Gone are the white linen tablecloths from the Fairview Dining Room’s tables, and in their place are new cherry top tables and chairs, and six new bespoke curved booth arrangements, all of which are meant to be enjoyed in the redefined sophisticated casual atmosphere that the restaurant is promoting.
“The trends that we are seeing are that people still want to eat really nice food,” says Don Ball, director of food and beverage at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. “But they don’t want to put on a suit to do so. We want people to come out for dinner on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, to show them that they can enjoy good food without it being a special occasion.”
In addition to the furniture, the décor now includes framed vintage Wedgwood china pieces from the Duke family collection that depict images of campus, along with four large mirrors, each concealing a flat-screen TV that’s hidden to the dining room’s guests except when viewing a Duke men’s basketball game and other major sporting events.
But what’s more exciting than the new relaxed, yet classy redesign is the premiere of Executive Chef Jason Cunningham’s seasonal autumn menu.
Jason described fall as one of his favorite seasons to create dishes around, and the proof is in the pudding. Or rather, the apple custard tart, white chocolate sesame panna cotta and warm sweet potato cake that I had the pleasure of enjoying as dessert to a fabulous crisp-weather inspired meal.
The grilled Belgian endive with orange roasted asparagus, wheat berries and vanilla lemongrass aioli started the meal off with fresh greens and a mix of textures, from the pop of the berries to the crunch of the lettuce, with the aioli wrapping it all together with its creaminess and light flavor.
I moved on to the autumn salad, which was seasonally brisk with its roasted apple, dried cranberries, spiced walnuts and cornbread crouton encompassed by sherry walnut vinaigrette-drenched greens and topped with Elodie Farms Manchegoat. But as soon as the Bourbon rabbit confit with toasted barley risotto, pine nuts and a smear of pumpkin butternut squash emulsion touched my tongue, all my longing for the lingering summer to remain evaporated and I welcomed the cool tastes of fall.
The main course - small portions of pan-seared arctic char and braised beef short ribs - were delightful, especially the tiny hint of spiciness in the pear peppercorn veal reduction that paired magnificently with the short rib and bleu cheese risotto. The three aforementioned desserts rounded out the meal, which were so delectable and elegant that I regret finishing them off as quickly as I did (well, almost regret).
Take a look at my slideshow of the appetizing dishes and some of the folks who enjoyed the lunch and new dining vibe at the Fairview. Then, make a reservation to taste the seasonal menu for yourself.