Second Helpings of French Favorites
By Greg Cox
Original review published 6/26/2015
I made some return visits to restaurants I haven’t reviewed in a while. This time around, I drop in on a few French favorites.
La Résidence is, by virtue of age and pedigree, the grande dame of French restaurants in the Triangle. Legendary chef and cookbook writer Bill Neal opened the restaurant in 1976 with his wife, Moreton, in the country mansion that is now home to Fearrington House. La Rez, as it has come to be called by locals, has since moved twice, and has been at its current location in a converted Dutch colonial house on Rosemary Street since 1990.
Location isn’t the only thing that has changed. Over the years, the menu has reflected the personal style of each chef who has worn the toque at La Résidence. But the food has never strayed too far from the roots of classical French cuisine that has become synonymous with the restaurant’s name, and is a natural match for the Provencal charm of its dining rooms and trellised patio.
When I last reviewed La Résidence, chef Michael Seese’s signature was evident in elegant creations that included salmon Wellington with a delicate mustard cream sauce, and leg of lamb with pan-roasted vegetables and celery root gratin.
In the decade since, a number of chefs – at least three, by my count – have come and gone.
The latest in the line of succession is Chapel Hill native John Fearrington, who returned from a three-year cooking stint in San Francisco to take over last fall. Chef Fearrington has wasted no time in putting his Southern-accented imprint on the menu with the likes of fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and espelette pepper aioli, and shrimp and three-cheese grits with applewood-smoked bacon, cremini mushrooms and shrimp jus. And if you’re looking for more traditional evidence that Fearrington is a worthy successor in the long line of chefs at La Résidence, he can turn out a solid beef bourguignon, too,
202 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill
Last review: 2004 (2.5 stars out of 4)
Note: This is a follow-up of Greg Cox’s review from 7/2/2004.