Feb 18, 2005
Restaurant Starlu, Durham NC
NOTE: Best to start the Starlu Reviews at this post with pictures.
On Tuesday I had dinner with at Restaurant Starlu in the former South Square district. Oh damn, it was good.
The ten-item entree menu had no less than eight items that were all calling my name. But in the end, my friend Gilbert and I decided to split two of the meat dishes: the Grilled Ribeye ("served with grilled broccoli rabe and walnut-crusted blue cheese cheesecake with spice-port demi-glace $19") and the Starlu Second Burger ("seared garlic & herb season ground pork stuffed with our own chopped pork BBQ, topped with smoked Gouda cheese, apple-cabbage slaw and bourbon-espresso BBQ sauce $13")
The ribeye was perfect: medium-rare, with the fat crispy at the edges, and juicy in the middle. The demi-glace had the per mix of sweet and spicy flavors, with just the right amount of salt to go with the meat. I think it was the second-best restaurant steak I've ever eaten, just after one from The Magnolia Grill that I ate back in '94 or thereabouts. The burger was a yummy and unexpected novelty, which Sam and I likened to a monster crabcake made out of pork, topped with cheese, sweet slaw, and a sauce that was strong enough for the pork, but subtle enough to not demand more attention than it deserved. And the bun? Just how I love it -- crispy at the edges, and soft everywhere else.
Will I go again? Oh mais oui. On the plus side: the ribeye was perfect, the burger was pretty neat, their beer glasses are cool, the room is beautiful, and they have free internet in the afternoon (drinking hours for business folk in the office building?) On the minus side for me: the prices are higher than I'm used to spending for a meal out (I usually go for less fancy, like the Federal), the food servings weren't as large as I'd like them, and the side items (fries, veggies, bread) weren't nearly up to the level of the entrees. But I really have to go back for some of their kickass menu items.
I mean, just look at a few of their other choices from Tuesday night:
North Carolina Grouper - steamed on marjoram and served over white beans with oven dried cherry tomatoes, oil cured black olives and sautéed leeks then topped with garlic, lemon and parsley $17.
Seared Yellow-Fin Tuna – served with black-eyed peas, grilled green onions, roasted red peppers, and turnips in sherry, mushroom and veal sauce $18.
Goat Cheese Ravioli – made in house with parsley-black pepper pasta and tossed in lavender-thyme cream withgrilled artichokes, shiitake mushrooms and peas $14.
Damn, now I'm hungry again.
Bonus quote from Gilbert: "Whenever I try a new restaurant, I always order a steak. Because if they can't get the steak right, it's a bad bet to come back for anything else."
UPDATE: The above review was written on Tuesday after dinner. On Thursday, Grace and I went there for appetizers and dessert and oh damn -- they did it again. Yummed up my mouth. And we had a nice chat with Sam Poley, owner and chef. Tune in Monday for the appetizer and dessert review. With pics.
wow that sounds good. i've read good things about Starlu and been wanting to check it out. thanks for the on-site reporting.
Posted by: georg | Feb 18, 2005 9:25:06 AM
In search of good meats, a couple of things that I have noticed around Durham.
1. The Red and White store at the corner of University and one of the Chapel Hill streets is actually a great place to buy food. As an amusing/annoying touch, one of the owners still uses old selling "techniques," which include telling people, "We got a whole bunch of steaks on special today -- someone had a warehouse full and got foreclosed on, and the steaks got sold for cheap before they went bad, and we're passing the savings on to you -- 15 for $30." Of course they have the damned things every week, and if you count in the box, there are only 14 steaks. But never mind -- they taste great and are exactly the right size (alas, I don't remember the cut -- sirloin, I think). Red and White also has a variety of home-made sausages, and often has Allen & Sons in small tubs for ~$6. (Hint, heat up a little bit of Allen & Sons in a saute pan while you fry eggs and make toast. A $6 tub will make 8 servings that way.)
2. Wal-Mart also sells a variety of frozen steaks, "enhanced" with flavorings and water. Bleah.
Of course, now that I think of it, I have no way of knowing that the Red and White doesn't sell "enhanced" meats, too. But I do know they broil up just fine. They also have an assortment of fresh vegetables and a few other less-common meats, like a frozen duck or lamb. And you can get your shirts cleaned next door ;-)
Posted by: Phil | Feb 19, 2005 11:12:39 PM