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We are bad bloggers. Not only have we been very quiet lately, but for the past few months, we’ve been keeping a secret. We’ve been saying that we just wouldn’t write about the Tennessean until we had a regular menu dinner there, but that was just an excuse to keep this wonderful gem on the Collierville town square all to ourselves. Now Jennifer Biggs has spilled the beans in the Commercial Appeal, so we might as well share our opinion too.
We love dining at the Tennessean. From the moment you walk up, you know you’re in for a treat. Not only are you about to get to eat on a train, but owners Tom Powell and Marshall Criss make a point to greet each guest at the restored depot. The restoration of the cars has created a beautiful atmosphere for any meal. The soon-to-open club car will bring an extra touch of elegance to go along with the charm of the dining cars. The service matches the atmosphere — elegant in the professionalism of the staff and charming in their easy familiarity.
Each meal starts with fresh biscuits and butter. These are beautiful, light biscuits that are just begging for molasses. They literally melt in your mouth and don’t even need the generous slab of butter. Not to say that the butter doesn’t make them even better.
The soups are divine. The spring and summer tomato was very nice, but the she-crab takes it to a whole new level. Lump crab melts into a roe-rich creamy base flavored with sherry. It really does take every ounce of willpower to keep from licking the bowl. The winter lunch and dinner menu replace the tomato with a mushroom soup that is a great dose of winter comfort food and gives the she-crab a run for its money.
The salads are always fresh and generously proportioned. The sandwiches are well balanced and out of the ordinary (pecan-crusted grouper or smoked gouda pimento cheese, for example). The house-made potato chips are truly addictive. But the true star of lunch is on the entree menu.
The shrimp and grits are some of the best in town. Chef Dave Krog uses Delta Grind grits and whips them to a creamy lightness. Those grits are topped with Gulf shrimp and a smoked tomato and tasso gravy that is piquantly rich without overpowering the creaminess of the grits. The other lunch entrees are also delicious and well prepared. On top of that, the most expensive entree on the lunch menu is $12, so you don’t have to break the bank to get a good lunch.
Our first evening experience was one of the Tennessean’s wine dinners. Not only were the pairings excellent, but the food was well prepared and beautifully presented with none of the catered feel that happens so often with wine dinners. Based on that experience, we knew that we wouldn’t be disappointed with the regular dinner menu. We’re also hoping to make it back soon for another of the restaurant’s third Tuesday wine dinners.
The winter dinner menu is simple and beautiful. We started with lamb chop lollipops with a Dijon mustard dipping sauce and a very nicely balanced blue cheese slaw. We also had the seared foie gras with sauteed greens. Both appetizers were perfectly prepared and delicious. We had a good sampling of the entree menu at our table as well. J Squirrel decided on the veal tenderloin served with truffled mashed potatoes. Squirrelly, Jr., chose the prime filet of beef served with the most delicious potatoes au gratin that I’ve tasted in a long time. Needless to say, none of us got more than a taste of those. Papa Squirrel had the lobster ravioli. The dish was luxurious and flavorful comfort food. I ended up having the pheasant breast with mushroom orzo. The pheasant was perfectly cooked without being dry, and the orzo added a very nice complexity of flavors that made the dish divine. Needless to say we were all very pleased and pleasantly full, but not too full to try the dessert menu.
The Grand Marnier creme brulee was served with fruit coulis painted onto the plate like jewels. It was both beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Strangely enough, none of us adults could remember getting more than a taste of it, but somehow the ramekin ended up very clean, and Squirrelly, Jr., ended up looking very happy. The banana-bread bread pudding is a very nice dessert. The bananas add a nice twist to simple bread pudding, and the caramelized banana garnish could stand alone as a dessert item. The flourless chocolate cake is rich and soft without falling into pastiness and is very nicely paired with house-made vanilla ice cream and a dark chocolate ganache. The rich bitterness of the chocolate cake is a nice alternative to the sweetness of the bread pudding and creme brulee, but you can’t go wrong with any of the desserts.
For that matter, you can’t go wrong with any choice from the Tennessean’s fabulous menu. The time and care that go into the planning and preparation of each dish are an obvious and justifiable source of pride for the restaurant and a real treat for those of us who choose to dine there. I’m sure we’ll be there again very soon ourselves.
123 North Rowlett St.
Collierville, TN 38017
Lunch: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 to 2:00
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 5:30 to 9:00