Way back when, when I first moved into the Triangle area, I remember my friend Allison bringing me to the Piedmont in Durham for dinner. And I clearly also remember not being that impressed. I tried it one more time and then sort of mentally wrote it off. I have a hard time with restaurants that over-promise and under deliver so it had been years since I had eaten at the Piedmont. Fast-forward to June 2014 and Triangle Restaurant week. Another friend wants to give the Piedmont a shot and I had heard good things through my network so I guess it was time to go back!
From the outside, the Piedmont has a clean look with a lot of white and silver in its signage. Step inside and you’ll be in a large open space with driftwood on one wall, bar and stairs to upper landing on the other side. I grab a beer and wait for my friends for this Triangle Restaurant Week dinner. Chatting with the bartender, we discuss the changes in chefs over the past three or so years. While the space and location is solid, the Piedmont has definitely had a hard time finding its rhythm. I was reassured that things at the Piedmont had changed for the better. Which is exactly what Triangle Restaurant Week is about, trying new places that have been on the edge of your foodie radar screen.
My friends arrive and we grab a table in the corner and check out the menu. Great and tasty sounding descriptions, the Piedmont definitely put up one of the better menus for TRW. I order up a shrimp and sweet corn soup as my appetizer, culotte and sweet potato hash as my main and the sticky date cake as my dessert. I had seen the sticky date cake on last year’s TRW menu so I was excited to finally try this bad boy out! When our appetizers come out, I’m looking over at my table-mates smoked trout with lavash enviously. It’s a beautiful and large plate and compare to my plain old corn soup, I’m mentally sighing inside. But my corn soup is very good. A deep maize color with some density and the lightness of the cucumber makes for a great spoonful. Simple but elegant, the Piedmont is off to a great start. And I sneak a taste of the smoked salmon which is delicious, next time!
My main is a beautiful looking plate: four thick slices of perfectly cooked beef (medium) along with a side hash of sweet potato and broccoli. While the beef is beautifully cooked and seared, what really stands out is the hash! Along with the hash, there are several stalks of caramelized broccoli covered with a secret house sauce that’s sweet and tangy, yum! We interrogate our waiter but he only gives us a hint of what’s in that sauce (molasses). This culotte dish is very satisfying and very well prepared, two for two! There’s also a lamb pasta dish at the table which looks stunning, the Piedmont is doing a great job with plating so far.
And finally to finish off the meal, my sticky date cake! It’s rich, dense and sweet with moistness. The salted caramel provides a great and cold complement to the warm cake, and the plate as a whole is delicious. Service at the Piedmont is excellent throughout the meal which I’d expect at their price points. But overall loved my meal from start to finish, they all were very flavorful and prepared with great ingredients.
Looking around the dining room, the Piedmont is pretty busy for a Sunday night which is a great sign. This restaurant has been around for at least 4 years but has now finally seemed to have turned the corner. Delivering fresh, farm-to-table fare with a twist, the Piedmont is probably now one of my favorite restaurants in downtown Durham. Which isn’t an easy accomplishment given how much trepidation I had coming in. But recent reviews had hinted of a rebirth at the Piedmont. So thanks so much for the lovely meal and I tip my cap to your new restaurant and staff! Keep up the great work and food coming out of the kitchen, can’t wait to come back for brunch…
The Piedmont Triangle Restaurant Week Menu- Three Courses, $30
LL Urban Farm’s organic greens, shaved Coon Rock Farm’s radish,
fresh herbs, preserved lemon vinaigrette
Root Down Farm’s roasted beets,compressed watermelon,
housemade kimchee, basil pesto, lemon balm
smoked Carolina trout dip, horseradish, house-made lavash crackers
chilled sweet corn soup,
barbecued NC shrimp, M & M Farm’s cucumber & corn salad
pan-seared, line-caught mahi mahi,
brown butter Root Down Farm’s carrots,
Robuchon potato purée, carrot butter, fennel-chervil slaw
Melina’s handmade sweet pea and mint “lune,” braised lamb neck, Four Leaf Farm’s pea shoots, spiced pecan crumble,
Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander
Maple Leaf Farm’s crispy duck leg confit,
Melina’s ricotta gnocchi, Pine Knot Farm’s collards,
braised cipollini, roasted Coon Rock Farm’s turnips
grass-fed Painted Hills’ coulotte,
Triple J Farm’s sweet potatoes & smoked bacon hash,
roasted Four Leaf Farm’s broccoli, black garlic
Chapel Hill Creamery “Calvander” risotto,
foraged wood nettles pistou, green scapes, summer squash,
Woodfruit mushrooms, lemon
blueberry “ten dollar pie,”
homemade lemon buttermilk ice cream
sticky date cake, salted caramel ice cream,
dulce de leche, caramelized white chocolate
coconut cake, almond crisp,
bittersweet chocolate sorbet, burnt caramel