Monday, February 27, 2012

Piedmont isn't what it used to be

As long-time readers know, for years I've liked Piedmont restaurant in Durham. A year and a half ago, though, the good folks at Coon Rock Farm and Zely & Ritz bought it, put in a new chef, and changed the menu. The focus on local sourcing went up, which I applaud, but they also added a focus on relatively inexpensive prix fixe menus. Though this move is probably wise in our current economy, it often does not, in my experience, help the food.

The other night, a group of us ate dinner there to check it out after a long absence.

The food was good--but no more. Gone were the complexities or inventiveness of past Piedmont menus. My cauliflower soup, for example, tasted fine but was little more than cauliflower. My pork loin was overcooked and rubbed too heavily. It wasn't a bad meal, not by any stretch, but it also wasn't the kind of meal that left me wanting to come back--which every meal at, for example, Panciuto or Herons or Saint Jacques does, and which meals at the previous Piedmont did.

The service had slid far more than the food. Maybe it was just our server, who was quite nice but clearly not on her game, but nothing happened entirely properly. I always tip at least 20%, because I appreciate good service and how hard it is for servers to make a living, but in this case I made a tiny, probably unnoticed statement by coming in only a little above 15%.

If you're looking for decent, locally sourced food at a good price, I'd still urge you to check out Piedmont. If, however, you're looking for both local sourcing and a top-notch meal, give it a pass.

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