9 September, 2009
Restaurant Review–Second Empire, Downtown RaleighPosted in : Dining in Raleigh - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
330 Hillsborough Street
Second Empire is a four star, fine dining restaurant housed in a lovely historic Victorian house.
We ate in the main house but there is also a more relaxed, tavern section located in their cellar. Note, though, that the prices there are not any more relaxed, but it is a separate menu.
The room we dined in was muted yellow and full of light. It would be quite cozy if it were cold enough to light the fireplace. Light string music played through the hidden speakers. Service was excellent, of course, and our waiter took our delays in ordering good-naturedly.
Bread was served by the slice, which I always like since it helps me not to stuff myself silly. This bread was slightly sweet, dense, but not so much so that it was hard to eat. The embossed butter slabs were a nice touch.
I stared with a smoked trout salad that came with caramelized pears, curly spinach, shaved prosciutto, Penhais Bibb lettuce, chow chow, plum tomato confit, and greek olive oil.
As I dug in, I could tell that it was meant to be a riff on the traditional spinach salad as it came with hardboiled eggs and the spinach was plentiful. The eggs bound the dish together, making their omission from the description a bit odd. The chow chow imparted the right amount of sweetness and the trout was good, though it tasted more cooked rather than merely smoked. I found the prosciutto to be extraneous. The portion size was quite large, though-I was nearly full after the first course but managed to trudge onward, somehow.
My main course was scottish salmon pave with jalapeno polenta, black currants, haricot verts, apple butter, radish and grapefruit salad, and a mojo sauce.
The polenta was excellent and very finely textured. The salmon was fun to eat when combined with the citrusy mojo sauce. The haricot verts were a bit overcooked. The radishes added a great crunch to the dish but I found the grapefruit slices were a bit too strong of a flavor since there was nothing that countered their acidity. The dish could have been tied together better but it was tasty, regardless.
My buttermilk and coconut chess pie with Heath bar ice cream was fantastic.
It came with berries, a brown sugar anglaise sauce, and an almond lace cookie. The ice cream screamed, “I’m fresh and delicious!” and the pie itself was really good if almost too sweet. This was by far the best part of my meal.
Second Empire definitely deserves its stars for service, atmosphere, and desserts. My appetizer and entrée could have wowed me more but they were still very good. Not my favorite fine dining spot in the area but a fine meal, nonetheless.