Eatery - Fairview Dining Room (NC)

Fairview Dining Room - Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, 3001 Cameron Blvd, Durham, NC 27705
Pricing - $$$$$ | Dining - Fancy, Dressy | Cuisine - American | Reservations - Recommended

This restaurant is definitely famed among Duke students as a place to go to splurge a little and spend a lot of foodpoints (our dining currency) because it is one of the few places off of campus that accepts this form of payment. It's great for us at the end of the semester when we realize that we have more than we need. My friends and I were in this boat before Finals Week, so we planned a nice Friday evening of dressing up for some delightful dinner. Of course, we also had to block off approximately 3 hours in our schedules for this because the dining experience is long and relaxing. The ambiance was splendid, and the waiters were polite and expedient; I had been to Fairview Dining Room before, and once again they did not disappoint with the atmosphere and service.

We started off with bread of course. There were slices of French baguettes and an olive loaf. The biscuits were cheddar herb ones. The butter was fairly light but I only used it on the French baguette, which didn't really need it because it was great on its own, crispy and light. The olives in the loaf were green and complemented the thickness of the bread itself. As for the biscuits, I'm not a fan of biscuits in general because they're too buttery for me and alas, these ones were too rich for my liking.

This place was, of course, fancy enough to serve an amuse-bouche, which is a bite-sized starter from the chef. The one for this night was roasted pork loin with an apricot-mango chutney. Now, I'm a sucker for chutneys, and this one's sweet coldness definitely stole the show. I'm not a fan of pork, as aforementioned, and I wasn't blown away by this morsel but it will still a good start to a great meal.

I began my meal with their classic Caesar salad. Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese was impressive as well as the inclusion of an actual slice of Spanish anchovy, which I gave away to one of my friends because it was quite salty and I don't particularly like fish. The greens were great though there were a lot of stems. I had the waiter add a lot of pepper to the salad which definitely enhanced the dressing's flavor. The foccacia croutons sort of stayed around until the very end because they were large chunks unlike the cubed store-bought kind - thumbs up for actually making their own croutons. Oh and yes, there was a cheddar crisp that I happily broke into the salad.

We opted to go with two appetizers. The first was their artisan cheese plate. I forgot the name of one of the cheeses unfortunately and because they vary per night/week, I could not find it on the online menu. However, the two that I did remember were the Manchego cheese and Bleu cheese; I'm sure the yellow one was a type of cheddar. All of them were of Spanish origin so the waiter told us. The Manchego seemed almost tasteless to me at first but perhaps it was because I had it with the seasoned flatbread cracker. When I had it alone, I liked its subtle flavor. It was a semi-soft cheese. The cheddar was actually quite pleasing because it wasn't too sharp. I wasn't in the mood for a sharp cheddar, and this one still had a kick to it but only mildly so. The one I liked best, however, was the Bleu cheese. My friends agreed as well. It was nice and creamy, spreadable on the crackers and rich in taste. We finished it first. Other parts to the plate were the fresh honey and Tamari roasted almonds. The honey was fantastic and dipping the almonds in it only made it all the better. I'm not sure, however, that the almonds should've been matched with those cheeses.

The second appetizer was a plate of pan-seared scallops. They were complemented with braised endive, roasted mushrooms, and a sweet potato-black truffle vinaigrette. I thought that the scallops themselves were a tad too soft and bland on the inside. That was probably attributed to how thick each of them were; dipping them into the sauce helped a bit. The endive and mushrooms were great in the vinaigrette as well as on their own since they had some sort of seasoning.

The special entree of the day was a pan-roasted Mahi Mahi on a bed of coconut milk rice and mango salsa. My friend got this, and I didn't try a piece but she ate it up very quickly so I'm going to assume that it was wonderful.

My dinner was poached Maine lobster tail with roasted mirepoix, lobster and potato ravioli, and leek fondue. I was excited to try out lobster tail in an American restaurant as I had always had lobster from Asian places back home. However, I'd have to say I was mildly disappointed with my expensive dish. The lobster was soft and flavorful in itself but the rest of the dish did not measure up to my expectations. The mirepoix was too hard, the lobster and potato ravioli too dry (the plus was how stuffed it was with lobster rather than cheaper ingredients), and the leek fondue much too salty. I still enjoyed my main dish for its main feature of the lobster tail but everything else left me with criticisms.

I didn't snag a picture of the wine bottle, but I ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio Stella (Umbria, Italy) for the table because we had decided before we got to the restaurant that we were all having seafood of some sort. A white wine definitely complements that choice, and I decided on a Pinot Grigio because 1) I like them and 2) I am not well-versed in many other wines. It turned out to be an excellent choice that everyone at the table liked; it was light and almost without the sometimes-unpleasant (to some) taste of alcohol. I felt like it still had a good body to it and quenched our thirst for fancifulness.

Dessert time! Who could pass up on splurging on desserts as well? We had a molten chocolate cake duo w/Tahitian Vanilla ice cream and Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout chocolate gelato, a grapefruit sorbet with seasonal berries, and a caramel apple tart with Apple Jack ice cream. After so much food, I think the most fitting to finish the night was the light, refreshing grapefruit sorbet. All of them were fantastic though. The chocolate cake was quite condensed even with its small size but it was balanced out with the vanilla ice cream. The chocolate gelato part was great on its own but as you can read, there was some Duck-Rabbit in it which was definitely noticeable. Good thing I like the taste of beer or else the gelato would've been ruined for me! The apple tart was a good in-between because it was rich in itself but still light enough because of the fruitiness and ice cream that it wasn't unbearable on a full stomach.

Because we were spending as many of our foodpoints as possible and it was a night to indulge, I decided that I wanted to FINALLY try out a dessert wine (which I had never had before). On the waiter's suggestion, I went with the Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’ Moscato d’Asti 2008 (Canelli, Italy), and my oh my was it fantastic. It was a sweet, bubbly wine that was a little thick. A good way to describe it would be to think of a glass of Sprite that has a little more syrup than carbonated water. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and the small sip that my roommate took confirmed its amazingness. I'd have say that the Moscato was actually the highlight of that night out and the perfect way to end the evening!