These days supper series are all the rage. While not all of them are appealing or interesting, when I saw that the introductory dinner series menu designed by Chef Edward Lee at Succotash was titled ‘Homage to Vegetables’, I knew it was going to be right up my alley. As a vegetarian, most chefs try to stuff me full of carbs. I don’t usually mind it (I think gluten-free is downright stupidity), but there are ways to cook vegetables so they are filling, satisfying and tasty all on their own. Not every vegetable dish needs to feature a boatload of pasta or bread. Based on the food I ate at Succotash’s inaugural dinner series meal, Chef Lee totally gets it.
The multi-course dinner opened with no less than eight tasting bites, served simultaneously at a large, communal table. Each small bite was a creative and visually stunning take on a vegetable. Chef Lee’s Korean background was subtly infused in some of the items, for example, the grilled olives were served with a creamy kimchi remoulade and the shisto peppers were marinated in ponzu. The southern theme of the restaurant came through in other dishes, like the dried beets in peanut powder and crispy fried apples and squash. The best item? Easily the Asian pear bourbon balls. Sweet, with just a hint of heat from the bourbon, I could eat 100 of these and very nearly did.
Course two was the highlight of the night: A ridiculously creamy rice porridge that was so velvety it melted on your tongue. The rice was crowned with a pile of bitter greens, a sharp and welcome contrast to the buttery rice. The juxtaposition of Asian and Southern flavors (delta rice and bitter greens) was again unusual and surprisingly successful.
The main course, like the opening course, included a series of dishes served family-style. The barley grits were unmemorable and okra is always an acquired taste (although by enrobing them in tempura batter and frying them Chef Lee made the vegetable more palatable than usual), but the pulled mushroom BBQ was a standout dish. Made with mushrooms that were manipulated to mimic the texture of pulled pork and then drenched in a sweet and spicy Henry Bain sauce, it was served with buttery triangles of toast and a slightly bitter bok choy slaw. It was a dish I’d love to see Succotash’s regular menu. Avocado fried rice, mango fries and beet schnitzel were also awesome because, well, fried food almost always wins.
A trio of desserts closed the meal. I loved the mint julep ice cream because it was cool and sweet, but also warm and heady from a bourbon syrup. A swirl of chocolate topped with dried apple was also popular at the table; it was creamy and dense, an ideal sweet note at the end of meal. The panna cotta was less satisfying than the other two; it was a little too gelatinous to be enjoyable. Wine and cocktails were served abundantly to wash it all down. It’s great that the drinks are included in the price, $115 isn’t cheap, but for almost 20 dishes and beverages it’s a pretty good deal. I would love to see Chef Lee regularly showcase his creativity with a seasonal “Homage to Vegetables” dinner. That, and he’s gotta add the rice porridge and pulled mushroom BBQ to his regular dinner menu.
For more info on future supper series dinners, see Succotash’s website.