Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Look: Rue 127

Last year the most surprising meal of the year took place on the second to last night of the year at Le Foret. This year, it took place last weekend. Rue 127 opened about 6 weeks ago with Chef Ray Gruezke at the helm. Ray is an alum of the C.I.A. and cooked at Le Foret before branching out on his own. Pastry chef Joanna Palmer came along for the ride as well.

In full disclosure, Ray and I (and Peter) all graduated from Jesuit together in 2000. In fact, we may have even shared a bottle of Boone's Farm on a Dominican Neat 'n Sweet bus at one point. Regardless, we sat at the bar out of the sight of the kitchen of the main room. Also, when I went to the bathroom I didn't see Ray in the kitchen. Finally, no one takes us seriously, right?

I had heard many good things about Rue 127, but the concept of a New American Bistro kind of threw me for a loop. For one thing, I have no idea what that means. Secondly, it seems everyone is opening an upscale casual, farm to table, twists on classics, restaurant these days. I assumed it was a shaky concept. You know what they say about assuming. 

What we witnessed was a chef and kitchen that is taking no shortcuts. A risotto started things off - pure white, creamy, al dente, and well-seasoned with tender, pungent tufts of oyster mushrooms throughout. In fact, what struck me about this dish was just how well-seasoned it was. I'll put this risotto up against any in the city, including the ever changing version at Stella!

Then came golden crusted sweet scallop coins sitting on top of a mushroom fricassee with a sunburst yellow saffron sauce. The effect of the dish was stunning with golds, yellows, greens, and browns each contributing a different flavor and texture. There was thought and execution in this dish. Too often, chefs are focusing on simplicity. They will serve just a scallop, simply seared, with just a sprig of parsley. They become Carl Andre of the Kitchen (don't worry I had to google minimalist artists to find that name), devoted to purity, clean lines, and other such concepts. That can get very boring. Here was a composed dish where nothing extraneous was on the plate, but the plate wasn't a white canvas with three dollops of nothingness.

On to the entrees. A pork chop is one of life's great pleasures. Not to use hyperbole, but the pork chop at Rue 127 is a great pork chop. Why? The double cut beast arrives juicy and rosy on the inside. The exterior is crusty such that it reminds you of a summertime backyard barbecue. Underneath the chop, was a roasted corn coush coush that was savory and rich, if perhaps a tad too salty.

As you probably know, I am a roast chicken fanatic. Plus, there was mac 'n cheese prominently involved and roasted brussel sprouts, which is a vegetable. The half chicken came with the breast perfectly moist and a crisp skin. The leg and thigh however were a little drab and flabby; a quick run under the salamander would have helped. Contributing much to the meat was an au jus packing a well needed punch of rosemary. The brussel sprouts could have used a bit more roasting to bring out the caramelized flavors. That may be a personal preference though.

Cupcakes are all the rage and frying things never goes out of style. Enter the deep fried mini cupcake. Let me clarify - a ball of moist cake batter, filled with cream cheese icing and sprinkles is rolled in a light batter, fried, and then served with three dipping sauces: vanilla bean (the best), butterscotch, and chocolate. It is fun, it is weird, but most importantly, they are delicious.

Couple of cocktails, Kermit Lynch Cote du Rhone, and a glass of Basil Hayden's later and we left quite full, very surprised, and eager to return. Watching Rue 127 evolve will be one of the great pleasures of 2011 and beyond.

Rue 127 is located at 127 N. Carrollton across from Venezias and down the street from Jesuit. 483-1571 is their phone number. You may want to make a reservation as we had no choice but to sit at the bar. We prefer that every now and then.


alli said...

You mean 127 N Carrollton, not Claiborne, right?

Rene said...

Yes. Thank you for pointing that out. That is the last time, I try to include an address in a post. Sorry, termite.

Meghan said...

"In fact, we may have even shared a bottle of Boone's Farm on a Dominican Neat 'n Sweet bus at one point."
Thanks for this laugh out loud moment this morning.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for this laugh out loud moment this morning."

Not me. I'd previously repressed all memories of Neat and Sweet. They're now flooding back. It makes me wonder what kind of a different and valuable high school experience I could have had if I'd been around educators who ... Well, just educators would have been nice.

Jones said...

Great addition to the mid-city area. love the fact that I can pass on the surly service @ degas and patronize a venue where they welcome you with open arms. Another noteworthy point is Rue's aggressively priced wine list. Gotta love a bottle of bubbly (from a reputable producer, that is) for under 60 bucks... I think this place will do well if they stay on track. Can't wait to try them for Sunday brunch, too.

Anonymous said...

They just recently opened for Sunday brunch.