Foodies in the Triangle region get really excited when Triangle Restaurant Week comes around. Triangle Restaurant Week is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence that features some of the top-flight restaurants in Durham, Raleigh, Cary, and Chapel Hill. Most of the restaurants will offer a three course meal for just $30 or some for $20. Considering that most of these restaurants would cost $60 or more for a three course meal, you better bet that we are going to attend this event!
This year, Scott and I chose to go to Four Square Restaurant, an upscale restaurant in Durham. Four Square is located off Chapel Hill Road in an old, 1800-era house. Four Square was named for the four large rooms located in each corner of the two-story house. New Jersey native chef/co-owner Shane Ingram has worked at Emeril’s in New Orleans where he cooked with Emeril Laggase, and later worked at Charlie Trotters in Chicago. When he and his wife, Elizabeth Woodhouse (general manager and co-owner), moved to North Carolina, Ingram worked at Fearrington House before they opened Four Square.
The rooms are intimate, with just four to five tables in each. A couple of the rooms upstairs have big, long tables to host private parties. It is elegant, yet comfortable and luckily the staff is not concerned if people dress more casually. We saw everything from women in fancy dresses and men in suits and ties, to both men and women wearing jeans and casual clothes. The staff was very warm and friendly, making us feel at ease. It reminded me a little bit of our experience at the 5&10, Hugh Acheson’s restaurant in Athens, Georgia. The cuisine is absolutely first-class yet you don’t have to feel like you will be thrown out if you grab the wrong knife or fork while eating there. The menu changes every two weeks as Ingram. Like many chefs in the Triangle region, cooks what is in season and chooses local ingredients when possible.
Triangle Restaurant Week means that the menu is a pre-fix, so we had two choices for each course. How fortuitous, we, of course, ordered one of each! We started our appetizers with a roasted acorn squash, apples and pickled fennel salad with a sweet and sour dressing. The acorn squash was not completely raw, but still had just a bit too much crunchiness for my taste. I didn’t like that part of the salad, but the sliced apples, baby greens, and pickled fennel were great. The sweet and sour dressing was also very good.
Next we had the New England style clam chowder with an oyster cracker. Oh my, was this ever great! The soup was blended with just small chunks of carrots, green onions, parsley and clams The oyster cracker was a piece of pastry in the shape of a very large oyster cracker and was hollow in the middle. The soup was well seasoned, warm and comforting.
Our our entrees, we had the grilled flat iron steak cooked to medium, served with a pilaf of mixed grains that included barley, lentils and I’m not sure what else, and steamed broccoli over a Romesco sauce. This dish was jam packed with flavor. The thinly sliced pieces of beef were stacked on top of the pilaf and broccoli. The sauce added a tomato kick. There was a very subtle green sauce I later found out was an herb oil that added flavor to the broccoli.
The next dish was a pan seared steelhead salmon with crispy roasted garlic polenta, collard greens served over a brandied shrimp sauce. The salmon was crispy on the top from the pan searing and juicy and flaky on the inside. It was another stacked dish, so it was served on top of the polenta, which had a nice crispy outside and soft, tender inside and was a nice accompaniment to the salmon. Two big, fat shrimp were served with the sauce, which was very delicate and not overpowering. Presentation of both of these dishes were very pleasing to the eye as well. Ingram and his staff know their way around the kitchen!
We finished our meal with a honey crisp apple cake, a dish that reminded me a bit of the apple dish I had at An Cuisine in Cary. This apple cake was served with a graham streusel, a rich caramel pastry cream that had some sour cream notes to it, and a brown butter vinaigrette. It was topped with potato stick apple slices and had a glaze on the side with very sour notes to it. It was delicious and I wanted to eat another one!
We also had a dessert called an After Dinner Mint, which was a chocolate mousse served with a peppermint meringue foam, cocoa nib crumble, which added a much needed crunchiness to the dish and both a mint and espresso syrup. It reminded me of a Marshall Field’s chocolate mint, but, of course, much better. Again, both desserts had beautiful presentation.
We were very satisfied with our meal and our experience at Four Square. This is a great place to take a date, celebrate a birthday, anniversary or other occasion, or just have a special night out.
Four Square Restaurant is located at 2701 Chapel Hill Road in Durham and is open 5:30pm until 9:30 pm Monday through Saturday. You can like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to find out what their specials are going to be.