Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review of 604 at West Village, Durham

It has been a long time since I have been so thoroughly impressed with a restaurant, that I walked away thinking of a time when I can take my family there.  But top-to-bottom, 604 at West was spectacular.  The mood of the evening is set the moment you walk in and see the massively tall brick walls with thick, old wooden supports.  Immediately we were impressed, but Megan and I are suckers for old buildings with exposed brick, renovated for a modern purpose.  This is easily one of the most visually stunning restaurants in the area and it is a perfect date location.  Our waitress was super friendly and personable with an excellent knowledge of the menu.  In fact, when prompted she told us not only her favorite appetizers and dishes, but also the most popular dishes.
            For our appetizers, I ordered the Carpaccio, while Megan had the Goat Cheese Polenta.  The Carpaccio, which is raw beef, was sliced so razor thin that you could practically see through it.  The beef was peppercorn encrusted, which added a spicy roughness to the otherwise delicate dish.  The carpaccio was then placed on the edges of the plate, with a salad of Arugula and capers doused with truffle oil and then piled in the center of the plate.  Lastly, the salad was topped with multiple small slices of Grana Padano cheese, so as to not overpower any other element of this fantastic dish.  Grana Padano is very similar to a Parmigiana-Reggiano but is subtler and less nutty due to the use of skimmed milk instead of whole. Sorry about the picture, I didn't realize it was blurry until I had devoured my appetizer. 
            Megan had the Farm Goat Cheese Polenta appetizer.  While mine was great, her dish was world-class.  Imagine a polenta cake, lightly seared for a slight crispness, mixed with the creaminess of polenta and the mild tanginess of fresh, local goat cheese.  The combination in and of itself is amazing, but that is just the start of this dish.  Around the polenta cake was a perfectly thickened, wild mushroom ragout.  In my opinion, this was the star of the dish.  The plethora of mushrooms in the sauce was amazing.  When you combine all element of the dish into one bite, it is an immediate mouthgasm. I kept stealing some from Megan anytime she looked away.  This dish was amazing.  I guarantee that I will be ordering this again.  On a side note, while we do not eat them, almost every other table ordered the Prince Edward Island mussels, and gave them rave reviews.
            For my main course, I ordered the Lobster Cognac Sauce.  This dish was phenomenal! Still to this day, over a month later, I am having flashbacks to savoring this wonderful, wonderful dish.  While the appetizers were amazing, this was even better and shows off the skill and talent of Chef Robert Sumber.  I'll do my best to paint you a picture of this.  At the center of the dish is a pile of squid ink pasta.  I've heard about the slightly briny goodness of squid ink pasta, but until 604 West, I had never experienced it.  Instantly, I fell in love.  Squid ink pasta is amazing, or at least Chef Sumber's was.  Surrounding the pasta were heaping amounts of shrimp, crabmeat, and about four huge seared scallops that were quartered.  Since I am not a mussel fan, I ordered my dish without them.  All of this wonderful seafood was then bathed in a rich, lobster-infused Cognac cream sauce.  The cream is a perfect balance to the spiciness of cognac.  I can't rave enough about my dinner here at 604.  It was world-class.
            Megan ordered one of the fish specials of the day, the red snapper.  Perfectly grilled snapper was on top of a tower of food.  The tower’s base was asparagus.  It was then topped with a light lemon risotto.  The snapper was the top of the tower.  This dish was great, but as it was a special that is unavailable most days, I don’t plan on describing it in greater detail.  Besides, my main dish was superior. 
            Our dinner at 604 at West Village was a phenomenal meal.  We would gladly eat there any day of the week.  No question, this is one of the best restaurants in the area.  Whether it is for a date, a birthday, or an engagement, this is the place to set the mood and give you an exceptional meal.  If anything is going to give you pause, let it be this.  Since we were at 604, their executive chef went from Chef Sumber to Chef Scott Martin.  Also, the Goat Cheese Polenta and Lobster Cognac sauce that I raved about are not on the current menu.  While I know nothing about the skill of Chef Martin, heck, he could be a better chef, the loss of my two favorite menu items means our next visit will be like a trip to an entirely new restaurant.  Let’s hope it is still so amazing. 

Scale 1-5 stars
Food Quality
Food Creativity
Value for the Price

604 at West Village on Urbanspoon

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