Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Grill at Highlands Row

My sister in Knoxville is a very good restaurant chooser. I think it must be genetic. On our way back from The Great Yankee Road Trip, we stayed over with her and had dinner on Saturday night at the Grill at Highlands Row, a new restaurant that had gotten great newpaper reviews. Our experience, however, was mixed. Service of the pre-prandian beverages seemed quite slow, but it was crowded and somewhat understanable. Then we ordered. Tom and I both got salads to start. Good, but fairly standard. Cindy got the Vidalia onion soup. It was very brothy, but somewhat tart. Cindy though there might have been vinegar in it but I tasted it and think the broth was part wine. But for me the killer was that it had an overload of dried thyme. I am one of those with a sensitivity to dried thyme, particulary one often used in food service. It just tasted musty to me. But she did think the Brie croutons gave a nice touch.

Donny, my brother-in-law got the crab and corn bisque. It was, according to him, delicious, and also according to him, only needed a touch of salt.

I ordered the Carolina red trout, with a lemon caper sauce. It came with "Carolina rice" which seemed pretty much a generic version of the Uncle Ben's wild rice blend. It also came with "chile succotash." I asked the server if it was spicy and she said yes. I have a low heat tolerance level, so I asked to substitute the grilled asparagus.
Cindy and Tom both got the Highlands Special steak.  Cindy got it with bĂ©arnaise sauce, Tom with the "Pascagoula Topping," a combination of grilled onions and chopped black olives.  Both were done as requested.
Donnie got the shrimp and grits, with smoked gouda grits, and loved them!  The shrimp were plump and perfectly done.  All in all, for reasoned discussed below, he got the best deal of the meal.

Donnie's dinner was perfectly hot, as it should have been. Tom and Cindy both got food was that was little more than warm, but edible. Mine however, was cold. The plate and the fish were at room temperature. I might not have complained, but when I tasted the rice it was cold. Almost refrigerator cold. I did complain, and frankly I can't remember ever sending back a full meal. To the credit of the restaurant, the manager replaced it with a full new dinner, hot and delicious. And didn't charge us for my dinner. AND gave us a truly delicious chocolote soufflé for dessert.

Service was not the best. I think they were short of servers, which would explain the slow drink service. And it's a new place so they have some tweaking to do. But if the servers couldn't get the food out on time, they should have used the hostess and manager to run the food hot.

One more complaint: the chef has a heavy hand with spices. The asparagus I ordered to replace the spicy succotash was loaded with black pepper. Most of the dishes had some very spicy component either as a garnish or side dish. Some of it is indicated, but not all. Someone at the next table got black-eyed peas and found them too spicy. The server told him there was poblano pepper in it. Poblano isn't always hot, but it can be.

SO: would we go back? Maybe when they've had a little more time to get things right, and not on a weekend night!

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