Finally...a Seminole Heights restaurant I can get behind. The Refinery and Ella's pretty much both left me cold, but I'm happy to say that I now have a new friend in the neighborhood.
The venue is charming, eclectic and exudes an old-school vibe which is revved up a notch via piped in tunes by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. The interior is understated and relaxing with wood floors, deep red walls and retro artwork. Did I mention that every staff member we interacted with (from bartender to our server, the beautiful Sierra) were both delightful and super helpful? Because I'd be remiss if I didn't.
We converged with my favorite food blogger (JR, publisher of the SOG City Oracle) and his lovely bride, who will be referred to going forward as BOBP (short for her richly deserved title of "Belle of Ballast Point").
Fresh and tender foccacia was delivered right off the bat along with herb infused oil for dipping. I'm skipping the photo-documentation of the bread because I have way too many more interesting food pics to share...starting with house-made Tater Tots Dauphine with curried ketchup dipping sauce. This was some "high cotton" redneck cuisine...and I should know. These crispy fried wads of shredded, carbolicious goodness were a real crowd pleaser.
The Smoked Salmon with House-Made Creme Fraiche and Fried Capers had me fighting off my dining partners with knife, fork and acrylic nails. Behold its pulchritudinous splendor. Mine, Mine, Mine.
Sambuca Mussels with Tomato Cream and Smoked Salmon were also delicious, tender and well received...although we weren't quite sure what the salmon brought to the table. We all agreed that the mussels would've been perfect without the salmon topper and that they had the potential to be even more impressive if given the chance to stand on their own. It's not as if anything was left in the bowl after this horde of locusts descended, however.
JR went "rogue" and brazenly ordered the starter even we self-proclaimed "foodie gurlz" feared....the Tuna Crudo with Quail Egg, Sriracha, and Gribiche. Neither the BOBP or I are fans of raw seafood, but the Y-Chromes fell upon it like stray dogs on a can of Alpo.
It seemed like too much of a missed opportunity to pass on the the Guinness & Gruyere Soup, so we all had a sample of its creamy, luxurious decadence. Croutons and a little bacon slab ratcheted the heinous factor up to the point at which the whole group just gave up and piled into the handbasket to hell (or fat pants). Aren't they basically the same destination?
Jeebus...hard to believe we kept eating, yet I'm embarrassed to say that we did. My Risotto with Crab, Marscarpone, Lemon Zest and Asparagus was very nice. If I have to bitch about something (and you know I must) it would be that someone was a little stingy with the crab meat. It was detectable, but barely so. Still, this was a better rendition than most risotto dishes I've tried...texturally perfect, it was cheesily dreamy and studded with fresh asparagus bits. I loved the subtle, lemony accent.
Underdog had no prob gnawing his Red Wine Braised Short Ribs right down to the bone. Their mashed potato carrier along with the accompanying fright wig of (surprisingly) delicious, crispy-fried shredded beets garnered a "two paws up" vote from Dogboy.
JR's Lavender Thai Chili Duck Confit with Herbed Cous Cous and Haricots Verts (which translates to "green beans" in Redneck Speak) made me bitterly wish I was him...despite the fact that the promised "crispy skin" was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, no one cared. SO moist, flavorful and delish!
The BOBP's Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin was cooked to juicy, smoky perfection. The sides of Fresh Spinach, Spaetzle and Apple Dijon Gastrique proved to be the perfect accoutrements to this hearty winter dish.
Yes, we did make a half-hearted effort to Hoover down dessert. UD and I shared the Lemon Curd with Blueberries on a Granola Fig Crust. I love citrus flavors and appreciated the thickness, creaminess and tang of the lemon curd. The figgy granola crust added a somewhat chewy-yet-crispy (in a good way) interest...and, how can one ever go wrong by tossing a few plump, fresh blueberries into a dessert mix?
The BOBP's little edible chocolate cup filled with mousses of varying degrees of chocolate decadence (from white to dark and everything in between), also set everyone's taste buds aquiver...considering what little of it she was willing to share.
This stunning meal was quite a bargain for roughly $100 per couple before gratuity and with a couple of beer/wines apiece. The food was well above average (especially for the price point), service was friendly and accommodating across the board and the venue is fun, relaxing and clean. We likey.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.