At Grill 83, in downtown's Madison Hotel, executive chef Chris Windsor has revamped his summer menu around lighter fare, local produce, and lower prices.
The new appetizers and entrées reiterate one of Windsor's cooking axioms: Don't get in the way of good ingredients. "We want to showcase our fresh food, not cover it up," Windsor says. "Especially in the summer, it's important not to overpower food with a lot of butter and cream."
He points out the restaurant's new Vidalia onion, pear, and goat-cheese tart, served with baby arugula and walnut vinaigrette and priced under $10: "It's a simple but delicious combination, because the crispy pears, the sweetness of the onions, and the tartness of the goat cheese work together perfectly."
Windsor's finesse in the kitchen also enhances the menu's summer ingredients. For instance, before steaming his basmati, he layers fresh herbs underneath the rice. "It's a little step," Windsor says, "but it flavors the rice with the dill and the tarragon."
The herbed basmati, along with chili-Parmesan broccolini, are side dishes to another new entrée: merken pepper-dusted salmon. Chilean chef Pilar Rodriguez, a guest chef at the restaurant during Memphis in May, introduced Windsor to the seasoning.
Merkens are dried, smoked, and ground by the Mapuche, the indigenous people of central and southern Chile. "The peppers are hot, but they are mild in the smoke and not overly spicy," Windsor says. "This gives them a distinctive flavor."
83 Madison, grill83.com (333-1224)
After months of renovation, Bluff City Bayou has reopened in Midtown at the intersection of Peabody and Cooper in the building formerly occupied by One More Bar & Grill.
"It was more work than we anticipated," says chef Les Carloss, who operates the restaurant with co-owner Jeff Corrigan. "It was an old building with a lot of skeletons in the closet."
Carloss and Corrigan, who have run restaurants in Memphis since 2003, closed their Medical Center location in December. "The new place is perfect for us," Corrigan says. "It's two blocks from our house, so we can walk to work."
A neighborhood attachment is key to the restaurant's focus. "We want a small place with good food that is busy and fun," Corrigan says. "And we only want to serve dinner."
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 (or 10) p.m. "We aren't going to chase people out if they want to sit on the patio and have a few beers," Corrigan says. "In fact, we are in the process of putting together a smaller menu for after dinner."
For now, Bluff City Bayou only serves beer, but guests can bring wine for a $5 per table cork fee. The menu continues the Cajun-centric meals Carloss is known for: po-boys, muffalettas, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. Two of his popular daily specials have earned permanent spots on the new menu: fried shrimp po-boys and Creole cordon bleu.
"Our cordon bleu is blackened chicken breast, served on a bed of white rice with a tasso [Cajun ham] and Parmesan cream sauce," Carloss says. "It's rich but good."
2117 Peabody (274-8100)
Local restaurant operator Jay Uiberall knows how to throw a party. On Tuesday, several hundred guests showed up at Alfred's on Beale to sample the food and services showcased by Uiberall's newest venture, Catering for U.
"We're going all-out for the event," Uiberall said a few days before the party. "We'll be sampling everything from sushi to carving stations to boxed lunches to barbecue."
Uiberall calls the catering business a one-stop shop: "We can help with site selection, flowers, rentals, and, of course, the food, which for us is the easy part."
Menus will be far-reaching, reflecting the diverse cooking styles at Automatic Slim's, Ubee's, and Dyer's, Uiberall's other Memphis restaurants. "We have a wide range of kitchens to work from," he says. "We can do something simple, like cook our Dyer's burgers onsite or put together a large, formal wedding."
Catering will be managed by Fara Snowden, who coordinated events for Gibson Guitar before joining Uiberall's team.
"We're not worried at all by the economic downturn," Uiberall says. "There's always a need to eat, congregate, and have fun, and we can accommodate any budget."