Sunday, December 22, 2013

[ONE] restaurant: World-class cuisine in the Triangle

I've reviewed [ONE] in multiple past posts.  I've talked about its good start, some less good periods, and its recent dramatic transformation.  I've talked about its potential. 

Last night, I got to experience that potential.  Calling [ONE] the best high-end restaurant in the Triangle is accurate, but it's also inadequate.  As someone who has eaten in many Michelin three-star-rated restaurants and in many of the places ranked in the top fifty in the world, I'm here to tell you that the full truth about [ONE] is so very much better than that bit of praise.  It's simple.

[ONE] can deliver world-class meals.  The one I ate last night was on par with anything I've had anywhere, from El Bulli to Robuchon, from The French Laundry to Guy Savoy (the real one in Paris). 

In an earlier blog post on [ONE], I talked about my desire to have its star chefs, Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan, cook the meal they would love to create were there no restrictions on price or creativity.  Last night, a group of us ate a version of that meal--not the full, no-holds-barred version, which was not possible due to this being a holiday Saturday night, they told me, but a version good enough to merit a world-class ranking. 

The chefs created this meal despite having to deal with a large group with two vegetarians and a pescetarian.  Here's the menu I ate.  (The distortion is due to the angle at which I had to take the shot not to have my phone's shadow in the picture; sorry about that.)

Click on an image to see a larger version.

The meal began with four snacks, each a lovely bite-sized morsel, all delicious. 

Then, the menu began.  I'm not a fan of the beet, a trait I consider a foodie weakness but nonetheless the truth.  Thus, I was a little nervous about this dish.  I did not express this dislike to the chefs ahead of time, however, because I have learned something important over the years of superb meals:  When a great chef prepares a dish that includes ingredients I think I don't like, I often find I like the food after all.

Tonight's beet dish had me scraping every last bit of flavor from the dish.

While we were enjoying this beautiful and delicious mixture of ingredients, Chef Floresca showed us a loaf of rye bread in which they were baking the rutabagas that were central to the next dish. 

You can barely see many of the ingredients in this one because of all the white truffle shavings, which Floresca applied herself to each of our plates.  Wow, was this superb!

Next, they threw us a curve ball, as Floresca said in her introduction to the dish, by adding a dish to our menu. 

A mixture of lamb tail, lamb heart, and lamb bacon in an amazing sauce over absolutely flawlessly prepared pasta--all topped by black truffle shavings that she again applied--this small bowl was as perfect a dish of pasta and as perfect a winter food as I have ever tasted.  I would love to have this available every time the weather turns unreasonably cold. 

I could go on and on, through every dish, but the outcome was the same each and every time:  The food was creative, fun, and, most of all, delicious.  Our table filled with laughter and exclamations of joy as we ate.  The desserts, which I had once critiqued as weak, were delights.  I didn't catch the pastry chef's name, but he did great work.  In my previous entry on [ONE], I'd praised the snowball as a dish that showed what this team could do.  Here it is, now refined, in a special ice sculpture and with fingerlime caviar atop it--an addition that elevated the already great concoction.

After the two dessert treats on the menu and the two small ones they added, I spent a few minutes in delightful conversation with Floresca.  We talked about food, art, the value of experiences, the importance of humor in art, and many other subjects. 

I cannot recommend [ONE] too much.  It wasn't full on a Saturday night, so I worry (I hope needlessly) about its future, but I very much want it to succeed.  It deserves to be a destination restaurant, the kind of place that brings foodies in New York and LA to North Carolina. 

If you live in the area, do yourself a favor:  Open yourself to culinary wonders, let the chefs cook whatever they'd like, and eat a world-class meal at [ONE].  If you don't live nearby, no worries; you can get to RDU from just about anywhere in two flights. 

Chefs Floresca and Ryan, as well as the whole team at [ONE], flat out deliver the goods.  This is a world-class cooking team. 

Go eat their food.  Be sure to come by and say, "Hi," if you see me, because I'll be there every chance I get.


Anonymous said...

i like to read your food reviews, but like a lot of folks, I'll never be able to afford to go to a place like this. I'm glad that you and your party were able to have such a great experience.

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind words. I share that concern. The base price for this special meal was $100, and you can eat the regular chef's tasting menu for $50. So, it's more affordable than it might seem. (All prices per person, exclusive of tip and alcohol.)

Anonymous said...

Right now, I have concern about paying basic bills and buying food, gasoline, medicine... I'm hoping 2014 will be better for me and a lot of other folks. Take care. PS you have the sweetest looking dog! (but then, most dogs are sweeties)

Mark said...

I'm sorry you have those concerns. That sucks.

Thank you for the kind words about Holden. He is a very sweet dog indeed.

Anonymous said...

A lot of folks unfortunately have those same concerns. You keep moving forward, do what you can and hope for the best.

I can tell you and your family love Holden. He's lucky to have yall.


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