4100 Main at North Hills
North Hills Renaissance, Raleigh
Normally, I jump right into a review, leaving any musings on my experience for the end. This one requires more set up because Flights is in a transition period and it shows. So you should understand before I go on what we learned from the manager: Flights’ executive chef had been promoted about a month before we dined there to a regional position with Marriot Hotels. Which means the current executive chef is new to the position, so the cuisine is not as refined as it may grow to be with time. And I sincerely believe the front-house staff must also be in transition, because I have no other explanation for why we’d have a server in a fine dining restaurant mess up the sheer number of times that ours did. It was pretty ridiculous: providing a substitute glass of wine with no explanation that the requested glass was unavailable, asking for a new dinner entrée selection for an 86ed course after appetizers had already been served, sharing that the seasonal fruit selection for a dessert didn’t ever change … I could go on but that’s enough to paint a picture. When the timid, nervous man explained at the end of the meal, after confirming who ordered what for at least the third time, that it was his first night on his own, we merely nodded, having figured that out within minutes of ordering. I’m still rather surprised management allowed someone that unprepared to be a server. The poor man was really, really not ready for the dinner shift. Hopefully, by now, that’s changed, but it definitely made a difference in our impressions of dinner at Flights, which had been portrayed to me as a hidden gem of fine dining in the Triangle.
Flights could be considered a hidden gem because it’s a hotel restaurant. The entrance is in the back of the North Hills Renaissance hotel lobby. And Flights is a hotel restaurant in every sense of the word. A mixture of unobtrusive, pastel, geometric patterns on the fabrics combined with uncomfortable booths with high backs and difficult to navigate table legs, and the ubiquitous Muzak set an atmosphere that did little to remove us from the feeling of being in a hotel.
Let me also take a moment to point out I don’t get the appeal of passing around wine lists on iPads. At all. I’ve seen it in a number of restaurants, and usually, those screens look greasy and scream of germs, which was the case at Flights as well. I know paper menus are likely just as germ covered, but at least they don’t look dirty! I promise I’ll still think you’re hip without them, restaurants. Speaking of the menu, Flights offers a small selection of appetizers, salads, and entrees on their normal dinner menu, featuring a mix of Southern and Italian options, and a larger, changing small plates menu.
The small plates are affordable and plenty of food, in my experience, so I’d recommend ordering from it. But before we ordered at all, we were given amuse bouches of crab and shrimp on parmesan crostini with raspberry coulis and pesto.
They were well executed with some lively fruit to whet our appetites and the seafood kept simple. The French bread served before the meal was warm, packed with herbs, and had a great crunchy crust. So after our poor waiter’s initial awkwardness, I was hopeful the food would salvage the experience. Onward appetizers!by