Joe and I chose Nana’s Restaurant in Durham for his birthday dinner. Although many fine dining restaurants in the area are closed on Mondays, Nana’s is open, has an excellent reputation, and is practically around the corner. This seemed like the perfect choice and did not disappoint.
Enter Nana’s Restaurant and notice modern, upscale, casual décor. There is elegant attention to detail: wooden chairs with leather seat cushions, white table linens, light background jazz music and walls covered with pieces from two local artists. On this Monday evening, Nana’s appeared pleasantly full, with a casual, mature, sophisticated looking crowd.
Joe intensely studied the menu. He contemplated the “tasting menu.” Typically, the tasting menu boasts the restaurants specialties/what they want to be well known for. Also, Foir Gras Terrine, as the first item, was an added lure, given it is one of Joe’s favorites. Five decadent courses for $50 per person is clearly a good value. However, we opted for a la carte.
We ordered two appetizers, Lamb Spare Ribs over a Savoy Cabbage & Fiddle Head Fern Cole Slaw Finished in an Orange, Soy and Coriander Vinaigrette and the Pan Seared Crab Cake in a Rock Shrimp and Dill Gazpacho Garnished with Flat Leaf Parsley and Baby Fennel Salad. The Crab Cake was definitely the best that I have ever had. The crabmeat was fresh and moist, melting in my mouth. The flavors on the plate worked really well together. The crab cake was on a bed of shrimp and parsley, and the cucumber, dill, parsley combination added a wonderful freshness and lightness. Joe enjoyed the Lamb Spare Ribs, noting the bang of the sauced ribs. The other items on the plate were not as powerful, but worked as a compliment to the ribs. Appetizers range from $6.95-$11.00
I ordered the Pan Seared Tuna Steak over Local Wax Beans & Spring Vidalia Onions with Marinated Local Cucumbers & Tomatoes finished in a Roasted Garlic Sauce for my entrée. My tuna steak was good quality, surrounded by a nice medley of vegetables and sauce. Joe has an extremely adventurous pallet so he could not resist ordering what he considered the most outrageous item on the menu. He chose the Grilled Venison Loin over Creamy Savoy Cabbage with Bacon & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes finished in a Bing Cherry Sauce. Joe’s venison was gamey, dark and dank. Hey, it’s deer meat, what would you expect? Joe noted that venison meat is usually accompanied by a sweet sauce, so the cherry sauce was a nice pairing. He also noted that the creamy cabbage gave a nice texture and the smokiness of the bacon helped cut some of the gaminess. Entrees range from $23- $26. Typically, we would never finish our meal without ordering dessert, but we had left over birthday cake at home, so we made an exception.
Our service was quiet, efficient and professional. The attention to detail made our experience special. For instance, the server brought us warm water with lemon to wash our hands before the meal and two complimentary lemon sugar cookies at the end. We noticed a professional, cheerful-looking man with a Nana’s Chef jacket along with shorts and sandals walking around the restaurant. I asked Joe what kind of chef would be “crazy” enough to wear sandals in the kitchen (could be hazardous). Joe said, “The owner.” I said, “How do you know?” Joe said, “I’m in the business, I know.” Sure enough, it was the owner, his warm and inviting presence was another detail contributing to Nana’s personal feel.
We had a lovely experience at Nana’s and can’t wait for the next special occasion to revisit. Joe summed it up, “A special wow meal that still has a casual feel!”
2514 University Drive
Durham, NC 27707-2156