Though Garland is situated among many of Raleigh’s best restaurants and bars, it is easily lost in the crowd.
Much like the name implies, Garland’s overwhelming motif is decoration–the restaurant’s decor, decorative garnishes, elaborate cocktails. The interior is certainly beautiful–upon first walking into Garland, the colorful artwork on the back wall caught my eye immediately, and the restaurant’s somewhat trendy feel was not unwelcoming–but my awe stopped there.
Due to a load of reservations, I opted to sit at the bar instead of the communal table–a long table, much like the one at Beasley’s, with a few diners here or there. Every item on the menu, divided between “small” dishes and “large” ones, had lines of description following, detailing every adornment from “crispy sweet potato ribbons” to “whipped coconut cream.”
I settled on sharing two “small” plates with my friend: the “Chicken 65” and the “Moroccan ‘Hummus.’”
The “Chicken 65,” fried chicken thighs in a turmeric-yogurt sauce with curry leaves, fresh chiles, house pickled chiles, cilantro and lime, initially tasted delicious–tangy and flavorful with a sneaky heat–until I remembered the chicken was fried. Any crunch the chicken had seemingly became a distant memory when the sauce was added. I could neither distinguish between the pickled chiles and the fresh chiles nor notice each chile’s distinct flavor addition–only a general spice.
Though the “Moroccan ‘Hummus’,” a whole chickpea hummus with sesame, house-made creme fraiche, pickled onions, Spanish olive oil and popped jasmine rice, served with tortilla crisps, differed greatly from most hummus, considering the whole stewed chickpeas, it was hearty, savory and subtly seasoned. But, similar to the “Chicken 65,” the garnishes lacked any kind of oomph; the popped jasmine rice, almost undetectable, failed to impact the dish at all.
Certainly tasty, while still excessive, Garland left me satisfied yet unimpressed; I enjoyed my time there, but I have no plans to return soon when places like Sitti, Remedy Diner and Gravy are mere blocks away. Though Garland’s newly opened lunch takeout window may be novel, the restaurant is simply not up to par.
14 W. Martin St. Raleigh, NC
Two stars for atmosphere and initial taste; minus one for excess garnishes
Prices: $6-$14 for a “small” dish; $14-$21 for a “large.”