Alivia’s Durham Bistro
900 West Main Street
I’ve wanted to check out the Brightleaf Square dining scene for a long time. It’s one of many revamped tobacco warehouse districts in Durham and seems to contain a good variety of restaurants. Alivia’s is the first I’ve made it to and I’ll be impressed if we come across another one that beats it. It helps that most of the other nearby establishments close around 9 pm. On the weekend.
We started with the spicy catfish fritters, seasoned with a variety of peppers, the white sticking out. They were nice and warm but it was hard to find the catfish beneath all the batter. The fish seemed more of an added flavor than the main ingredient in the dish. The accompanying dipping sauce was great because the mustard presence was underplayed.
My sunchoke souffle dish was vibrantly presented and lively in flavor. Much like the fritters, the souffle was more of an afterthought, which I didn’t mind as the roasted carrots and turnips were perfect. The souffle itself was like eating a plain roll of cornbread, which was great as a counterpoint to the robust vegetables. The greens were too salty for my palate.
The bistro is reminiscent of the Newbury Avenue scene in Boston with wide open doors and windows and a huge patio perfect for a sunny spring or summer evening. The chalkboard listing of bar favorites and “Corrected Coffees,” i.e.; alcoholic ones, add whimsy. I can’t wait to go back and try the chicken lollipops at the bar.