So the last place I visited was a charming French bistro in Durham called Vin Rouge with Rich Melinda and Dan. It's not a big place and it filled up quickly, which also meant it got very loud quickly. This wasn't exactly a bad thing, the four of us are occasionally not fit for public appearances. Rich was at one point concerned we wouldn't be asked back, but since our rather stoned-looking waiter vanished halfway through our meal, there were no witnesses to our antics.
And now for the food. We started with a dish of truffle macaroni and cheese. It was fantastic, creamy and earthy at the same time. I love truffles and I was afraid that the cheese would overpower them, but it was such a great combination. I could have easily finished the entire dish, except for the whole sharing with the table thing.
For dinner I got a braised duck leg over potatoes with cheese and vegetables. The leg was fantastic, perfectly cooked. The potatoes however were more cheese than potato and almost too rich for me. The vegetables, mostly carrots and onions managed to retain all of their flavor and texture despite swimming in the cheese/potato mixture.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate torte and was treated to a rich, dense and moist cake. It was a prefect dessert although probably a poor choice after the rich starter and the heavy duck.
Melinda, Dan and Rich seemed pretty happy with their choices. Rich got a cassoulet, Melinda ordered pork and Dan got steak au poivre. The steak was excellent, not overpowered by the spices and the pound of fries it came with were crispy, salty and addictive.
Dan and Melinda got the apple bread pudding for desert and Rich ordered chocolate mousse. The consensus on the pudding was that it was good, but there were a lot of flavors going on. The mousse seemed to make Rich very very happy.
So it was a successful dinner from a culinary standpoint, but emotionally? It was a nice place and no one threw us out. I had a good time, but there weren't any "to die for" moments. So it's kind of an odd situation. Although I liked the place, I'm not sure if it hit that chord.
The best restaurants are the ones that feel so comfortable in some way. The ones you can see yourself returning too, night after night to either experience the same dish or see what new creations the chef has placed on the menu. Vin Rouge is clearly that place for a great many people in Durham, and I have to admit, I'm envious of them. It's a sophisticated place with the kind of decor that says "I don't have to try hard, I just am." Well, I have to try hard and I always feel like in places like that everything that's awkward and goofy about me screams "I don't belong here".
I'd like to be the kind of person who is at home in the classiest places and the greasiest diners. I'm working on it. Really.