By Keia Mastrianni | Photography by Michael C. Hernandez
Posted: Monday, Jun. 23, 2014
The Summit Room opened quietly on East Boulevard in late April, flying discreetly under the radar. Owner Dee Dee Mills capitalized on the Dilworth space formerly occupied by Caribou Coffee and Brueggers Bagels, by opening the dinner concept adjacent to the newly opened brick and mortar for her chicken salad centric food truck, the Mayobird. Not one to eschew an adventure, Mills moved forward with the Southern inspired concept one day after a momentous climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Her inspiring climb gave way to the restaurants namesake.
That seminal experience is peppered throughout the restaurant and reflected in everything from the rustic elements of the dining room- wooden tabletops, antler busts, red accents and a clean use of industrial lighting- to the specialty cocktail menu that names each drink after one of the seven highest summits in the world.
Mills recruited Chef Brent Martin, formerly of the Peculiar Rabbit and the Wooden Vine to head up the imaginative Southern inspired menu. Martin brings with him an affinity for local partnerships, international influences and seasonality. In the shares and starts section (thats Summit Room speak for appetizer), expect to find the usual suspects with unusual flair like the deviled eggs with pickled jalapeno relish and ghost pepper syrup. The ghost pepper syrup reappears in a cocktail called the Aconcagua which mixes the aforementioned pepper syrup with cachaca, fresh squeezed lime, muddled jalapenos and salt. Martin adds a playful twist to the country pate appetizer (more chicken liver mousse than it is country pate) with a corn studded waffle, pickled blueberries and sweet vanilla sauterne reduction as the canvas for the chicken liver spread.
The entire menu is an amalgam of influences. Distinctly North Carolina sweet potatoes get stuffed into a crispy empanada. Poutine (called Fries and gravy on this menu) is reimagined with a harissa lobster gravy. There are banh mi sliders and crawdad fritters. A warm farro risotto entree pairs marcona almonds with boiled peanuts and brie. The maple bruleed brussels sprouts with lardons found in the Country Fixins section of the menu were exceptional, by the way.
The menu is playful and unexpected with plenty of options for sharing, especially on The Summit Rooms airy patio. Chef Brent Martin is adding a bit of adventure to standard Southern fare. It makes sense. One cannot reach the summit without taking a few risks.www.thesummitrm.com
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