Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

The Track has it all: excellent food, sophisticated atmosphere and great service.

Restaurant Review

I like to go to The Track in Carytown occasionally to enjoy much the same atmosphere. They've got the layout: a long shadowy room, comfy booths, lots of wood and horse racing memorabilia. They've got the approach: Owner, Chris Liles works the room every night checking on his regulars (whose names appear on small brass plaques on the booths and barstools). He's an amiable character who seems to truly enjoy making his guests comfortable and content. The wait staff is crisp and they all smile. The prices are higher than average, but the food and service are worth it. The clientele come dressed for the ritual: jackets, a few ties, skirts. None of the lazy, casual attitude that infests those dreaded chain restaurants, damn their souls. This is a "class joint." It does what fine dining should do, elevates you to a more sophisticated and self-indulgent state of mind.

And of course they have the food. Chef James White has been with The Track for three years. He was formerly of Bayona in New Orleans, and his food exhibits the focus and flair that has made that restaurant among the best in the country, if not the world. The menu is short. I suspect this is to ensure that each dish is a thoroughbred. The bronzed rockfish over saffron rice with a crawfish compound butter ($25.95) was just what you'd expect: delicate, subtle, a superb blend of flavor, texture and appearance. A special last week, this should be on the regular menu. Bravo. I was a bit disappointed with the pan-fried rib-eye, a regular offering. It was cooked perfectly to my specifications but didn't have the flavor of well-marbled beef. It wasn't overpowered by the onions and peppers. It just didn't grunt like a rib-eye should. Beyond that, I have high praise for the bourride, a fish stew ($22.95), the seared scallop appetizer with mesclun greens and orange vinaigrette ($8.95), and the duck breast with andouille gravy ($24.95). Chef White throws in plenty of little Creole twists, but he doesn't beat you over the head with them the way those conniving chain restaurants do.

The Track has got it going on. I don't want to take anything away from the fine management and creative food that has kept them around for 24 years in the midst of cutthroat competition, but I would like to make a few suggestions. 1)Invest in some ramekins and serve your butter in them instead of the pre-wrapped butter chips. I know it's more expensive, but it's worth it for the presentation. 2)Buy better beef. 3)Check into some form of floor stabilization. It bounces pretty badly in the back of the room. Don't take it all out, about half. And have them install just a bit more squeak while they're at it. 4)Develop a good music library. I can't even remember if any was playing. I wholeheartedly offer my services in this area. It would be a little icing on a beautiful cake. Which reminds me: desserts could be jazzed up. Our Bailey's creme brulee ($5.50) was fine. That's it. I was underwhelmed by the choices. 5)Finally, shore up your plate-ware. The mixed styles are distracting and don't complement your cuisine. Otherwise, keep up the good work. I'll be back to see you.

Slide down to the track sometime. Dress up and put on your airs. Let them treat you right. You won't be sorry. SThe Track ($$$)

2915 Cary Street

Dinner: Tuesday - Thursday 5 - 9:30 p.m.,

Friday-Saturday 5 - 10:30 p.m.,

Closed Sunday

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