Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The crazy success of WD-50 in New York — that wild and renowned molecular gastronomy dining destination led by mad scientist and chef Wylie Dufresne — has led to an onslaught of imitators, of which even North Carolina has not been spared. Foams and funky flavors are all the rage and a hot restaurant in Durham, simply called Revolution, has received acclaimed reviews for its ingredient-sourcing and innovative cooking techniques since opening last year.
This we had to check out.
Revolution is on Durham’s desolate, and somewhat depressing, main drag. Step inside the doors and you’re transported into a clean and modern space. There’s a bustling bar area and lots of dark gray and white. Flat screen televisions sit on the walls, broadcasting not a Duke basketball game (thank goodness) but instead the real source of the evening’s actions: the kitchen.
The menu came with a giant paperclip and after investigating our options, we agreed that our best bet to the meal was a tapas-like approach: three from the raw/chilled section and the same number of small plates. After hearing which dishes we were interested in, our waitress suggested the best order in which they should be served. We nodded and told her to bring it on.
First up was Ahi tuna with wasabi caviar, cucumber and greens. Topped with crispy fried onions and an over-easy egg, this was a spicy and flavorful plate. Charlotte thought the wasabi was overbearing; for me, it was just right though.
We followed this with cured parma ham with baby arugula, almonds and preserved orange. There were some sliced figs, too, whose sweetness balanced the saltiness of the aged meat. Stuffed in slices of a warm baguette, this was a winner.
Next was Revolution’s signature dish, haystack shrimp with lemon-basil aioli. It was hard to determine what the haystack itself was made out of — crunchy, thin shavings that covered the shrimp — although the sweet sauce tasted a little funky with the basil.
Our eyes bulged as two gigantic diver scallops with fava beans, pork belly and mint emulsion were placed in front of us. This was by far the best dish of the night. Buttery scallops, fatty belly and some mint. A bizarre but creative and delicious concoction.
We were starting to get full as our Asian-inspired Chinese BBQ pork with shrimp & lobster dumplings. The meat was tender and well-seasoned and the dumplings overflowing.
By the time our last dish arrived — beef tips in sherry & goat cheese with shitake mushrooms and bruschetta – we were reaching capacity. But it took far too much discipline to stop.
Revolution served up some of the best food that we’ve had in the Triangle. It was refreshing to see chefs here pushing the envelope and stepping outside the Deep Fried and Bacon Southern Comfort Zone. While the flavors were generally quite unique, we would have liked to see more of that creativity in the presentation.
Could this Revolution compete with Wylie’s WD-50? Not a chance.
But here in Carolina, it’s clear why this spot is causing such a stir – and why the name does indeed live up to its high expectations.