I think I’ve found a new favorite restaurant in the Triangle area. Not only does the Second Empire restaurant feature fantastic service and a super fancy atmosphere, but the food is absolutely wonderful.
I made reservations well in advance for our Friday evening out, as I knew it was a popular restaurant in the area. Not only did I get a call, but I got quite a few emails about the reservation, making sure I was asking for the main floor (not the tavern) and that it wasn’t for a special event of any kind. We ended up arriving about 20 minutes ahead of our reservation because I tried to plan for traffic, which was abnormally good on this evening. I couldn’t find any parking in their tiny private lot, but at least street parking could be found within a half block. Our table wasn’t ready, so we were directed down to the tavern area for a few minutes while our table was prepared.
The tavern area seemed nice enough, but a bit more crowded than the upper level. I hear they have a separate, slightly cheaper menu for this area, and I suppose one day we might try it. The bar area featured a nice variety of hard alcohols, though I wanted to be able to decide on a main dish before ordering a drink. So in the meantime, I snacked on pretzels and drank ice water while waiting for our table.
The maitre d came down to the tavern to get us once our table was ready. He took our coats, and led us into small room with about 4-5 other tables in it, and seated us at a table for two. There was fine art on the walls and fuzzy, warmly-colored wallpaper, giving the room a hushed atmosphere like a museum. The lighting was low, but not so low you couldn’t see your menu or food. Just low enough so my pictures didn’t turn out.
We were advised to order of the first course menu, and then the entree menu, but I decided instead to order a cheese sampling off the cheese menu. They offered a 3 cheese plate for $16 and this was enough for my husband and I to split. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the cheeses, but one was a Camembert, and two were Gouda-like. They were served with some onion, berries, bread and pressed date/almond cake. I wasn’t familiar with their wine list, so they suggested the Artesa chardonnay to go with the cheeses. I thought it complimented them very well, and I was really happy with the cheese plate.
For entrees, I ordered the Pennsylvania duck leg and my husband ordered the special of the day, which was Filet Mignon. His entree was supposed to come with potatoes and other carbs, but they were able to make it with sauteed vegetables on his request to accommodate his diet.
The duck was absolutely divine, and the sauce was perfect. It was served with an amazing little pastry that seemed to be chopped wild rice and vegetables baked in phyllo dough, and was also served with white asparagus, something I hadn’t seen since I lived in Germany. Everything about the dish was perfect, and I was really impressed with the size of the entree. Compared to restaurants like An or Heron’s, they actually do give you a full plate of food for your money. Again, I didn’t know what kind of wine to get with duck, since it’s not something I often order. They recommended the J. Lohr petit sirah, which paired with it perfectly.
My husband’s steak looked beautiful, and the sauce on his was almost more delicious than the sauce on my duck. I was amazed how perfectly the sauces were paired with the meats. It came with a nice selection of perfectly sauteed vegetables.
As full as I was, I couldn’t pass up ordering dessert. I got the vanilla bean creme brulee, and it was really good. I’m not sure if it was $9 good, as that’s a bit expensive for a dessert. But I’d still get one again next time, probably the souffle.
My husband’s entree ended up being $44, something they don’t tell you about when they’re listing off the specials. When most of the other entrees are about $30 that’s a bit of a jump. However since we so rarely get a nice, romantic evening out, and since the food was so very delicious, I still think it all was worth it. Since they don’t really serve children, and it’s a bit pricey, I don’t think we’ll be coming back here more than once a year or so. However I think out of all the places I would want to celebrate my 10th anniversary, this restaurant tops the list. It’s far and away the best “special occasion” restaurant in the triangle area.