It is only fitting that my last post from Memphis should be from New Years Eve. Whilst before, this eve only represented a night marked by slurred speech and pictures that will be deleted in the morning (which I agree, might be an equally entertaining blog post), I have made a turn around. This NYE, I attended a small dinner party in lieu of the mountains of other invitations I had received… Ahem. And may I say, I could not have imagined an equally satisfying way to spend the better part of the final day of 2012.
My sister Brooke, whom you may remember as the smaller, cuter O’Neal, planned a dinner that would vie for the title of best dinners of the year. The aptly named Tsunami is like a tidal wave of Pacific Rim flavors, crashing down on your taste buds and retreating before you’ve had time to pick up each subtle note of flavor (okay, so that analogy was a little too easy, but hey, when life gives you the word tsunami, talk about tidal waves).
Adam, David, and Ashli
Me, Melanie, Brooke, and Haley
Ashli, Laura, Evan, Matty, and Shelby
The dining room, painted the colors of a foamy sea, and decorated with mementos from travels and beautiful works of art, is humble, but very comfortable. Entering the front door has a calming effect, as you are flooded with the cool colors and the curve of the bar. The only drawback to the small space is the lack of a waiting area; however, there is plenty room at the bar to grab a drink, so you don't have to find yourself dancing with the staff, like me.
Three menus awaited us at our table. The first was a prix fixe menu, offering small plates particular to the occasion. Derren and I both ordered a selection from this menu. The second, the regular (but not so ordinary) dinner menu featured appetizers, small plates, and entrees ranging from mouthwatering good to heart palpating yummy (sounds a little scary…eat it anyways). The final was the Izakaya menu, a playful merge of bar food and Asian cooking. Enjoy attempting to make a decision among all these delicious descriptions.
First Course, appetizers:
Perfectly chewy wrappers stuffed with a succulent shrimp mixture served with a chile-soy dipping sauce. Mmmmm.
Jalapeno hush puppies with maple-soy aioli were a refined take on a down-home favorite. I would like the maple-soy aioli bottled, please.
Asian nachos, crispy won ton chips with tuna tataki, a slice of fresh jalapeno, drizzled with cilantro crema and sriracha; even the spicy food aficionado will grab their water after a bite. Nonetheless, they were delightful, and fun!
Sake-steamed mussels in Thai curry sauce: fresh, tender, and begging for you to dip bread in the luscious sauce.
The hoisin glazed Newman Farm pork meatballs with lemongrass were particularly impressive. The Asian flavored was infused artfully and delicately into the little balls, allowing them to maintain their comforting, made by your grandmother, flavor. The finely ground pork melts in your mouth, and the notes of hoison are wonderful!
Second Course, soups and salads:
I had the soup of the day, a chicken broth base filled with Thai flavors, including coconut milk, cilantro, and perhaps vanilla? I spent a good deal of time dissecting this soup. Unfortunately (and fortunately), when a chef has this much rhythm in the kitchen, it is hard to distinguish all the notes separately. I enjoyed the little ribbons of chicken sprinkled throughout, which added a little more substance to the thin, warm broth.
I also tasted the spinach salad with ginger-soy vinaigrette and goat cheese (!), and enjoyed the classic notes of the soy, and sesame oil, against the delicate, but hearty spinach leaves. Of course, goat cheese is never a problem for me.
Third Course, entrees:
Seared sea scallops in a red curry sauce with spinach, walnut, and goat cheese rangoons, and a precious mound of jasmine rice. A play on texture and flavor, I loved their fresh take on the deep fried dumplings. Take that, crab! The scallops were perfectly cooked, buttery in the middle, lightly crisped on the outside. Mixing the rice in the mild, but flavorful curry sauce was a delight in itself.
The rest of the table was sprinkled with other delicious entrees, but there seemed to be a common trend in ordering the Szechwan marinated lamb loin with sweet potato risotto. The risotto was creamy and delicious, generously sprinkled with sweet chunks of potato. The lamb was tender and cooked to perfection, almost resembling a filet to Derren.
Final course, dessert:
I was the only true glutton at the table that night (rookies), so of course, the only dessert to be ordered landed in front of me. Ginger donuts with coconut gelato, need I say more?
Dinner was beyond wonderful, and of course, the company of longtime friends and a bottle of champagne didn’t hurt either. This meal has started a new tradition for me. No longer will I roam the streets, searching for a cab that will never come (remember Blaire, this isn’t New York), or walk around a highly unsanitary bar with my shoes off because intoxicated Blaire has forgotten that beauty IS pain. I will start out my night with a long, filling meal and save myself the frustration of the loss of motor skills by midnight!