Last night we had our second Triangle Restaurant Week dining experience at Solas on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. We’ve driven past this place a number of times and from the look of things, knew it was pretty swanky.
My first impression, unfortunately, was mild irritation when we pulled up and found out the valet parking was not complimentary as described when I confirmed my reservation earlier in the day. I always tip well for valet, but having to search through my wallet unprepared put me off a bit. However, we met our friend Chris (who reviews wines on trianglevino.com) and were quickly seated outside on the patio where the air temperature and breeze were very pleasant. The decor was quite nice, and the people watching even better. While we didn’t take them up on it, we were offered free entrance to the upstairs lounge as dinner patrons.
To start we ordered a bottle of the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which was one of the better values on the white wine list. The Restaurant Week menu options were pretty broad with smaller portions of dishes they normally have on their main menu, so we figured we’d get a good idea of their cooking style. I chose the Hot Rock with filet & gulf shrimp and Eric picked the BBQ duck quesadilla with mango avocado salsa. Eric enjoyed his appetizer which had a good bit of duck and just enough sauce. I will attest that the avocado mango salsa was very nice. While my Hot Rock appetizer’s presentation was impressive, neither the steak or shrimp were seasoned and since the dish didn’t come with any dipping sauces, I found the meat alone very bland. Some sprinkled salt and pepper from the table improved the flavor but why couldn’t they do that in the kitchen?
With dinner, Chris suggested a bottle of Punto Final Malbec. As an entree, Eric ordered the Citrus Marinated Flat Iron Steak and I had the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp. I’m glad the waitress mentioned that the kitchen tends to undercook steak when he ordered it medium or Eric wouldn’t have eaten it. But once again, why not just cook it to order instead of making your waitstaff explain this? The steak was good, though a bit underseasoned again, and Eric really liked his mashed potatoes. I found my shrimp overcooked and I maybe had once slice of bacon spread out over three shrimp. Seriously. It was more like a bacon cozy than a wrap. Chris had the Filet with Cabernet Goat Cheese Butter—as before, underseasoned meat, and the goat cheese butter was overpowering.
My strawberry-rhubarb tart dessert was the highlight of my meal and strangely, it was more food than both my appetizer and entree combined. Eric wasn’t impressed with his chocolate crepe as it had some sort of strange orange alcohol taste – to be fair, neither of us are crazy about the combination of citrus and chocolate.
Overall, Solas seems to be a case of style (with good service and atmosphere) over substance (unremarkable food). With plenty of other places to eat nearby we probably won’t be back for a full meal soon, but we would consider going for appetizers and people watching.