Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saint Jacques is no longer a top Raleigh restaurant

When Lil and Lori Lacassagne owned Raleigh's Saint Jacques French Cuisine, our group were regulars.  We loved the food and the people, and we ate there multiple times each year, certainly at least once per season.  A while back, Lil and Lori sold the place so they could focus all of their efforts on the Burke Manor Inn, and we hadn't returned to Saint Jacques since then.  We'd been a little afraid of what we'd find, and we'd also felt a bit disloyal to Lil and Lori, but, hey, their place is a long drive away, and we love supporting good Raleigh restaurants.  So, off we went to Saint Jacques for dinner.

I am sad to report that this former mainstay of ours has slid rather precipitously.

The service was so notably weak that I'm going to lead with it.  The servers frequently looked confused, and we sat for long periods, both initially and between courses, unattended.  The dining room was nowhere near full, but the service team--and, to be fair to them, the kitchen--seemed utterly unable to keep up.

I'd cut the place a lot of slack, though, if that was its only problem.  The food, after all, is the true star.

Unfortunately, every single dish I tasted, as well as almost all the dishes of the others in the group, was significantly worse than it had been before.  All of my dishes erred unpleasantly toward the sweet.  The onion soup, a basic French dish, lacked richness and flavor but tasted sweet.  The breads were okay but not as good as what you'd get at Whole Foods.  The goat cheese and duck appetizer proved to be a salad with two pieces of wilted bread sporting smears of goat cheese and a few thin and fairly tasteless duck slices sitting atop a mound of over-dressed greens.  The filet mignon with foie entree, at $42 rather pricey by local standards, was a bland piece of chewy meat with a tiny spread of foie atop it, an overly sweet reduction, and three tiny half-fingerling potato bits.

I was hoping desserts would be the saviors of the meal, and indeed the pastry in my profiteroles was promising, but the dish failed under the weight of utterly tasteless white ice cream.  The chocolate mousse was a more than passable chocolate pudding, but it was too simple to deserve the name mousse.

Saint Jacques was once a top-drawer restaurant where I could bring people from any city and expect they would have a good meal.  What we experienced was B- by Raleigh standards--at best, the kind of meal that makes you feel you paid too much for weak food and don't need to return.

I'm going to need to read a lot of positive reviews before I'll go back, and I can no longer recommend it at all.


David Drake said...

Dear Mark

I don't usually care one way or the other about restaurants, but I remember the St Jacques from the one time we were there with the group. The entrance and bar, where smoking was permitted at the time, were at a higher level. Cigarette smoke enveloped our table throughout the meal.

Further, our server was conspicuous by his absence--as well as being clumsy and incompetent at the times when he appeared. I don't have high standards (I think you were there when I was having dinner with Tom Doherty at a WFC and the server dumped ice tea in my lap without upsetting me; it was an honest goof, and I was wearing khaki trousers), but I still recall the guy at St Jacques with amazement.

I'm willing to believe that the restaurant improved after we went there (and smoking was banned in bars, of course), but what you describe under the new regime is a less-bad experience than I had under the previous owners.

As always,

Mark said...

I honestly believe we are not talking about the same place. For one thing, this place has never had a bar, nor was it open in the years when smoking was permitted.

David Drake said...

Dear Mark,
Hmm. I wonder what I'm thinking about, then?

Mark said...

I can't recall, but I will think on it.

David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

The St Jacques has existed since 2004 (and it would've been toward the early part of that time that we went). The smoking ban came in in 2010.

The place I remember was in a mall.

The most striking thing about the layout was that the entrance was basically at mezzanine level looking down on the dining area. I don't guarantee there was a bar in that entrance area (why would I notice?), but smoking was definitely permitted.

The high entrance (of wherever) should be determinative.


Mark said...

Sorry for not checking on its origin year.

It is indeed in a strip mall.

The high entrance is the clue, though, that the place you're recalling is not Saint Jacques, because it is all on one level (and has no entrance bar).

Sorry I can't recall which place you're thinking about. Perhaps Sullivan's downtown?


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