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April 10, 2010

Eating out- Did it deserve the WOW factor

There are so many restaurants in Knoxville to choose from, that you most likely can find anything that suits your mood. Though many of the over 600 restaurants are chains, there are many unique, privately owned establishments that are worth your visit. But are they all worth your money? Do we begin to think that an expensive meal must be the best? Do you walk out saying, “now that was the best meal I have eaten in a long time”? Can you truthfully judge an incredible culinary experience even when it is a little pricy? Next time you go out for a special dinner ask yourself if it deserved the “wow” factor.

We recently had dinner with friends at Le Parigo, located in the downtown area of Knoxville, TN. They offer French cuisine, a large selection of French wines and very good service. The most important things I consider when evaluating my experience at any restaurant is the food, the wine and the service.

I selected the three item special. It was a good deal since everything was a la carte. I started with a mozzarella and tomato salad that was very fresh, flavorful with a fabulous presentation. Someone said that it was too pretty to eat but that didn't stop me. They used fresh mozzarella, the best and it may have been marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette. The salmon was served with fingerling potatoes, carrots and a cream leek fondant. The salmon was very mild, it had to be wild rather than farm-raised, the potatoes were fingerling but were sliced into ½ rounds. I would have left them whole for a more elegant presentation and possibly that would have provided a softer texture but they were flavorful. The cream leek fondant was really really good. It had a slightly sweet taste and a wonderful creamy texture. The dessert was a pistachio crème brulee. The crème brulee did not have as much flavor as I was hoping for, I didn't get much pistachio. The texture was a little thin for my liking.

My husband ordered the Brasserie steak with gratin dauphinois, shitake mushrooms and carrots. I will start by sharing his opinion of the steak since I would consider him an expert on the subject, the man knows his steak. He thought the texture was good and pretty tender. The flavor didn’t grab him; it was very well seasoned with pepper which really masked the flavor of the steak. Now I like a good pepper steak but the pepper shouldn't overpower the flavor of a good steak. The mushroom sauce was very good. Shitake mushrooms will become tough when cooked with high heat but these were just right. I tasted the dauphinois, that by the way get their name from a region in France called Dauphiné, and they were very good. The potatoes were thinly sliced and layered with just the right amount of cream, butter and garlic without being too rich.

Nancy said that she was going to try the duck since her last experience in New York was not good. She was very pleased that her opinion of the delightful fowl was restored. It was tender, well seasoned and very good. She was raving even the next day.

The wine was delightful. It was a French Cabernet Sauvignon with a good balance of fruit, alcohol and tannins. I failed to note the vintage but the soft tannins would lead me to believe that it had been cellared for a few years. It complimented the salmon and even the steak which was surprising. We tend to drink so many California wines that we get accustomed to a wine with lots of alcohol. It is always nice to enjoy a French wine that generally has a lower percentage of alcohol.

The service was very good, just enough attention without hovering. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere, not too large giving it a more personal touch.

Overall I would say that the meal was very good but I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever had. Will I go back? Yes most likely I will. Does it deserve the WOW factor? For some of us it did but not for everyone. For Knoxville it was a little pricey but what we were expecting. A tip for you- go early for dinner and take advantage of the half price bottles of wine.

Posted by terri at April 10, 2010 03:40 AM