratch to order thing that almost never fails.  It didn’t fail.  The dinner was a huge success.

http://www.stanburyraleigh.com

Overall 4.8 out of 5

Food/Beverage: 4.5 out of 5

Ambiance: 5 out of 5

Value: 5 out of 5

Service: 5 out of 5

From start to finish, this meal was a total win.  Stanbury is the kind of place where they change the menu frequently, so I could get an idea for what I would be eating, but couldn’t get too ahead of myself with food choices.  I called about a week in advance to try and make a reservation for my party of 4 on a Saturday evening, but told that they were already booked (until 10, which is way to late for me to eat dinner).  We decided to go early, 5:30pm, and see about a walk in or a spot at the bar.  I’m so glad we decided to give it a try.

It was a gorgeous night, warm enough that they had the garage style side door open and seating available on the patio.  We were seated immediately at a great table, right at the front.  The menus were out, the table was set and everything looked beautiful.

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Our waitress was very sweet and knowledgeable on top of being prompt and attentive.  We started with drinks from the Libations menu…all picking a different one…

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The drinks we picked included the Louisiana Purchase (left – brandy, fig syrup, creole and angostura bitters, lemon peel, spirit of aunt Jana) and the Velvet Cloak (right – rye, sweet vermouth, cherry heering, Campari and scotch rinse).

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The Maple Leaf (bourbon, maple syrup, lemon, egg white, Angostura bitters)

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and the Gin and Tonic (gin, lavender syrup and tonic).  They were very good! Very well made.  The prices aren’t listed on the drink menu and ended up being pretty high but in my opinion the were worth it because of the quality of liquor and inventiveness of ingredient combinations.

The menu was also very creative.  Its broken into small plates and large plates and includes items I had never tasted before, like marrow, duck and steak tartar.  And these became part of our meal experience.  I went with 2 small plates, the Roasted Marrow served with a parsley and caper salad and toast, and the Fried Oysters, served with sriracha mayo.

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Being my first marrow experience, I sat excitedly awaiting what had been described to me as meaty flavored with the texture of butter with no real idea of what that meant or how it would taste.  It tasted like meaty flavored butter.  Spread on toast, it was slightly salty.  The texture was creamy and worked perfectly with the parsley and capers.  The only problem was that my toast was burnt.  Considering how well prepared everything else was, I was a little surprised that the toast just wasn’t.  This was one of the three reasons why I scored 4.5 instead of 5 stars for food.

One of my dining companions, who also ordered the marrow, paired it with roasted beets and Duck Breast (served with Anson mill grits, poached duck egg, oyster mushrooms and bacon gravy.  Wow! The duck was cooked perfect, sticky with sauce and just fatty enough to burst with flavor each and every bite.

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The beets, reason number 2 for the lower rating, were just good.  The orange worked well and the vinaigrette they used complimented the flavor of the beets very well but they were nothing that couldn’t be replicated with some ease.

Second dinner companion ordered the oysters and paired them with steak tartar.

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They were served with a nuoc chan vinaigrette, peanuts, mint, thai basil, cilantro and crab chips.  I tasted a little of the tartar and was impressed with the flavors.  He thought there was a little more citrus than he would have liked, but devoured it.

Dinner companion number three ordered the Ribeye.  Oh wow, the Ribeye.

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Ribeye steaks are easy to mess up, if you over flavor or over cook them, as are mashed potatoes.  This had a truffle/black garlic emulsion poured over top that was filled with flavor and salted very well.  The mashed potatoes were so creamy and went well with the steak.

The dessert course put the cherry on top of this meal.  I ordered the chocolate coffee creme brûlée.

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The entire top was one giant sugary crisp complimented by crushed coffee beans.  It was delicious, but a little thicker than other creme brûlées that I’ve had in the past.  This was reason number three I didn’t give a 5 star rating.

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My dinner companions ordered the banana tort with carmel sauce and peanut butter ice cream.  I’m not a banana fan, but this was also very good.  They both liked it, but thought it would have been a flop without the ice cream.

Will I go back to Stanbury?  Wild horses couldn’t stop me.  My limited budget may make the length of time between visits a little longer but won’t stop me completely.  I can’t wait until my next trip.

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