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Out & About in Asheville, pt. two

Admiral--Drew Maykuth has decamped for Maine, and when we ate at the bar the other night resident genius Elliot Moss was also nowhere to be seen. Guess what? Couldn't tell the difference. Carrot bisque with celeraic and crispy leeks, SC Mahi over cheddar-tyme grits with pickled ramps, chocolate tres leches cake with salty caramel, strawberries, and spiced creme, to die for Dark and Stormy cocktails with housemade ginger ale. Still the best restaurant in Asheville and one of the best in the south. (Bonus: I hear tell Chef Moss also has a food truck in the planning stages!)

Over Easy Cafe--Finally got to try this for Mother's Day brunch. It's tiny, so expect a wait, but it's worth it. Excellent coffee and fresh pressed juices. Srawberry and cream cheese stuffed challah french toast, eggs "Benny" with avocado and cherrywood smoked bacon, nothing too sweet or salty. I want to go back and try their huevos rancheros, before I say for sure, but based on one visit, I'm thinking it may best even Sunny Pointe as a brunch spot.

Sunny Pointe--Had a late dinner there a few weeks ago, admittedly not their signature meal, but it was very disappointing compared to previous visits. Sullen service, a long wait, of the four dishes our table ordered, only the breakfast sandwich wasn't soggy or overseasoned. (My kale was so salty as to be inedible.) Off night or trend?

Storm Rhum Bar--Was there a few weeks ago for their first anniversary celebration with specials and live music (which they should do more often). Most of the early problems with slow and/or spacey service are now a distant memory, and the kitchen seems to be firing on all cylinders now as well. In fact, I had a duck breast entree that was as good as any I've had at The Admiral. Best rum cocktails I've had outside of the caribbean, too.

White Duck Taco--Still tiny, still a wait, but there may be relief soon as Chef Ben reports they'll be opening a second location soon, exact spot T.B.A. Still love the Bankok Shrimp and Carnitas tacos the best, but they've also started doing some nice side dishes, including Green Chile Black Beans and a lovely pearl couscous salad. Best dessert: Macaroon Pie with salted caramel. Margaritas are now served as well, if you're into the whole, you know, tequila thang. (I know I am.)

West First (not in Asheville, I know, but close enough)--Had my doubts after they lost their killer pasta cook, but based on two visits in as many weeks, they're BACK, baby! And let me just say this: Whatever the salad and pizza specials are, get 'em, because they WILL be good. Desserts have moved past the basic tiramisu as well. (The cake du jour especially is always uber-moist.) They even offer a few cocktails now. Oh, and still the best foccacia I've ever had anywhere. (Haven't been to Italy, though.)

Pending: Zambra (still), WALK, Strada, and the Gypsy Queen and El Kimchi food trucks, which we have thus far failed to find. (Maybe this summer...)

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  1. Totally agree with you on Storm - did not like it much at first (mainly due to poor service) - now it's one of our favorites. The Devil's Oasis cocktail is my favorite drink in Asheville!

    There was an article in this week's Xpress about the Admiral chef's food truck. Sounds like a great concept!

    I still say if you like Admiral you need to try The Junction. That has become our new favorite, and now that the patio is open it's even better.

    2 Replies
    1. re: miss piggy

      Have been to The Junction twice. I'm reposting my review from the last visit here in case you missed it: Here's my post second visit two cents: First, the service was excellent and not at all slow, though I should add that they weren't all that busy at six on a Saturday night. (Maybe the Junction crowd prefers to eat late?) The dining room is echoey and a bit too spare--would it kill them to add vases or votives or something besides flatware to the chrome-topped tables? I had the Good Memory cocktail, which was a tad sweet but still one of the best tequila-based cocktails I've had. Wife had the Dark Storm (aka a Dark & Stormy), which she liked but thought not in the same league as The Admiral's (The Junction uses bottled ginger ale, for one thing). The Salmon Croquettes app. was super fresh and tasty but served on an exceptionally bland bed of green spinachy sauce with the odd piece of crimini mushroom. Entrees were the excellent if a tad overdone shortrib and the sweet tea brined fried chicken. The Junction chef is fond of stacking ingredients, which is fine with me, except when the plates are so darn small. This makes it very difficult when cutting meat off a bone to do so without also knocking perfectly good food off the plate altogether. I also felt the cloying sweetness of the chicken marred what was otherwise a fine dish. Dessert was a thin slice of "Mexican Chocolate Tart"--think dark chocolate cheesecake with hints of cayenne. This was also tasty but served without so much as a blob of whipping cream, a spig of mint, or even a dusting of powered sugar to spruce up the forlorn presentation. Total, pre-tip: $68. Verdict: Still a good restaurant, still not quite a great restaurant.

