28 May, 2009
Restaurant Review–Rue Cler, Downtown DurhamComments : 4 Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
401 East Chapel Hill Street
Dinner: Prix Fixe $30, a la carte $9-17
Rue Cler is a French restaurant and bakery café located on a cozy corner of downtown Durham.
The bakery opens up at 7:30 for orders at the counter and continues until mid-afternoon.
It gets a bit crowded but that’s understandable.
With beignets on the menu, this place should always be crammed full. We started out our meal with a half dozen of these delicious love children of a croissant and a doughnut. With the dusting of powdered and white sugar, the very hot and fresh aromas and the tang of sourdough, I may have a new favorite pastry. Sorry, chocolate croissants.
We ate at the bar in the main dining room and I was struck with the distressed ambience of the place. By distressed, I mean the urban design style of stripped down walls, not the mood as it actually felt quite welcoming and open.
Rue Cler has the feel of an incomplete loft redesign, with its open wooden slats and exposed concrete walls. I might just have to paint my basement the same cappuccino brown of their one painted wall in the dining room.
My companion and I shared an omelette special with peppers, cheddar and fennel and a crepe filled with duck confit, spinach and fried potatoes. The presentations were simple and clean, if not always functional as the crepe floating on a pool of broth was pretty but only served to soak the accompanying salad greens, which already had plenty of weight from the oil dressing. The duck was perfectly tender and melty and went well with the spinach. I was expecting potato chunks rather than pommes frites and I think chunks would have performed better with the broth as the fries quickly became soggy and less appealing. The crepe itself did not have much presence.
Similarly, the egg of the omelette, which was very thin, brought little flavor to the dish. The yellow peppers were the most flavorful contributors, though they were hard to distinguish from the goopy cheese. I liked the bite that the thinly sliced fennel added; my companion did not. Overall, the omelette was much more forgettable than the vibrant, if soggy, duck confit crepe.
Obviously, the beignets are plenty of reason to check out Rue Cler on their own. Our brunch dishes were good but not as memorable as I’d hoped. I’m still planning to come for the prix fixe menu because strangely, I’ve only made it to brunch at both Rue Cler and Vin Rouge. I must give dinner its chance to shine.