With October coming to an end, I felt it was time to explore another restaurant on behalf of the blog. In doing that, a lot of places came to mind, so I sorted them out by using personal interest as criteria. At first, I thought about reviewing Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, a popular East Memphis restaurant that has received many accolades from organizations like the James Beard Foundation. Eventually, I will go to the restaurant to satisfy my curiosity, but instead of going to East Memphis, I settled for its new sister restaurant that opened in the Hotel Chisca building (now known as "The Chisca"). Catherine & Mary's, named after owners Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman's grandmothers, specializes in dishes inspired by the Italian-American women (for the rest of this review, I'll refer to the restaurant as "C & M"). The restaurant boasts a menu that is upscale (as in expensive) that features a mix of pasta dishes and exquisite entrées. Last week, I double-dipped on both and liked with what I got.
On my first visit, I got the Chitarra (Italian for "guitar"), a thick egg pasta originating from the Abruzzo region in Southern Italy. In C & M's version, the pasta is infused with squid ink and mixed with arrabiata sauce, diced lobster and other ingredients. Traditionally, the arrabiata sauce is spicy, but C &M's sauce tasted more like marinara sauce. The chitarra, even with squid ink, was nothing more than a typical wheat pasta that many restaurants serve. As far as seafood pasta dishes go, I've had much better than C & M's chitarra. That said, the pasta was decent but I'm not sure if I want a small bowl of it for $16 when I can find better pasta elsewhere.
A few days later, I returned to C & M for an entrée that I hoped would be better than the pasta that I had earlier. Going for something that's atypical for me, I chose the Newman Farm Lamb. Setting atop of a pool of farroto (similar to risotto expect that it comes from wheat instead of rice), sun dried tomatoes and other vegetables, the lamb I got was a nice hunk of bone-in meat about 1½ times the size of a softball. Because the bone was horizontal in the meat, I pretty much attacked it like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the lamb was very juicy and tender, tasting like well cooked roast beef. Overall, The entrée was very good and it more than made up for the pasta that I had earlier.
By the way, for anyone who likes wine, I recommend Le Monde, a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Friuli region in Northern Italy. I didn't pick this by chance, but rather because Friuli (a part of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region) was where I was stationed at (Aviano Air Base) during my four years in Italy. Aside from it being a good pairing with lamb, the Le Monde allowed me to reminisce about the good times that I had in the Air Force.
The wine is good for chilling out at a bar, which I did at C & M during a long wait for my lamb. Given that it was a Saturday Night and I didn't have any plans, I didn't mind. However, the staff at Catherine & Mary's were well aware of my situation and constantly reassured me that my order was coming. I was cool with it, for it allowed me to surf the Web on my smartphone that was plugged into one of the bar's electrical/USB outlets (I would love to see more bars offer this). Given their attentiveness, the service at Catherine & Mary's is excellent. Putting aside the food, the service there is very friendly and professional in a setting that is very accommodating. Although it won't replace my usual hangouts, I look forward to going to C & M often in the future.
After waiting well over twenty minutes, one of the bartenders offered a free appetizer to compensate me for my time. I accepted it along with the bartender's suggestion of what I should get for it. She recommended the Caesar salad, which I nonchalantly agreed to. What I ended up getting was not what I expected. Instead of getting a traditional Caesar salad, I got C & M's version of it that featured Brussels Sprouts. When I saw this, the first thought I had was "FUCKING BRUSSELS SPROUTS!?" (Needless to say, I'm not a fan of the vegetable). However, it was part of an overall salad that had lettuce, Parmesan, croutons and dressing that turned out tasting very good. In combination with the lamb I had, the salad made for a very good side dish that contributed mightily to my dinner. While I still will never be a fan of Brussels sprouts, I will keep the salad in mind whenever I go to Catherine & Mary's again.
In all, I will say that the food (despite the mediocre pasta) and service at Catherine & Mary's is great. The restaurant is a nice addition to Downtown Memphis as a whole and to The Chisca in particular. With its close proximity to The Orpheum, the restaurant is the perfect launching point (along with one of favorite restaurants, The Majestic Grille) for a dinner and a movie or whatever. As for The Chisca itself, I am glad that after years of being a blight (thanks, COGIC), smart and entrepreneurial people took over the building and turned it into something beneficial. It goes to show that things are looking up in Memphis.
Labels: Commentary, Downtown, European, Pasta, Salads, Upscale
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