      1. re: Jeff C.

        Jeff - I think you would notice a difference now at Junction - they put in sound dampening ceiling tiles some time ago which has helped considerably.

    2. I've seen the Gypsy Queen around noon at the closed gas station on Haywood by Louisiana (across from the Ingles) the last few times I've been in town. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to try them. Was doubly bummed when I heard it is Suzy's truck.

      2 Replies
      1. re: meatn3

        Bummed that you didn't get to try it, or bummed that Chef Phillips is doing the cooking? <smiley>

        1. re: Jeff C.

          Bummed I missed her cooking! Lack of good food does funny things to clarity...

          ;-D

      2. Thanks for all that! Glad to hear Admiral isn't suffering. I think we're doing out anniversary dinner there this weekend. What? an actual reservation? unheard of!

        Still no Saturday lunch at Storm? we're bummed.

        Yike, i didn't know about the West First pasta chef. You know, Scott said he wasn't planning to do pasta and that dude just rolled in looking for a job and mentioned he could make pasta. Did he just roll away, or do you know if he's going somewhere else? He should open a pasta place, wow! So do they still have the shrimp tagliatelle on the menu? I saw that the dessert list had changed. Perhaps they have a new pastry chef? I think I read that the former pastry chef is now running the new Village Bakery in Fletcher.

        Get the bipimbap (sp?) at El Kimchi. yum. We found them at Vinnies on Sat afternoon.
        Agree on the macaroon pie at White Duck. Best part? my husband didn't like it so I got to eat the whole thing!

        10 Replies
        1. re: danna

          Danna, I was told that the former West First pasta chef moved to one of the Hendo "Blues," which I guess makes it either The Blue Note or Never Blue. Anyway, that was last fall, so who knows where he is now...

          P.S. I think that shrimp dish is on the menu, but I haven't had it in years. The eggplant parm, however, is definitely not what it used to be.

          1. re: Jeff C.

            It was Blue Note ~
            http://carolinaepicurean.com/2011/06/...

            But, haven't tried it and don't know if he's still there - the move was almost a year ago.

            1. re: NANCY

              Thanks, Nancy. Let us know if you if you find out where he is, esp. if he's still making that succulent eggplant parm!

              1. re: NANCY

                thanks for that link, but it made me very confused. First, I think that "founding chef" comment about him being at West First is misleading. Second, there's not a single pasta dish on that menu. And finally, is Blue Note related to Never Blue? Thanks.

                1. re: danna

                  No connection between the two Blues. The Blue Note started out as the Flat Rock Wine Shop (or "Shoppe"), which then expanded to include a restaurant, which then moved to the old Expressions location downtown under the new name.

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    "shoppe" tells me all I need to know ;-)

                    1. re: danna

                      Yep. Kinda sucked. But was a great place to get my drink on without fear of being seen by one of my students.

                      1. re: Jeff C.

                        Have not heard ANY good things about Blue Note other than some live music. I would find it really hard to believe he was there now (doesn't seem anywhere close to his caliber), but hey crazier things have happened! And Blue Note has a different owner now than it did even a year ago. When David (owner of Flat Rock Wine Shop) passed away, a friend of David's took it over. He didn't have restaurant experience and I think became overwhelmed. He sold it and I haven't heard good things about it lately. I don't get the feeling that food is their focus. ??

                        Good to know about WF's dessert upgrade! (or maybe not, in the interest of my waistline!) That was one thing I never bothered to get there as it never measured up to the rest of the amazing food.

                        And those macaroon pie at White Duck sounds reaaaally good!

                        1. re: Scirocco

                          The macaroon pie is excellent if you like sweet and salty in equal measures. (I do.) The name is a little misleading, however, as there is no crust--it's really more of a macaroon custard with a salted caramel topping. (Hey! No crust makes it practically a DIET dessert, no?)

                          1. re: Scirocco

                            Yes Blue Note is awful had a steak there a while back and couldn't tell the difference between that and Golden Corral

            2. FYI. Books and Breadboard has closed-lost their lease.That was 1 of my favorites for lunch. Hope they can find a new place.

              1. Update: Excellent review of the Admiral in the June/July Garden & Gun. (Now I'll have to make my resevations TWO months in advance.)