I’m actually not sure where to begin. I have never had such a completely satisfying experience as dining at Deluxe. I found them by way of a web search. The next thing I knew I was perusing their menu on-line and deciding to make a visit. In a few short minutes I was downtown.
The location is perfect: a reclaimed storefront shop at 114 Market just across from the parking garage. I was greeted by a lovely hostess who gave me some seating choices and I sat down near the right-hand wall. The floor is original hardwood, brick walls, with tongue-and-groove paneling on the ceiling. The bar was long and well finished and shiny with what appeared to be a well stocked wall of spirits.
I was offered ice water and tea, both of which arrived quickly while I perused the menu. The menu I was given differed slightly from the online version, but some items are seasonal, such as the Panzanella salad. After I heard about other options from my server, I decided to forgo a salad and try a soup for a starter, followed by one of their signature “small-plates.”
The soup was a roasted red pepper and fennel bisque with chunks of roasted (or grilled) zucchini. The roasted peppers were both sweet and hot, not in the Asian sense (there was more hot than sweet,) but with lots of body, full of heart and aromatic as each spoonful passed the nose. The Fennell was not overpowering but gave just the right bite to the flavor.
Next was a small plate (in this case bowl) of porcini mushroom purses, garnished with sauted mushrooms, a tiny sprig of bitter greens and some dried cranberries. The whole construction was resting nicely in a perfect beurre-blanc. I tried to eat it slowly with the sophistication it deserved, but alas I could not. It was gone in under two minutes. Ashamedly, I even sopped the bowl with my bread. I can’t remember when I have had any restaurant food that good, and never more beautifully presented.
Finally my glorious entrée arrived. I wish I had taken a picture of this work of art: a perfectly done filet of Grouper, rolled slightly and roasted to just-done with a wonderful béarnaise, resting atop a delicious combination of roasted potato hash and lump crab, and three finger-thick spears of asparagus.
I wish I could simply do a Vulcan mind-meld so I could fully share how happy this meal made me: it was a JOY to eat. The grouper was done to perfection, the potato-crab hash was so flavorful, and the asparagus, rather than your normal choice of over-cooked and mushy or crunchy and stringy, was just the right state of “done.”
This is the kind of place I have been searching for. Granted, the prices are higher than normal American restaurant fare, but at Deluxe, you truly get what you pay for. And I would do it all over again. (And I will!)
The Good: Fine dining in a relaxed yet proper atmosphere. Amazing food, perfectly prepared and presented. Price in line with the quality.
Could be Better: It will take more than one trip to figure this one out–this trip was perfect!
Check them out at: http://deluxenc.com/