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Triangle: Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill is perfection


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Triangle: Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill is perfection

mikeh | Dec 18, 2006 02:54 AM

It's so difficult to put the dining experience my fiancee and I had this evening into words because so many things were so sublime, but simply put, Bonne Soiree has redefined our standard of the perfect culinary experience.

We dined with high-enough expectations, given the previous reviews here and in print, but frankly, we never expected that the experience would outdo so many of the "greatest of the greats" that had previously led the top of our charts.

I'll start off with the caveat that neither of us drink, but for information purposes, I'll mention that Bonne Soiree does offer a $25/person wine pairing that seems an incredible deal given Tina's breadth of knowledge therein. We overheard her rattle off varietals and vintages with abandon appropriately suited to each and every dish that other parties mentioned. It was impressive and is just one example of the jeu de'vivre that Tina seemingly possesses in operating this restaurant. Her passion for fine cuisine was palpable and exciting and added to our anticipation at what creations would be brought forth from the kitchen.

Her husband Chip Smith handles the dirty work in the back, and believe me, it's some of the finest tastes my palette has ever encountered. For our first course, I started off with an endive salad with carmelized onions, a most delectably ripe pear, toasted walnuts, a few other goodies, and a light dressing ($8.95). It was beautifully and tastefully presented on the plate, but the standout was definitely the perfection at which the pear was chosen. Couldn't have tasted better. My fiancee ordered the ravioli filled with Carolina sweet potatoes and a broth comprising of Virginia ham, collard greens and pot liquor ($11.95). She was floored at its goodness.

Second course: I wish I could remember all the ingredients, but my memory eludes me, so you'll just have to excuse my generalities. I ordered oxtail ($27.95) (constituted in such a manner as filet mignon usually appears on a plate), surrounded by a wonderful brown broth (not sure what it was) with delicious morsels of sweet potato, porcini mushrooms, and other chunks of goodness (again, I apologize for not pinning this down better - if any of you go in time to catch their early winter menu, let me know). Anyway, all of this "goodness" intertwined and built upon one another is such a silken and unified manner that it was difficult to believe that something could taste so wholesome yet be wrought from such ingenuity at the same time. My fiancee ordered a braised pork tenderloin ($21.95), also with a pork belly, with some wilted greens, grilled sweet potato chunks, and some other really delicious stuff (we're still trying to figure out whether the shaved purplish "stuff" on the side was shaved prunes or sweet pickled mushrooms of some sort, but in any case, the entire dish was heavenly and each ingredient complemented the other so nicely).

Service as impeccable beyond belief. I recall many prior complaints lobbied at high-end restaurants around here being seriously lacking in the service depeartment, but finally one bucks that trend, and bucks it completely asunder. The service was understated, smooth as silk, perfectly paced, respectful, and appropriately conspicious. Out of the many dozen restaurants of national and international renown at which I have dined, the service fell within the highest echelon - comparable to Gary Danko and Charleston Grill, and BETTER than Michael Mina, Jardiniere, Striped Bass, Charlie Trotter's, Daniel, etc.

Oh yeah, dessert: my fiancee ordered the warm walnut and caramel crisp with fresh whipped cream over it ($8.50), and I had a pot de creme ($7.50) served in a dainty and tasteful...well...pot with a lid. What a beautiful way to top off a beautiful meal.

I hate how I've gushed so much, because it appears disingenuous. Yet, thinking back...and I do tend to harp on every little infraction when it comes to any aspect of the dining experience...I can think of none. I cannot imagine any dish that was ordered by either of us tasting any better, nor can I imagine how the service could've been any more impressive.

Just my luck: after living five years in the San Francisco Bay Area and having dined at literally every single high-end restaurant out there (except for French Laundry), and Bonne Soiree beats them all. Go figure.

I think I'll stick around the Triangle for a bit...

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