Obviously, finishing a hellish week of finals and my first semester at Duke calls for a celebratory meal.
Honestly, I would've gone back to ONE. It epitomises everything I love about dining - a long meal, multiple courses, interesting flavours and pairings, and unique presentation. A guaranteed celebration. But I also thought it was worth trying somewhere new, and taking a look at Franklin street, if only through the windows of my uber there, because we ended up spending over 3 hours in the restaurant. But that should speak of how comfortable the setting of Elaine's on Franklin is.
Fun fact: The moment we stepped it, though, let's just put it that the median age of their typical crowd is a decent way above my own.
Nevertheless, it's a hit and miss kind of place. I enjoyed the plates I ordered, but my friend not so much (and the small bites I tried lead me to concur). It's marketed as "New American Fare", but it has a decidedly French slant to the menu. It's nothing revolutionary, but stick with the safe bets and it's a good experience. Or that might have just been my celebratory feels.
elaine's roasted quail on anson mill's grits, braised pine knot collard greens, corn relish and redeye gravy
brinkley farm's curried butternut squash soup w/ mint coconut yogurt and pumpkin seed oil
The quail was pretty good - I don't eat it often, but thankfully the few times I have it's always been moist and tasty, and this time wasn't an exception. Gravy was great on the first few bites, but after a while it tasted odd (either that or the soup threw my tastebuds off). I usually avoid grits, but I really liked these, the texture was good. Everything generally paired well and perhaps my only complaint is that there's barely enough meat, but its a quail. And all I can say about the soup was that I definitely wasn't feeling it.
duck a l'orange: elaine's crispy duck leg confit w/ pommes anna, braised belgian endive & sauce a l'orange
grilled wild king salmon w/ roasted garlic spaetzle, lardons, savoy cabbage & pommery mustard jus
Duck a l'orange is still a wildcard for me: the idea sounds ridiculous (orange sauce?), but I still see it in restaurants, so it must have some kind of appeal. In this case, not so much. The orange sauce was weird (but not decidedly orange tasting), although it was quite salvaged by a well cooked duck confit that wasn't too oily (the usual reason why I avoid it), and great potatoes. Great potatoes. Sliced potatoes presented very beautifully (we are talking about potatoes) and cooked to crispy but smooth perfection. Great potatoes.
Salmon was perfectly cooked - I like mine kind of pink, probably also because I've been generally deprived of raw salmon sashimi around here. But it was a nice chunky cut, and the bed of random stuff it rested on was really fun to eat: Spaetzle (german gnocchi), lardons (glorified bacon) and cabbage (cabbage) combined to present a lot of variety in texture.
pear crisp w/ cognac ice cream
chocolate chiffon cake bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream
For an $8 dessert, they're not bad, but they're really nothing to rave about, and perhaps tilt to the side of disappointing. Especially if you read their menu, which makes them sound fantastic. Perhaps it's because we ordered two dishes that had to come in ramekins, but presentation was underwhelming when they first came out, and we spent more than a decent amount of time switching between both ice creams, figuring out if mine was actually cognac and not just vanilla ice cream. (If you're curious, its 98% vanilla with a 2% overtone of cognac that can only be derived in side to side comparison with 100% vanilla).
Elaine's On Franklin
454 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516