The greatest part about visiting Kitchen on George is that every few years or so it’s going to change, usually for the better. Our little corner of George and Savannah is currently undergoing another one of those changes under Executive Chef Bryan Cates.
Chef Cates comes to Mobile by way of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Charleston, with a few impressive stops along the way. Since he’s filled the void after Chef Gillian Clark left KOG, I’ve been waiting to stop in for an official review of the “new” place.
A while back I was fortunate enough to attend a wine dinner with Chef Cates at the helm and was thoroughly impressed. So for this review I decided to tie it in with a pre-birthday dinner for Catherine and a warm-up to a huge set of St. Patrick’s Day plans.
At the time of this review the menu had changed very little, but there were some items I don’t recall having tried. Catherine has gotten comfortable enough on these reviews that she thinks she can call the shots. It was the night before her birthday, so I let her. Without even asking me she ordered the Shrimp Bruschetta ($13).
I couldn’t argue with that. It was an amazing mix of corn, tomato, basil and jalapeño over focaccia bread with a creamy roasted garlic mascarpone. Wow, it was more than I expected. The flavors were layered and phenomenal, with a southwestern vibe.
I had to have the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Mousse ($14). I’m into foie gras and this is one to remember. The centerpiece is a crouton made from brioche bread about the size of a bagel, crunchy but forkable, with this port-marinated mousse and dollops of Bordeaux cherry gelée that lent a complex flavor to the dish. The ever-popular sweet and salty combination could turn anyone into a fan.
The oyster game here is as good as it’s ever been. Alabama fried oysters ($9) were exactly what I’d been looking for. These particular ones, I was told, came from the Gulf. That’s all they would say, but the cornmeal batter had a little spice to it and was amped up by the addition of Sriracha aioli.
I’ll say I am proud of Catherine for making the turn toward fried oysters. When we met she’d only take on the chargrilled or charbroiled variety. Now it’s a fight to see who will get the last one. Thankfully I think the food scene is over the “Sriracha is great on everything” phase, but Sriracha was great on this. Cut into aioli the heat wasn’t more than most could handle. So don’t steer clear of these if you’re someone who doesn’t like it too hot, but there is some Sriracha in there. Just enough.
The Soup Du Jour ($6) was broccoli and cheese. That sounded pretty boring to me until the waitress told me the cheeses. Romano, Gouda, cheddar and goat cheese made this run-of-the-mill soup stand out. We asked for some hot sauce (not that it needed anything, we are just hot sauce freaks with soup) and were treated to a choice of Sriracha or Tabasco. I think we tried a little of both.
This had become a meal of sharing. Every dish we had was for two and the entrée was no different. They had a steak dish on special that was calling me but in the end I couldn’t resist the Pontchartrain Catch of the Day ($29).
Our waitress was again kind enough to oblige our ordering of one dish and had the kitchen split it into two plates. I am grateful to her for her efforts, though we don’t like to make too big of a fuss and would have gladly taken on this dish Lady and the Tramp style. Today’s catch was snapper, lightly blackened and just done the way it should be. Served over a bed of Conecuh jambalaya with a mushroom cream sauce, a scattering of Gulf shrimp was the only way it could get better.
I’m a saucy kind of fella. I love sauce for just about anything, but in my old age I’ve taken to enjoying the less-smothered dishes that don’t overpower the fish. Many Pontchartrain dishes overload the sauce. This one was spot on. It was even great as leftovers, as I hope you would have guessed if you’ve been tallying up how much we’d eaten at this point. There was zero room for dessert.
Here’s the catch: Things seem to be running smoothly at Kitchen on George and those of you who visit with any regularity may be thinking that not much has changed. I’ve since spoken to Chef Cates and learned he’s in the process of rolling out a new menu.
Before you regulars freak out, they will be keeping some of their staple items like the aforementioned Pontchartrain and shrimp and grits. The exciting thing is they will be offering three-, five- and seven-course tasting menus at dinner service (with reservations) in the renovated upstairs dining area.
There will also be daily themed specials: Monday, burgers; Tuesday, noodle bowls; Wednesday night, barbecue; Thursday, steamers; and Friday, tastings. Imagine Gulf fish crudo and all kinds of experiments with small batch, hyper-locally produced ingredients and vegetables and herbs from their garden. This puts diners in a unique position where they may try something that will never be on a menu.
Chef Cates says the dessert menu items will rotate flavor profiles as well but stay in the realm of the dish descriptions. And let’s be honest, some of the best parts about this place are the desserts. Sometimes a glass of wine and chocolate anything is all I need.
Yes, Mobilians can get into a bit of a rut and fear change, but things are changing for the better at Kitchen on George. The new menu is hopefully rolling out by April 17 so keep your minds and mouths open. Until then most of you know what to expect from the Oakleigh hotspot.
Kitchen on George
351A George St.