Friday, November 16, 2007

Dining bliss: Bonne Soiree

Recently I dined with a friend at the sublime Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill on W. Franklin Street. It was dining perfection: a beautiful setting, attentive service, wonderful food and wine.

Bonne Soiree is a gorgeous little place tucked into a square behind Panang. The lighting is dim, beautiful and very flattering. The walls are a cool, soothing blue. The ceiling are painted dark brown and the curtains are luxurious brown dupioni silk. It embodies elegance without stuffiness. The average age of customers seemed to be around 55 so if you are looking for young and trendy, this is not the place for you. We noticed several business dinners as well as couples and families (like the parents taking their UNC student out to dinner, not young children).

Bonne Soiree only has eleven tables. Making a reservation is a must. The advantage of this small establishment is that the service and food are very focus on precision and subtlety. I will go as far as saying that the service is -- bar none-- the best I've experienced in the area with the exception of Fearrington House. The staff was attentive but unobtrusive. We were never in want of anything. The proprietors manage the front with an attention to detail. They made excellent food and wine recommendations based on our preferences. I was most delighted that they served hot tea after the meal in a proper china teacup. The delicacy of tea really does require china, not a pottery mug!

The food matched the service in elegance, detail and subtlety. We started by sharing the terrine of chicken liver. It was smooth and rich and served with two mustards, pickled red cabbage, poached pear slices, and some field greens. We had a half glass of 2006 Spatlese on the recommendation of the proprietor. The fruity, yet fairly dry wine accompanied the terrine perfectly. My friend had fork-tender braised lamb for his dinner. He had a glass of Haut-Medoc that was smooth, smokey and full. The lamb was very good, but it did not match the trout that I ordered. The trout was truly inspired! The chef stuffed a trout filet with oven-roasted tomato and spinach then wrapped the filet in bacon. The bacon wrapped filet sat atop a crispy potato cake surrounded by a buttery, chanterelle mushroom sauce with a touch of tarragon. Every flavor in the dish was subtle and balanced. The chef must be a genius! I've not had a dish in a long time that was such a perfect marriage of flavors.

I had a terrible time deciding which dessert to order. I settled on a six layer coconut cake. The cake had coconut milk mixed into the batter. The frosting was silky, shiny and reminded me of a seven-minute frosting. Huge flakes of coconut topped the frosting. It was more than I could possibly eat, so like an overgrown five year old, I had three bites of cake and then ate the frosting. As much as I liked the coconut cake, I wished that I had ordered something more complex in flavors. My friend ordered a pear and almond tart with a scoop of ice cream. Again, the flavors were well-married and balanced. Sometimes I find almond desserts too heavy on the almond. This dessert succeeded at enhancing the delicate flavor of pear with the almond. I don't know what the ice cream was but it tasted like browned butter and browned sugar. I could eat it by the gallons!

Bonne Soiree is dining bliss. I cannot wait to go back!

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