Now that they're up and running, I thought Stansbury deserved a new thread. Three of us went last night and I'm pretty sure it won't be our last time.
We had a 7 PM reservation and were seated immediately. We asked for a change of table due to it being a little chilly right next to the open garage door. The change was honored, but with a side comment that the table was reserved for someone else but we should be finished with dinner before that party came. Gee, thanks. But that was the only little service blip. And, as it turned out, we weren't pushed out early.
We had initially planned to order 3 small dishes and 2 large dishes. The waiter gently suggested that amount may not really be enough so we added another small dish. It turned out that was one too many. Our original amount would have been quite enough. So, on the the food...
Small plates - Softshell crab. I'm not a crab fan so I just had a small taste. It was very well cooked, sweet and juicy, with a nuanced lemon flavor. The crab was served over a delicious potato puree made with lemon and olive oil. The two crab lovers were very happy.
Marrow bones - The only dish I did not taste as I really can't take the texture of marrow. Opinion was split here. One marrow lover did not like how greasy and fatty the bones were. The other was happy to finish the dish, but I did not hear any exclamations of joy. The bones were served with a parsley and shallot salad to cut the fattiness.
Steak tartare - New to the menu as of 2 nights ago, this is really a minor variation on Ethiopian kifto, complete with injera. Again, not my thing. I love Ethiopian food, don't love raw meat. I did taste it, though, and if you like raw and fiery, this is for you. The meat had a side of cooling avocado sauce which went with it very well. The injera wasn't quite as sour as you might expect, but that's not a big problem.
Crispy pig head - Big winner. A tennis ball-sized serving of breaded, fried confited pork, served with a sous vide duck egg and possibly the best butter beans you will ever eat. I could just skip the whole rest of the meal and eat those butter beans over and over. Oh yeah, the pork was really good, too. This ranked up there with the crab as the stars of the evenings.
Large plates - The large plates don't seem all that much larger than the small plates, but their prices sure are higher.
Tagliatelle with Tomatoes and Bread Crumbs - The tagliatelle is homemade and it's hard to have bad homemade pasta. Still, the pasta was cooked perfectly and had a nice bite to it. The mixed yellow and red tomatoes still tasted of summer and, although you don't see the bread crumbs, you notice their texture and it adds to the dish.
Hognose Snapper with Fennel and some other stuff - That other stuff is a great vegetable ragout. The fish, while perfectly cooked, was bland by itself but together with the vegetables was wonderful. The only downside was that the braised fennel was too tough to cut with the butter knives provided.
The running theme here is the vegetables. The kitchen really knows how to handle them and they are not afterthoughts. They are an integral part of the dishes and need to be thought of that way.
Desserts are an afterthought, though. There are only two on the menu and neither are that exciting, but with Escazu next door, how many do they need? Still, it would have been nice to see some type of actual dessert menu given all the effort that was clearly put into the main menu.
The tab for 3 people, before drinks and taxes, was about $90, not at all unreasonable for what we had. Had we not over-ordered, the bill would have been $10-12 less.
By 8 PM on a Friday night there was already a number of people waiting outside for tables. I would suggest a reservation for a weekend night.
Stansbury may just be doing some of the most creative food in Raleigh right now. Every bit worth the visit.
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