My wife and I used to eat at Mark's when we lived in Chapel Hill but since moving to Durham we don't get over to Chapel Hill much anymore. However, we had a chance to do so this past Saturday so we thought we'd try the restaurant where Mark's used to be.
Elaine's is more nicely decorated than Mark's used to be. The lighting is just right and the decor is elegant. We were seated at the table facing Franklin St. It was nice to be able to look out on the street but I felt like we were window dressing for the passers by.
For appetizers, I had what was advertised as NC jumbo lump crab meat with avacado salad. It was simply prepared and tasted very fresh. However, it was not jumbo lump crab-- I suspect it was claw meat. Also, the portion was very small (I'm guessing 3 oz.). It was served on top of a papardum (yes, the crispy Indian "chip"), which was strange but I liked it. My wife had the foie gras. It was very generously proportioned and looked perfectly cooked (unfortunately, I wasn't offered any). It woo was oddly paired with sweet potato...
For dinner, I had jerk pork tenderloin with black beans, sweet potato, and greens. Overall, I was disappointed with this dish. It was cooked medium rare like I asked, but the tenderloin barely had jerk flavor and again the portion size was small (around 4 oz. of tenderloin). There was nothing special about the black beans and sweet potatoes but the greens were very good. My wife had the Celebrity Farms goat cheese and goat ravioli. It was excellent. The pasta was well-cooked (I don't care for al dente) and the goat cheese was really creamy. The portion was quite generous. The one negative comment is that the ravioli was swimming in too much broth.
We were running late with the babysitter so we had to skip dessert-- but the choices looked very tempting. The bill came to $72, including tax and tip.
Overall, I'd give Elaine's 3.5 stars out of 5. I'm guessing the chef has received good training but needs more time and experience to develop his/her repertoire.
On a side note, I noticed that the Lantern across the street was closed. Strange for Saturday night. Are they on vacation? I hope they didn't close after the good buzz that I've heard about them.
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