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Off the Beaten Path Value at Wine Depot & Bistro 555; Setting Over Food at The Royal

Wine Depot & Bistro 555 was packed when Lee Klein returned to check things out. Klein, it seems, liked pretty much everything on the menu, which is "splashed with informal bistro fare and Mediterranean-inspired small plates." Duck rillette, in particular, was "fabulous" and salads are "crisply fresh." Octopus Provencale was "tops," too. "A few nightly specials were more problematic. On one occasion, somebody in the kitchen exhibited too heavy a hand with salt." And while Klein really loved the free parking lot, he praises the place for its value, saying it's "just far enough away from the touristy area of the neighborhood that it is well priced and geared toward locals, who seem to be appreciating the value and having a heck of a time doing so. You might consider joining the party one night." [MNT]

Meanwhile, Victoria Pesce Elliott visits The Royal at The Raleigh, which she says is "too cool for self-promotion." However, says VPE, the food "still takes second place to the exquisite setting," and "it's not that it's bad, but" it's "neither haphazard nor artful, but something in between. It's casual and easy and mostly what you want to eat. Even if the staff and prices sometimes make that challenging" She liked the "moist, tender and comforting signature roast chicken," and a slew of other things. She didn't like the "handsome, well intentioned but hopeless staff," or the "English impaired bartender." Bottom line? 2.5 stars. []