Succulent Surf, Tender Turf
Marre Allen’s new summer menu items exceed expectations.
By Jan Walsh
Rather than dreading a drive down Highway 280, I find it a convenient excuse to pop in for lunch at Marre & Allen Kitchen + Bar. Here at the Birmingham Marriott, I can regroup over a leisurely lunch.
Not only is Marre and Allen a cut above most all hotel restaurants, it is also one of my favorites. I have dined here for lunch, dinner, and brunch many times since they opened and have attended private functions at the hotel. The food is always amazing. General Manager, Chris Townsley’s food and beverage background and expertise are evident everywhere, and are tasted even in the smallest, delicious details.
Today I stop in for lunch to find some new menu items. Hmm, Shrimp Po’ Boy sounds perfect, but I substitute the fries for a Caesar side salad. Chris drops in the restaurant and hooks me up with their new wine by Chuck Wagner—Bonanza. The California Cabernet Sauvignon is medium ruby in color and boasts notes of blackberries, vanilla, and chocolate. Very silky and smooth for a Cab. I can taste whey Chris recommended this lovely wine—it is very food friendly!
My mouth not only waters, but also drops open, at the first glance of my gigantic po’ boy. Crusty French bread is overfilled with gorgeous, golden fried Alabama White Shrimp, topped with marinated cabbage slaw, sliced tomato, and spicy remoulade. And the first bite telling—this feast for the eyes has it all! From the crisp texture of the golden crust and firmness of the succulent shrimp, to the juicy in season tomato and the tangy, crunchy slaw, it is a synthesis of satisfaction. It is the po’ boy of all po’ boys! And it may be the best po’ boy I have ever had. Can’t remember a better one.
A few days later I cannot not stop talking about the po’ boy until Kev could no longer handle it. So, we head to lunch at Marre and Allen planning to order two po’ boys… until Kev spies a ribeye on the new menu. I order the sandwich again, and he opts for this Grilled C.A.B Ribeye. I always cringe a little inside whenever he orders a steak because he likes his steak medium plus or medium well, which is not a chef’s or grill cook’s preference of rare. So, most times, his steak is either too rare or overcooked. But not today. On first cut, he shows off its cooked to order, which to him is cooked perfectly. And on first bite he declares it to be one of the best steaks he has had in years. Slightly pink inside, tender and juicy. And its Cabernet reduction sauce enhances rather than overwhelms its beautiful beefy flavor. Whew! Well done, Chef Chad Schofield. Maybe I should keep this picture to show what is in his mind when he orders a steak? And it is served with a tasty, creamy, garlic mashed potatoes and tender and grassy jumbo asparagus.
And my po’ boy? It is the perfect replica of my previous one. It like Marre and Allen, is tried and true, exceeding expectations time after time.
View Marre & Allen Bar + Kitchen Profile
Where to go for our anniversary dinner? Ocean Restaurant.
By Jan Walsh
Kev and I are regulars at the bar at Ocean. We love to pop in for a relaxed dinner and watch chefs George Reis and Rick Trent prepare our meal in the open kitchen.
George and I go way back. Ocean was the first restaurant to join Birmingham Restaurants, before it launched in 2007. And prior to this, I had been dining here and reviewing the restaurant for print pubs. Seems like yesterday… And I have followed Rick’s culinary career, dining on his deliciousness, from Ocean to other local restaurants and back to Ocean.
Upon our arrival George greets us at our table, “I saw you on the reservations list, and said, ‘What, a table?’,” George laughs. We enjoy catching up with him, as we order cocktails and our favorite app—baby lobster tails. The tails arrive perfectly curled, steamy hot, with aromas of hickory wood and George’s secret “the love” spice recipe.
Rick stops by the table and shares his recent discovery of cooking kudzu leaves. I never knew kudzu was edible and am intrigued. He also says you can make jellies of their blossoms. Who knew? And tonight, he has made a kudzu pecan pesto for the Georges Bank Sea Scallops. No one does scallops better than Ocean, so I am in. Kev orders the Snapper Whole Fish from the Gulf of Mexico, hickory grilled. And we pair our entrees with flutes of Cava. A trio of enormous scallops arrive with bright green kudzu pesto, drizzled over and alongside the dish, which includes a colorful lady pea hopping john. The pesto’s earthy, nutty, and spinach-like flavors accent the scallops without overpowering the mild, sweet flavors of the delicate scallops. And the hopping john rounds out the dish with its light and lovely mix of rice and veggies. Kev’s snapper is a beauty! Never a whiff of a fishy smell in all the years we have ordered fish here. And tonight, is no exception. The whole fish is fresh and pristine. Each bite of the flaky, white snapper speaks to its quality and freshness. And it is served with a creamy, comforting side of sweet potatoes topped with cauliflower and Brussel sprouts that add a lovely layer of texture to this plate.
For dessert George surprises and treats us to a trio of temptations and Cava, which makes our anniversary here even sweeter. I fall for the tangy lemon custard lava cake, decorated with an artful design of flowers, using the plate as a canvas. Kev loves the sweet baklava purse. And we both devour the gourmet strawberry short cake. Once again, the desserts at Ocean are exceptional in their uniqueness, presentation, and most especially, their deliciousness.
View Ocean Restaurant Profile
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