If you’re a regular reader of Triangle Food Adventures, you may remember last year we wrote about Motto in Durham. It was good then, but they recently appointed a new head chef, Chef Garret Fleming, who is changing things up and taking them from good to great. Chef Fleming is one of those chefs that when you listen to him talk about food, you can tell this is his calling. He is a culinary historian and loves learning about the food of different cultures, and why people eat what they do. He also loves bringing what he has learned to his own dishes. In addition, he enjoys using multi-purpose ingredients in his dishes and is sure to make everything fresh. That’s why the menu at Motto changes almost daily. I was lucky enough to be able to try a few (a lot) of the dishes Chef Fleming has to offer.
During our meal, the team at Motto thoroughly spoiled us. When before the meal, the chef says he’ll probably change his mind on what to serve us and just see what he feels like cooking, you know it is going to be good. Course one was North Carolina Amberjack Crudo with toasted sesame, lemon, lime, garum, honey, and crispy potato. I had never had Amberjack before, but Chef told us how he loves using it in his dishes, and I can certainly see why. The fish itself had a very light flavor, but it was really accentuated by all of the other flavors Chef Fleming added to the dish.
Course two was a Carolina BBQ Steamed Bun with coleslaw and gochujang. This was definitely one of my favorite dishes. The steamed bun was so light and fluffy that it made the BBQ, which tends to be quite heavy, feel much lighter as well. Chef Fleming loves using the whole pig and creating as much as he can out of it, and I could definitely taste that passion in the BBQ of this dish.
Course three was the most ridiculously huge Charcuterie Platter I’ve ever seen. If you don’t believe me let me just tell you, our server told us the platter is actually the top of a small table, so hopefully that will give you some perspective. The platter was full of house prepared meals like Korean Chili Pancetta, Proscuitto Affumicato, and more. It was also served with a huge portion of Buratta cheese, preserved lemon butter, and blood orange rhubarb marmalade, that we ate with our house made sourdough bread. Believe it or not I’ve never ordered a charcuterie plate before, but this was beyond amazing. Each meat not only tasted incredible, but was totally different from each other as well.
After thinking that it couldn’t possibly get any better, course four was an Amberjack Coconut Curry with house made rice noodles. It was amazing how different the Amberjack tasted cooked versus course one where it was raw. It was extremely tender and almost tasted like chicken. As a lover of curry, this was also one my favorite dishes of the meal. During this course Chef also said that he was going to top it with wontons, but he had corn tortillas so he decided to just fry them up instead. I thought it was awesome how he was able to use what he had and alter dishes on the spot to make something unique.
Course five was Papperdalle Sulle Lepre with hare ragu. I honestly can’t decide what my favorite dish was, because this one was amazing too! There is nothing better than fresh, homemade pasta, and this one really hit the spot. The hare ragu added some incredible flavors, but there wasn’t so much sauce that it drowned the pasta. I definitely could’ve eaten an entire plate of this.
Course six (I told you they spoiled us!) was a Rabbit Shrimp Dirty Rice Fritter served with braised collard greens and an NC white acre pea and carrot succotash. Everyone working at Motto said the collard greens are one of their favorite things to snack on. The bitterness of the greens and the sweetness of the succotash really complimented each other. The fritter itself was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.
Course seven (almost done), was one we were all looking forward to throughout the whole meal: pizza. Our pizza had pesto, garlic butter, smoked mushrooms, mozzarella, and pecorino, and was topped with an egg yolk. Our table was right in front of the brick oven, so we could see just how fresh the pizza was. I personally love a pizza with pesto sauce, and the addition of the egg yolk really added something unique, so as you can imagine I devoured my portion. Finally, for dessert we had Chef Fleming’s sister’s Pound Cake. I though it was really great that Chef uses his family’s recipes, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The pound cake was everything you could hope for, plus it had an amazing citrusy glaze on the top. It was also topped with whipped cream and berries to pull everything together.
My meal at Motto was definitely one of the best I’ve had in a while. Chef Fleming’s love of food and talent for creating unique dishes was very apparent in every dish we ate. Motto is also starting a Brew & Que event every second and fourth Sunday of the month. At these events guests can enjoy some local brew and fresh, Southern barbeque. With an ever-changing, menu I can’t wait to go back to Motto and see what else they have to offer.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to try certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as these was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Melissa Guido is currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.