Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rooster's: A Noble Grille

Noble's Grille was a favorite of mine during my teen and young adult years in Winston-Salem. One of my good friends was a hostess, so we would often visit her while she was working, and end up snacking on some pretty delicious bites. When Chef John Bobby took over, and I visited years later as an adult, I wasn't surprised to find the reputation and food still going strong. Keeping in the same vein as their Charlotte restaurants, management has re-branded it as "Rooster's: A Noble Grille". While ever-so-slightly more casual, the food is just as inspired and tasty, with top-notch service. John Noble knows when he's got a good thing going, and he continues to have one here.

Buffalo Duck Wings
Nearly everything we ordered that evening came from the "daily inspirations" page, which is just as extensive as the standard menu. (It's worth noting that the menu was a bit long and overwhelming, as it's read flipping pages from a clipboard, rather than a standard tri-fold or one-sheeter.) A fun and delectable starter are the Buffalo Duck Wings - 4 wings, all dark meat, with a slightly crisp batter, doused in a spicy buffalo sauce. The homemade Ranch is packed with fresh dill flavor, and they could charge $25 for a bowl of just this. I intended to just have one wing, but that was impossible. You'll be sucking the meat off the bone, and hope no one catches you.

Grouper is one of my favorite fishes. It's thick, like a white steak. That evening's preparation was pan-seared, and served on a bed of farro (a grain, like brown rice or quinoa) with an herbaceous tomato broth and pea tendrils on top. This is how I like to eat. It had a great depth and balance of flavor but was not too rich. It was light and fresh, and I wish they would add it to their regular menu!
Pan-Roasted Grouper with Farro and Tomato Broth
Proteins on the standard menu are a la carte, and range from fish to beef to poultry. (Family-sized sides are encouraged to be shared.) One of my dining partners ordered pan-seared salmon, cooked a perfect medium rare (though I'll take her word for it, as salmon is on my do-not-eat list!), and was served in a savory but unnecessary broth. Another dining partner ordered the hanger steak, which rested in a fabulous red wine reduction sauce. It was utterly divine, and the medium rare steak was tender and a beautiful deep red color. This one is a winner.
Hanger Steak
Sides include vegetables like pan-fried corn and potatoes au gratin, and we chose two of the best on the list, I'm convinced. Fire-roasted beets are something I don't often (read: never) cook at home, so when they're available in restaurants, I like to get them. There was something special about these. They were naturally sweet, with the slightest, not at all offensive hint of smoke. Margaux's Succotash, on the other hand, boasts smoky flavors. Limas, tomatoes, corn and green beans marry in a smoky tomato broth and make me glad it's summer, so I can enjoy more dishes like this.
Beets & Margaux's Succotash
Roosters' dessert menu is a nice change from your standard chocolate lava cake/key lime pie/ cheesecake and the like. The Coconut Cake caught my eye (it always does!), and it's shipped in daily from their restaurant The King's Kitchen and Bakery in Charlotte. Close enough for me! A three layer round stack is a nice presentation, and I liked that every bite of cake had an appropriate and proportionate amount of icing. (My family and I tend to fight over the top corner of a traditional layer cake, calling it "the money bite".) The cake was served chilled, so had it come to room temperature, it would have been even better. It's studded with coconut and has a moist crumb. Creme anglaise and whipped cream accompany it.
Coconut Cake, you're beautiful.
If you haven't been to Rooster's since they re-branded, it's definitely worth a visit. The atmosphere is light with ample windows, and it's not too loud if you aren't sitting right by the open kitchen. The bar is large and welcoming. I look forward to many return visits.

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