Professional food writers allow a new restaurant to be open a few months before they review it. That way the restaurant has a fair chance to work out the kinks. I, on the other hand, could think of no better metaphor for sailing into the abyss of my second 39th birthday than celebrating at a restaurant that doesn’t exist yet.
EP Delta Kitchen and Bar is the reincarnation of the failed Elvis Presley Restaurant on Beale Street. Memphis restaurant mogul Jimmy Ishii is opening a new restaurant in the space and has brought chef Michael Patrick onboard as executive chef. Ironically, chef Patrick came to town in 1996 to open Elvis Presley’s. The restaurant officially opens December 5 but is now in the midst of a soft opening to let the entire crew gel.
I never went to Elvis Presley’s, but I always pictured it as a jungle room nightmare of Teddy Bear on infinite repeat and dismal industrial frozen foods deep fried. Since an Elvis-themed restaurant in Memphhis actually managed to go broke, I apparently wasn’t too far wrong. The restaurant is a great space, the former home of the Lansky Brothers store, Elvis’s favorite clothier. The downstairs is smaller and more intimate than it appears from the outside.
Instead of cruelly-treated hearts, the music reflects the new Southern fusion / New Orleans cuisine that the restaurant offers. On the stereo, the Neville Brothers were unobtrusively raising the roof as we chatted. Later in the evening, The Roxanne Lemmon Band enlivened the house without obliterating conversation. With Garry Goin and G3 as the house band, EP Delta Kitchen has great potential to be a fine supper club.
The meal started with a lagniappe, a roll of smoked salmon with whipped cream cheese and diced red onion on a slice of boiled egg surrounded by capers. This was a wonderful start to the meal.
After our treat, we started with three appetizers. Crabmeat stuffed frog legs piquant were nice and tender with a luxurious filling. Our favorite of the three was a stuffed portabella mushroom duxcelle. The meaty mushroom made a nice base for shrimp, creamy spinach, and sweet carmelized onions.
The only appetizer we weren’t sure about is the appetizer we are most likely to order next time we go. The spinach and andouille souffle wasn’t quite clicking yet. The dish was heavy on andouille flavor and spinach mass. Chef Patrick said he is still tweaking the dish. To me, that makes this the most intriguing dish because when we return, we may get to see the evolution of a dish in the hands of an excellent chef.
After our appetizer frenzy, we shared one entree, the alligator scallopini with lemon beurre blanc and cheese grits. This dish went over well. The alligator is in a crisp cornmeal based breading. The tartness of the lemon beurre blanc is matched with a bit of heat from a dash of hot sauce. We all love gator and would love to have this dish again.
The cheese grits were good, but it was another side dish that really won us over, the lobster mashed potatoes. Holy cow. Or maybe holy crustacean. Rich, creamy mashed potatoes are an excuse to deliver lovely huge chunks of lobster. This is the kind of thing that we would eat straight out of the pan for dinner. This is the kind of thing that will keep us coming back.
A cognac creme brulee was a perfect ending to the meal. Simple, creamy and absolutely scrumptious with a beautiful peanut praline for an added treat.
I can’t wait to get back, maybe for an unofficial visit, definitely after the official opening so we can try that souffle again. There are a tremendous number of dishes we want to try, and there is a great space to try them in.
EP Delta Kitchen — Closed
126 Beale Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38103