Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth

My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary.  I had a few restaurants in the queue to visit, and of those, I opted for a relatively new restaurant, Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth.  I have to admit that I was skeptical when I first heard it’s name, but I love restaurants that focus on local farm-to-fork concepts. Sure enough, skepticism was quickly set aside.

Halcyon, the restaurant’s website notes, means “calm and tranquil or ‘happy or carefree’”.  The first thing that strikes diners at Halcyon is the beautiful view the restaurant offers.  Located in the uptown Mint Museum, you must climb the museum steps and turn left to enter the restaurant.  The museum sits across the street from the lovely St. Peters Catholic Church and the green next door.  On the other side is the Bechtler Museum and Knight Theater, making this an ideal choice if you have tickets to the current show (we did).  More importantly for theatergoers, the food, though ample, does not leave you terribly overstuffed.

I’ve heard that the interior is rustic, but I disagree, though I might be persuaded to describe it as “rustic chic” or “rustic minimalist”.  Whatever it is, it is a zen-like tribute to its name.  I never thought to say this in a review, but I particularly liked the silverware.

I had read that the service was hit or miss, but found our server delightful, navigating us to where we wanted to be.  We started with the bread and had chosen the pate plate from their grazing menu but he suggested a rabbit pate instead that would be featured on their summer menu.  It was a lovely, creamy spread topped with micro greens and surrounded by a carrot puree, baby beets and turnips.  The bread came with our appetizer, and featured both a stout butter and an herbed butter.  Both butters were lovely, the stout butter was terrific.

At the suggestion of our server, we split the nested wedge salad.  This was a far cry from a “simple” wedge salad.  The romaine lettuce was slightly roasted, and it brought a lovely flavor to the dish.  It came with polenta “croutons” (really bite sized cubes of polenta).  I would have preferred a crispier outside on the polenta, but that certainly didn’t distract from the taste.  The “bacon chip” was one long sliver of bacon set atop the lettuce, and added incredible flavor, while the flavorful gorgonzola fondue and cherry jam added just the right pop.

For the main courses, I ordered the cold pan duck while my husband had the ginger ale short ribs.  The short ribs were out of this world, falling to pieces on the fork and melting in the mouth.  The vegetables (roasted root vegetable hash and potato puree), though delicious, were rendered unmemorable against such lovely meat.  The duck was incredibly well prepared.  I would have picked my plate clean but for the promise of dessert.  The duck came served on a bed of butternut squash puree topped with roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon ragout.  The Brussels sprouts were lovely (though I like my roasted-to-blackened Brussels sprouts better), and the bacon added the perfect smoked flavor, while the squash contributed the sweet element.  The duck itself was far from the rubbery mess that is often served, but was instead buttery and rich.

For dessert, I was told to order the Halcyon take on coffee and donuts.  Indeed, it was a terrific choice.  The beignets were delicious, and the mocha moose (I can’t remember the fancy name for moose) was so good we fought over the last bite. 

Unfortunately, the wine list had to be set aside, due to a migraine earlier that day, so that will be saved for a later date.

Halcyon was not a restaurant for the vegetarians among us.  None of the non-salad options on the main menu were vegetarian, though several of the grazing (appetizer/light meal) menu options appear veggie friendly.  They offer a not-too-pricy lunch and brunch menu, with prices ranging from $5 (soup)-$14 (“soup and salad”).

The best part of Halcyon was how comfortable and easy it felt.  From the friendly service, to the lovely food, to the beautiful location and ambiance, Halcyon provided a comfortable setting where you can eat a great deal and enjoy every bite.

Chef Marc Jacksina and owners Jill Marcus and Karen Teed have hit all the right notes.  Be it a romantic date night or a casual business lunch, Halcyon is the place to be.

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth
500 South Tryon
Suite 201
Charlotte, NC, 28205

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth on Urbanspoon


  1. Not a fan of this restaurant... I had high hopes lst night ordering the special - local grouper with oysters and shrimp. Half my shrimp had partial shells on, the grouper was OVER fried(dry) and the oysters - which came late on a seperate plate - were tasteless and deep fried. What a dissapointing dinner - needless to say that a rating of $$$ <- I'll go to long john silvers instead - at least i won't get the shells on! Oh - and forgot to mention the food was cold....

  2. Oh no! I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. Definitely let the restaurant know about it. My experience was so good. I have to admit, though, that since writing this, I've become an even bigger fan of Customshop since I wrote this article. So if you want good, local fare, head there next time!