Now as a food blogger, I do get offers from time to time to try out a new place or preview a restaurant but usually, I try to avoid that situation. In an effort to remain impartial, I mostly choose not to attend comp’ed events because it creates a potential conflict of interest. The Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn had reached out to me several times but I had passed. I really wasn’t sure how good a fit the place would be for the focus of Foodalicious Follies. So instead I took a cooking class with their chef, Jason Cunningham and really enjoyed his food. So off to the Fall Preview luncheon for the Fairview Restaurant I went! And it was an impressive showing from beginning to end.
After a meet and greet with the Fairview staff, a small group of foodies from the Triangle were brought into the newly refreshed dining room. Full of rich royal blues, cherry wood and accented with gold-gilt mirrors concealing LCD televisions, the space at the Fairview is both traditional and comfortable. You know you’re in for a fancy meal but it doesn’t feel stuffy at all. While the space is a bit clubby, the dining room is spacious and well-lit but certainly posh. Water and wine is brought to the table along with small bread plates. And we start off with a small grilled endive salad with asparagus, wheatberries and aioli. I have to confess to not being a salad guy but this plate was full of textures and freshness. Pungent endive, soft but firm wheatberries and a light sauce for some creaminess. The plate felt like a palate-cleanser to me. Our second course of autumn salad along with bourbon rabbit confit was solid. A fresh, leafy pile of greens with shaved manchego cheese along with some tender braised rabbit on top of risotto. I’ve only had rabbit a couple of times and the texture is somewhere between chicken and pork with a bit of gaminess on the back end, similar to lamb. Again, a nice plate but probably not really aligned to my tastes.
Our main course of pan-seared Arctic Char and braised short ribs was excellent! The arctic char is related to the salmon so a small slice of meaty, pink fish with a really crisp skin makes for a great forkful. Paired with some sweet potato and lentils, this dish worked nicely for me. The other tasting was beef short-rib sitting atop some blue cheese risotto which made for a great comparison plate. While the fish was lean and crisp, the soft and savory ribs-risotto combination was a favorite of many of the diners in the room. The one thing you notice about all the plates that Chef Jason showcased is a thoughtful nod towards sustainable ingredients with a flash of creativity in the flavor profile and textures.
And finally dessert, a triplet sampler plate of sweet potato cake with maple ice cream, a white chocolate sesame panna cotta with green tea ice cream and yuzu gelee along with a apple custard tart. I had fun with this dish even though I’m not a huge dessert person. The samplings were small and playful, showing off a broad range of colors and mouth-feel. The sesame panna cotta was an array of textures and looks, green, pale white and clear yellow with lots of crisp, gelatin and smooth creaminess. Very light and clean. The sweet potato cake seems like a more traditional fall dessert along with the apple custard tart. The tart crust was excellent, very flaky and layered lightly with sugar and butter, no complaints there. We finished up the meal with a nice cup of strong coffee and was introduced to Chef Jason along with thank you’s to the staff.
All-in-all I am VERY thankful to the Fairview Dining room and their PR coordinator Wendy Shannon for getting me out on a busy lunch day for a wonderful meal. While my first exposure to Chef Jason at a Southern Season was pretty simple, this showcase really brought out what the man can do. His cooking class was focused on advanced Southern fare with a twist while this Fall Preview luncheon really pushed the envelope in terms of tastes, textures and flavors. A very creative and playful menu with a focus on fresh seasonal ingredients, I would call the menu New American and leave it at that. Along with the refreshed dining room, you’re talking about a high-end dining experience in a more traditional dining space. While I know that the Fairview dining room is trying to become more of a “regular” meal type place, it still strikes me as more of a special occasion given the ambiance, pricing and eclectic menu. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all because in some cases that will be exactly what you’re looking for, bon appetit!
Fairview Dining Room at Washington Duke Inn
3001 Cameron Boulevard
Durham, NC 27705