As you can see by the date above, it was a few weeks ago that my family got together to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday at Restaurant Iris. Before I go anywhere, I’d be remiss not to say that Dodie is a fantastic grandmother and a fantastic woman. She’s been a constant positive influence in my life, so this is my little shout out to her for being so awesome.
First off, we walked in and sat at the prime table next to the front window, looked at the menus and knew that this would be an amazing meal. Anyone that focuses on details as small as customizing the menu is locked in with a laser focus. At Iris their focus is fantastic food and an incredible dining experience. The next part that really stepped it up wasn’t intentional, but in addition to having a great window seat with natural light pouring in over our table (this makes a huge difference in the photos, you’ll see), we were also sitting right underneath one of my mom’s awesome paintings.
This brunch came as close to a meal in my mom’s dining room as a restaurant can get. They make you really feel at home here, and that makes for a great customer experience.
If You Start Me Up…
Since everything at Iris is so good (really, not hyperbole), we ordered a couple of starters to share. The Brussles Sprouts with Benton’s bacon are amazing, the fried boudin with pork and rabbit was one of the best things that I’ve ever eaten, and the fried oyster “salad” is basically a plate full of the best fried oysters around with greens and blue cheese.
This put together appetizer plate was about as good as it gets. I want to really hammer home how good the boudin was. It was different than any I have ever had as it was fried to a nice crisp on the outside and served with caramelized onions on top and set in a mustard sauce. Awesome.
If this had been the only thing that I got, the brunch would have been a success. It was enough to make a grown man cry (it didn’t, but it was enough).
Before I went out to brunch, I posted on Twitter that I was heading over to Iris, and I asked if anyone had any recommendations. Among the response was one from the king of the kitchen, Chef Kelly English (twitter link). He recommended the seared hand dived scallop “chowder.” When I go into a restaurant I want to know a couple of things, what is the public’s favorite item and what does the staff recommend. I find that these people know what they are up to, and that if I don’t get picky, I can end up with something awesome that I might not have ordered. So, since I would have been a whack attack to go against the chef’s orders, I got the scallops.
Good thing I did too, because this creamy dish with bacon, asparagus, and two perfectly seared scallops was incredible. It was rich, flavorful, and just totally awesome. Thanks for the rec! A Royal Marriage One of my friends is so in tune with the upcoming royal wedding that I’m trying to convince her to start writing a weekly column in the newspaper about it. I think she is the definitive expert on the William/Middleton wedding in Memphis, TN. In line with royalty, I can’t tell you how many times my mom tried to explain the importance of good manners by invoking the queen’s name. “Just imagine that you’re eating dinner with the queen.” That was supposed to be enough to get me to always remember which side the knives and drinks go and which fork to use. But it has stuck with me, and I think that dinner with the queen is probably the most important one you can have. Anyway, my mom was telling us a story (I might get the details wrong, but I’ll give you the right idea) at the table. In a conversation with Chef Kelly, they brought up the idea of dinner with the queen. When my mom asked what he would serve, he immediately responded with “Trout Amondine.” Needless to say, my mom ordered that for brunch.
Beautiful and delicious.
The Prince of Grilled Cheese
I’m taking this royal thing too far, I know, but the grilled cheese that my grandmother ordered deserves a little excitement. By itself, the name invokes images of PAM spray, Wonder Bread, Kraft slices, and even a tiny bit of the Fabio, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray, commercials. But when cooked in the Iris kitchen, this smoked salmon, grown-up edition on rye bread is something else entirely.
It was as good as it looks.
On one’s birthday, you should eat dessert. It caps off the meal on a sweet note, and it gives you a little more time to spend together. We ended our time at Iris drinking coffee and eating their delicious praline bread pudding. The dessert had the same attention to detail that the rest of the meal did, and it really capped off a special Sunday afternoon.
It was a happy birthday indeed. So thanks really go out to Dodie for being so great and for giving us a real reason to celebrate. And thanks also go to Iris for putting together a brunch that made us feel like we were eating at home (with highly skilled professionals cooking) and for really making us feel like we were the only ones there. That’s an impressive feat in my book.
Word on the street is that Iris is going to go to a once a month brunch starting in the new year. Chef Kelly will be collaborating with other local chefs to bring something special each month. While losing a few Sundays, diners can rejoice that Monday will be open for dinner when this all happens. I’ll be there. See you there! -Thomas
You want to go to there (really, you do):
2146 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Open Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm; Sun 11am-3pm