Had my first dining experience at Rue Cler in Durham recently. I had been wanting to dine there for a while based on all the positive feedback. My experience, however, was slightly underwhelming.
Dinner was early as the my gf and I saw the place fill up. About the space, driving by I thought the inside was going to be a bit nicer and I guess a little more intimate. It's basically an open box with 2 brick walls and to windowed walls. I'm not saying the space isn't well utilized, but my thoughts of what the space was going to look like contrasted with the actual room. I realize I shouldn't have assumed anything about the space.
For dinner, I had the steak frites and my gf had the salmon. I had not had steak frites at any other French (or French inspired dining facility). The portion was ample with the small shoestring frites almost overflowing on the plate. Having not had Bearnaise sauce before but realizing what its components were, I'm not sure why I expected it to taste of more than just butter... perhaps it was the tarragon or wine reduction. It was okay but again not what I expected. The steak (ribeye) had a bit of grizzle but was cooked to my specifications. It was, however, very salty for me. I wasn't sure if the Bearnaise was meant to be eaten with the fries, the steak or both and so I experimented and liked it with either.
My gf let me try a piece of her salmon. Again, I tasted something very salty with the fish followed by the flavor of the salmon. My gf liked the dish just fine and so thats all that really mattered. The fact that she finished her dish meant either 1. that she really liked it 2. it was just the right portion 3. she was really hungry or 4. all of the above. Usually, it is half eaten and then the rest is boxed for the next day.
Of the things I tasted that night, I think I enjoyed the frittes the best. I enjoyed the meat because I rarely eat red meat though it was a bit salty tasting to me. The space was a little lackluster for both of us because we were sat along the wall where it is just one long bench with some cushions... my gf felt a bit claustrophobic. Also the acoustics can tend to lead to a slightly noisier dining experience.
I liked Rue Cler, but was expecting a bit more. I guess that means in due time we will have to try again. Maybe ordering off the fixed price menu is the way to go?