La Residence has a reputation as THE fine dining establishment of Chapel Hill. Since 1976, they have been serving an American twist on French food. I know that La Residence was even the place our former governor took his granddaughter for her graduation from UNC. However, once we got there, we found La Residence to be stunningly…average, at best.
Upon walking in, an older female, that appeared to be the manager, asked us if we had reservations. No greeting, just an annoyed look, as if we were wrong to be customers wanting to eat. We did have reservations too. Then, since they open at six and we were there right on time, they sat us right next to (almost on top of) the only other people in the place. Since we had different waitresses, some personal space might be nice, even one table in between might have been nice. Still speaking of the manager, during our appetizer course, as she was patrolling the only two occupied tables in the place like a hawk, the cell phone of the woman at the other table rang loudly, playing some rap song. The manager, rather loudly while walking away, muttered “well, that’s nice” to the woman, as if to scold her for getting a phone call. Yes, her phone should have been on silent and she should not have been updating her Facebook at dinner, but for the manager to publicly scold a customer, that is rather uncalled for and unforgivable.
For our appetizer, we ordered the beef short rib. The shredded short rib was combined in a circle mold with blanched carrots and celery. The potato gnocchi, blue cheese crumbles, and microgreens were also included mixed into this dish along with a brown sauce. The short rib was flavorless and barely at room temperature. The carrots and celery added an unwelcome crunchy texture to what should be a smooth short rib. The blue cheese crumbles were so minute that we actually had to search the dish to find them. The gnocchi was overly salty. Also, I will swear that the sauce was just room temperature beef broth. While the chef seemed to want the ingredients to stand on their own merits without spices or flavorings, they flopped in taste. It was a rather pathetic excuse for fine dining cuisine.
Megan ordered the Seared Scallops. For the $26 price, she received three large scallops. They were served along with small rock shrimp over fregola pasta with truffled lobster cream. It was adorned with radicchio and a few sprouts, as well as a few golden chanterelle, that were actually very dark brown, not golden at all. By sprouts, they apparently meant brussel sprouts, which Megan actually detests. It would have been nice if the menu were more clear in the descriptions. We didn’t actually find any hint of bacon in the fregola or anywhere else in the dish. The scallops were cooked well and were quite sweet, but again, there was no seasoning in this dish. The lobster cream looked more foam-like than cream based and also lacked any lobster flavor. Don’t get me wrong, the ingredients in this dish are fairly exotic, but their quality or perhaps the quality of their cooking did not live up to even the mildest expectations.
I ordered the Vermillion Snapper. I would have expected a $25 price for Red Snapper, which grows larger and has a more full flavor than the more common Vermillion Snapper. However, I got neither. After ordering the dish, our waitress told me that they were substituting Monkfish. Reluctantly, I went with it anyway. The fish was a meatier fish, but the skin was still on it, which is repulsive to some customers. The fish could have benefited from seasoning (again) and an actual sauce. Technically, it came with a sauce vierge, but the “virgin sauce” was just a light drizzle of lemon juice without the traditional olive oil, chopped tomato, or basil. My potato and dill gnocchi were sautéed until they were blistered crunchy, instead of the soft, pillowy goodness that they should be. The remainder of the dish was carrot shavings, pearl onions that were only partially cooked, and peas.
I should have read the reviews before we went. Everyone kept saying that they restaurant has been in an accelerated decline in the last few months. With the super rude, condescending manager, a waitress that was polite but rather uninformed about the dishes, sub-par food being billed as fine dining, and the persistent flies around the restaurant (we killed three during our dinner), we will not be coming back, ever. This was one of the most unsuccessful meals from start to finish that we have ever reviewed. Their reputation is that of a great restaurant, but our experience couldn’t be further from great.
Scale 1-5 stars
Value for the price