Friday, April 22, 2022


I'd been quite eager to try Mandolin in Raleigh after perusing their Instagram for several weeks. Photos of their famous "Mandolin fries" and a thick slice of Caramel Cake were practically calling out to me. I finally got the opportunity to dine there recently, and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere has something for everyone: the large dining room was quite boistrous with many diners; a warm, inviting bar stretches down the length of the restaurant, perfect to post up with a beer and a burger; and there's a quieter dining room to the side, giving friends a chance to reconnect. (In fact, I was so busy reconnecting that I didn't bother to take any photos of the food! My apologies, readers). I look forward to many repeat visits.

I love a restaurant that offers free bread service (who doesn't?) but Mandolin is super cool because they give you TWO options. Their sweet Corn Muffin had an almost caramelized edge around the top, a perfect contrast to their soft, white Country Bread. Each was scrumptious when slathered with salted butter. I was craving a drink not on the menu - something spicy and sour - and our server delighted my tastebuds with a lemon-lime-jalapeno concoction. It was exactly the refreshing escape I was looking for. So at Mandolin, they aim to please, and if you don't see what you're looking for, just ask!

Do not underestimate a restaurant that can do a good chicken dish. I feel like people sleep on chicken at restaurants, but believe me - restaurants know they have to include a chicken dish, and they know they have to make it exciting! And Mandolin's is quite exciting. Their Grilled Chicken Leg is moist and tender and sits atop al dente Freekah (a grain) with Tomato Jus, Pickled Celery for necessary acid and Andouille Sausage for smoky savoriness. The Andouille bites were my favorite thing about this dish. Just when I thought I was getting a bite of tender chicken, SURPRISE! It was a bite of that meaty, unctuous sausage. What seemed like an unassuming dish was actually very stimulating.

I had to try the fries. They were crispy, stacked high in a metal cup, served alongside ketchup and covered in a savory white powder. I had to get to the bottom of this. Turns out, they sprinkle a combination of duck fat powder and tapioca starch on the hot fries, for maximum addictiveness. This side is large enough to be shared, but you may not want to.

My favorite thing from the night was on their dessert menu. My dining partner opted for the showstopping Chocolate Souffle, but I'm a cake and icing kind of gal (more like icing and cake, but who's keeping track). The Caramel Cake stacks a beautiful yellow sponge between equally thick layers of caramel frosting - the perfect cake to icing ratio in my opinion - and it comes with a scoop of Buttermillk Ice Cream and cinnamon crumbles for crunch. The tang from the buttermilk breaks up the super sweet frosting. This dish reminded me of my childhood. My dad's godmother Ruthie had a fabulous recipe for caramel frosting - I've never found one better - but this one comes dangerously close. It was a nostalgic moment.

If you haven't been to Mandolin, what are you waiting for? The staff is gracious and they want you to have an enjoyable evening. And they believe in their menu. What more can you ask for from a trendy restaurant? Check it out next time you're in the Triangle.

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