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Backstage at the Revolution

Revolution In the BCR household, the talk of the last few days has been our dinner Friday night at Revolution -- which was one of the single best dining experiences we've had out anywhere in a very, very long time. We were doubly impressed at both the food and the terrific service given the restaurant's just opened. The folks over at Carpe Durham checked out the new establishment and had a very good experience as well.

Sarah from Revolution was kind enough to give BCR a tour of the restaurant earlier this week, during the prep time just before the dinner-only space opened for the night.

The Revolution fills up the first floor of downtown's old Baldwin department store quite nicely. It was only two years ago that the large lobby of the Baldwin was a big open space, housing the occasional downtown master plan charrette here, the odd Georges Rousse art installation there. Between then and now, the stylized "B" door handles and the original flooring remains; everything else is fairly well re-imagined in a bright, modern style.

The Rousse artwork -- always intended to be temporary, with the artist working in spaces that are about to be renovated or changed -- was understandably lost to fire-resistant paint and wall-coverings in what is now the kitchen, at the southern end of the space.

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These photos aren't the only way to view the kitchen; a series of flat-panel screens in the raw bar area gives a view of key kitchen stations, courtesy of some miniature cameras mounted near the ceiling.

The raw bar section of the restaurant fills practically half the first floor space, with the dining area itself feeling fairly small and intimate. The raw bar will be up and running in a few days, with the kitchen currently preparing items off its section of the menu.

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In many ways, the restaurant's design is as much an evolution as a revolution for downtown, in one key way: it doesn't play on the old industrial/gritty bones of a space, the way that (say) Rue Cler, Piedmont, or most of the other Brightleaf Square/downtown restaurants do. Instead, it has a positively 2000s feel to it -- an equal number in many ways to the glass-and-steel fronted DPAC, which seems likely to draw a decent share of Revolution's traffic through its front doors.

A chef's cellar room (a la the Angus Barn's event space) is available for large groups. Seating up to fifty, it's an intimate space below the restaurant's Main St. side that can host daytime or evening events; corporate meetings are one planned draw for the daypart, as are presentations (the relatively dim room is indeed destined for PowerPoint over pasta.)

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The restaurant expects the tasting menu to be the most popular item on the bill; ranging from three to seven courses, and $35 to $95 per person, these menus offer a mix of Anile's interests and tastes, with the server learning what's on each course when it comes to your table.

Among the other items on the menu -- which will change on a regular basis -- are lacquered chicken, braised buffalo short rubs, seared diver scallops at the $16-20 price point; other appetizer/small entrees as well as signature dishes (the latter ensconsed on a "Second Mortgage" section of the menu) and the raw bar choices round out the offerings.

Catering menus are also available; Revolution has already provided cast meals to at least one DPAC production and, through its relationship with the theater, is prepared to provide cuisine for the President's Room lounge at the performing arts center.

More from the restaurant's grand opening press release:

Revolution’s menu features a selection replete with imaginative interpretations of contemporary global cuisine, using state-of-the-art kitchen equipment.  In addition to the ever changing menu, [Executive Chef and proprietor Jim] Anile offers a variety of tasting options from the three course “Feed Me” to the seven course “The Feast” menu to lure adventurous guests.  Ordering off the menu is also a satisfying experience with the Dry Aged Kobe New York with truffle butter and scalloped potatoes sure to be a tantalizing favorite. Anile’s high standards are reflected in his insistence on corn-fed, all-natural meat, line-caught seafood and fresh seasonal and local produce.  The restaurant’s open floor plan comfortably seats 40 in brocade booths and white leather chairs, with food presented on cocoa brown natural wood tables.  A striking cesar stone bar flanked with zebra wood that seats 50 also welcomes patrons as they enter.  For guests craving intimacy, private banquet space seating 50 is located in the Chef’s Cellar.

An abundant raw bar presents itself in the guest’s space, offering the world’s finest and freshest seafood.  There are simple items such as Oysters on the Half Shell, or an exciting Venison Carpaccio served with shaved fennel, green onions, and dijon with rosemary bruschetta that is sure to entice. Ingredients and menu items change weekly to ensure a new experience with every visit.  Revolution also offers Champagne and sparkling wines by the glass that meld with choices from the raw bar for an excellent accompaniment.... 

Anile draws on his extensive international work to create an exciting and personal guest experience.  Anile’s talents were honed with four-star and five-star hotels, resorts and restaurants such as the Melrose Hotel, Crescent Club, Bacara Resort, Il Palio at The Siena Hotel, and at the prestigious Ahwahnee Hotel in California’s Yosemite National Park.  Internationally, Chef Anile lent his culinary talents to restaurants and hotels in Asia, as well as London’s Lanesborough Hotel.  His innovative use of Asian preparation techniques is but one of the international influences subtly manifested in Chef Anile's exquisite delivery of indulgent and cutting edge cuisine at Revolution. Chef Anile has been featured in such publications as Bon Appétit Magazine, Southern Living, Texas Monthly and Cottage Living.  He is involved with various culinary organizations including The James Beard Foundation and nationally-recognized North Carolina Pork Council.  In addition, Anile is dedicated to community improvement projects, as evidenced in his hosting of fundraising events for Genesis Home, Big Brothers and Sisters and Habitat for Humanity.

Comments

Phil

Thanks for the report. I couldn't seem to find a link to the restaurant anywhere in your blog, so here it is:

http://revolutionrestaurant.com/Enter.html

Kevin Davis

Whoops, good catch, Phil -- fixed.

St. Louiz

Revolution is an awesome addition to downtown Durham. Had drinks there on Saturday (12/27/08) and was thoroughly impressed with the atmosphere, service and the drinks. Hope to make this a regular stop whenever I am visiting Durham.

Jonathan

Looks great! I'm sad that the Rousse piece is gone but it is better that the space is filled with something that will be great for the neighborhood.

www.bydianedaniel.com

Hey Kevin. I'm very much looking forward to going to Revolution and have heard only good things about it.

But this journalist is curious about two things: when you and your wife went there for dinner, did any of the restaurant staff recognized you from your earlier tour or know you were a key Durham blogger? Did you get any freebies or discounts, etc.?

With foodie blogs, unless they state they're dining anonymously. I always assume that it's kinda all one big happy family and therefore take the info. with a grain of salt, so to speak, but with your newsier blog, it makes me wonder.

I hope I don't sound accusatory, just wondering. Because if they know who you are, for instance, and the service was stellar, that is different from stellar service for the average Kevin, er, Joe.

Thanks!

Kevin Davis

@Diane: Good question. We actually ate dinner there a few nights before the tour, and I wasn't recognized as a blogger or offered any free items or discounts, and I paid the check in full.

Which is fine by me -- I don't solicit or typically accept comped items or food for the blog, and in the rare socially-awkward case where it's happened (e.g., the other party grabbed the check first in a dinner meeting) have generally picked up their tab the next time out.

Personally, I have qualms with the idea of bloggers accepting comped items from restaurants, though as you note, not every blog has a "newsy" bent, and every blogger needs to find their own comfort zone with the subject.

KeepDurhamDifferent!

As an occasional guest blogger at CarpeDurham I'd like to point out that I do not accept free meals, either. Kudos to Kevin for following this policy.

www.bydianedaniel.com

How refreshing! Yes, kudos to you both.

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