Mandolin Restaurant occupies a place that is home to some old Raleigh history. But, in recent times the restaurants that have operated there have quickly become history. While Red Dragon has continued to thrive next door, EVOO and the other incarnations of 2519 Fairview Road have opened and then quietly disappeared.
Raleigh native Sean Fowler hopes to change all that with Mandolin, a restaurant that offers locally-sourced Southern food with international influences.
I recently tried Mandolin at noon on a weekday. The hostess was so friendly I felt as if I were visiting my aunt’s house. She informed me that there were no tables left but that there was some seating at the bar.
Mandolin has a feel similar to Glenwood Grill. At 41, I was the youngster in the crowd. The seating is close, and, with a brick floor and high ceiling, the restaurant was quite loud. Conducting a private conversation would be impossible. On the other hand, Mandolin would be a good choice to enjoy a meal in a vibrant atmosphere.
The waiter was prompt, knowledgeable and attentive.
The menu was for the most part straight-ahead American: Caesar salad; crab cakes; seared salmon; and fried chicken. The macaroni and cheese, however, was served with duck confit, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and wilted spinach, definitely not Oma’s mac and cheese.
I ordered the hanger steak au poivre [pepper steak] medium rare with fries and wilted spinach ($15) with a side of sautéed mushrooms ($5). I received the plate 20 minutes after I ordered it.
Everything was delicious. The hanger steak would compare favorably to the Angus Barn or Sullivan’s. My only quibbles are that the food could have been served a bit warmer (which I’ll chalk up to the service still working out the kinks), and that the mushrooms were overpriced.
Overall, I can recommend Mandolin with the caveat that you go ready to party and have a generous expense account.