Feelin’ Fancy? (Or Just Love Food?) Head To Chez Philippe.
Since this is I Love Memphis Food & Drink Week 2014, I promised that I'd tell you about the weirdest food day I'd ever had in Memphis. The day was only strange because I ate at two places so totally different, it's hard to believe they're only a few miles apart.
On that day, for lunch I ate at The Port restaurant, which is President's Island's dive-y neighborhood joint. It's in a small shopping center next to a post office, a hearty sandwich and meat-and-three place.
For dinner, I ate at Chez Philippe in the Peabody Hotel, arguably the fanciest place to have a meal in the Mid-South, complete with white tablecloths and lobster. This post is about my meal at Chez Philippe. If you want to read about my lunch at The Port go here.
The day I went to French restaurant Chez Philippe for the first time was also the exact day that I moved to Memphis nine years ago. It was a perfect way to celebrate. I went with a group of colleagues and friends, and here's what happened.
Chez Philippe is in the Peabody Hotel lobby, adjacent to the bar. At the kitchen's helm is Austria native Chef Andreas Kisler, who came to the Peabody as executive chef in 2000 after studying and working in Vienna, Paris, New York City, and California. He came out and spoke with our table after the meal, and for such an experienced, talented chef, he was very down-to-earth and approachable.
The atmosphere is opulent. It feels a bit Marie Antoinette – ornate mirrors, heavy upholstery, and gilded columns. You have three options for ordering: the seasonal paired meal (eight prix fixe small courses, each paired with wine, $175), the five-course meal (you pick some courses from several options, $105/$210 with wine pairings), or the three-course meal (you pick each course from several options, $80/$114 with wine pairings).
We went with the three-course meal, but ordered our wine separately. Once you decide how many courses you're doing, you order them all at once. Then you'll be served a couple of kinds of bread – the olive bread was my favorite. If you don't know too much about wine, no worries; Chez Philippe's sommelier, Chris, is happy to provide an in-depth education, give you simplified options, or just choose something for you.
And now for all the food pictures.
For my appetizer course, I chose this dish: poached lobster, a crawfish beignet, and a black-eyed pea brûlée. It was more like three small appetizers. I wasn't sure what to expect from the latter; the only brûlées I'd had before were strictly dessert. But something about the creaminess of the pureed peas and their mild flavor that complemented the crisp sugar top actually worked for me.
The ample portions, especially of the lobster, were a pleasant surprise. You'd think such a "fancy" place would have tiny frou-frou portions, but that wasn't the case for any of the courses.
Another appetizer option is also more like three mini apps: braised shrimp, heirloom tomato salad, and tomato soup.
For my entree, I took the sommelier's suggestion to try the seared Ahi tuna with clams, and I'm so glad I did. The tuna was majestic; it practically melted in my mouth. The clams were flavorful, and the saffron rice was tender and aromatic.
This is the Dover sole, complete with fish skeleton garnish. Chez Philippe does not skimp on presentation.
I was curious about the cheese plate, so I went with that instead of a straightforward sweet dessert. There was enough cheese for two or three people.
Next time I'll order trio of creme brûlée, though. My friend was generous enough to share a few bites, and these were delectable dessert perfection.
This looks like a mid-century modern chair, because of course it does, but it's acutally chocolate cake.
Chez Philippe is a financial investment to be sure, but the quality of service, over-the-top attention to detail (I can't stress this enough), and knowledgeable staff make it worth it for grown-ups with an adventurous palate and an appreciation for impeccable service in a formal setting.
While there aren't any vegetarian or vegan options listed on the menu, Chef Andreas is happy to accommodate; calling ahead about this or mentioning it in your reservation is a good idea, but not required. The restaurant is ADA accessible through a side entrance.
Chez Philippe is open for dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and for afternoon tea Wednesday through Saturday. Be sure to call for a reservation (the number is below). Dress is business casual; ties or dresses aren't necessary at all, but I would feel uncomfortable in a t-shirt or old jeans.
149 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tenn. 38103