Or is it OodlesUncorked? I’m not really certain right now, but it doesn’t really matter. Let’s just call it Oodles and be done with it.
Last night was the first of our new ‘52’ series (as mentioned in a previous blog post), wherein Mrs. Guy and I, and possibly some friends, go to a different restaurant each week. The ground rules are that it can’t be part of a chain (e.g., Ruby Tuesdays) unless it is a small local chain (i.e., no more than two restaurants by the same name), and if it is a local chain, we can’t go to one and then the other and count them both. What this encourages us to do is branch out and go to as many different local home-grown places as possible. We gained a few unexpected favorites the last time we did this back in the early ‘90s, but many of those places are gone now.
As may soon be the case with last night’s choice. Ooodles is owned by a local entrepreneur husband and wife team who are currently under federal indictment. It is entirely possible that the government might seize their assets, including several stores, a couple of local night clubs, and the restaurant. This would be sad, since I really like their business establishments. Another twist in this tale is that one of our favorite local chefs recently closed his own place and ended up as the new head chef at Oodles. From talking to him last night, I’m guessing he might feel that the sword of Damocles might be hanging over his new job.
But all that aside for a moment, I am now going to start my very first restaurant review.
Nestled into Market Square in downtown Knoxville, among several other worthy eateries, there exists a dining establishment that the Guys have tried only once before, and we were not overly impressed at that time. However, with a new chef comes a new menu, and the spirit of ‘The 52’ called us, and our friends Jeff and Gabe, to Oodles Uncorked. Entering the door, one may wait for the rest of their party (as Jeff and Gabe did last night) or grab a pre-dinner drink in the bar adjacent to the Maitre d’s stand. After checking in with the hostess, Gabe and I were escorted back to a table while Jeff took his time and Mrs. Guy was parking her car. At the very back of the long narrow space is the counter and kitchen, and our table was just to the side of that. Excellent location for conversing with the chef, I must say.
Our waitress brought water out, along with the Blackberry Mint Lemonade that Jeff asked for, while we perused the menus. We started with a couple of small plates, with Jeff ordering the Artichoke Hearts stuffed with pecans and gorgonzola, while Mrs. Guy decided on the Cheese Plate, which came with three cheeses – white cheddar, brie, and gorgonzola – and a number of fruits and nuts. Delicious, though and quite a generous portion. This was accompanied with bread and butter that the chef had made earlier in the day.
I was the only one to have another dish before the entrees, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of the Yellow Tomato Bisque. I think the others were holding off on soup or salad to save room for the dessert course. As far as I’m concerned, there’s always room for dessert (did I mention I’m a Big Guy?).
The entrees of choice arrived after a reasonable period of table conversation (Jeff and I are both movie buffs, though his knowledge is a bit more encyclopedic than mine). Gabe had gone the vegetarian route and ordered the Wild Mushroom Pasta. Jeff enjoyed one of my old favorites from our chef, the Pasta Arrabiata. Mrs. Guy took the chef’s recommendation from the Specials Board and had the Paneed Pork Chops in a Brown Butter Bourbon Sauce. And for me? I also visited the Specials Board, but with a twist. I stopped listening to all descriptions of the specials once the Swordfish was mentioned. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The chef overheard me discussing it with the waitress and interjected that he would have to change the sauce for it, but that he’d be happy to do it for me. Why, you might ask? Well, I have a shellfish allergy, and the original sauce was shellfish-based. This is why I like this chef. He knows me and does his best to look out for me. So I ended up with the same Bourbon Sauce (Mmmm), along with Grits and some type of salsa over the top (I should have asked, but didn't).
Dinner was remarkably delicious. All patrons at our table were happy and satisfied, and Mrs. Guy and I especially since we shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to go with our meal. Jeff and Gabe declined to share our bottle since they had both driven separately and had to leave right after dinner was over. Gabe, in fact, had to leave before the dessert course to go visit someone in the hospital, but Jeff was kind enough to order dessert for her to take home with him.
I like to experiment with desserts, especially when there are so many that sound so wonderful as they did last night. However, both Jeff and Mrs. Guy ordered before I did and ordered the same thing (Jeff even ordered the same to take home to Gabe). Now, there’s nothing wrong with ordering what you like, but I do encourage folks to branch out and try new things. I will have to work harder on this crowd in the future. So, while they all had the Blackberry Chocolate Mousse – which was very nice – I had to try the Crème Caramel, which was astoundingly good. Of course, I did also have a few bites of the mousse.
So, I give Oodles very high marks, which was agreed upon by all four of us involved in the inaugural ‘52’ episode. Still, if you are reading this and are in the Knoxville area, I would suggest you go sooner rather than later. You never know how fast the Federal case will move or just how much evidence of wrong-doing they might have on the owners. Sad case, but a very good restaurant.