Was that me? Did those words – “Chef, please stop” – just come out of my mouth?!? Even as I said them, I couldn’t believe it.
Fellow food writer and friend, Nichole Livengood (Gap Creek Gourmet) and I were guests at Chestnut. Nichole had never been, so I was looking forward to share one of my favorite Asheville restaurants with her.
When Chef and Co-owner Joe Scully asked what we’d like to order, Nichole and I looked at each other and said, “just send out small tastes of what you’d like us to try” – small being the operative word. Chef Joe smiled that wicked smile of his, turned, and headed to the kitchen.
Taking the lead, a parade of scaled-down dishes flowed from Sous Chef Joe Mitchell to server to table. Our server was wonderful, by the way. He handled this unusual situation with aplomb, naming all ingredients in each dish delivered, even though it was a busy night.
Chef’s Amuse Bouche set the tone for the evening. Country Pork Terrine with pistachio on crostini, topped with Looking Glass Creamery’s Elington cheese. Beautiful, isn’t it? I loved the rich flavor mix of pork, pistachio, and Ellington accompanied by crostini crunch.
As we waited for the next surprise, King of mixology-bar tender, Scotty, came to the table for a chat:
“Would we like a cocktail?” “Absolutely!” “Anything in particular you’d like?” “Surprise us” “Anything you don’t want?” “Absinthe”
And surprise us he did! Nichole’s “Scotty’s Grog” was a delicious mix of rums: Flor de Cana, Bacardi 151, House made Falernum, grapefruit, and Grenadine 11.
A shocker followed – “Steak and Linguine” – in the tall, dark, tumbler pictured foreground below. Ready? Scotty let his “mixologist” show in creating this cocktail: Tequila, Porter, Red Wine, Simple Syrup and Bitters. Nichole didn’t care for it, but to my surprise, I absolutely loved it! Who would have thought – Porter and red wine in the same glass!
Scotty’s Grog is on Chestnut’s cocktail menu, but if you want to try the Steak and Liguine, you’ll have to ask for it. Note these are not small, shy drinks, but rather bold and generously portioned.
The folks at Chestnut are committed to sourcing locally as much as possible. The Roasted Local Beet and Goat Cheese Salad is a good example, made with red and yellow beet chiffonade, local goat cheese, bib lettuce, toasted pistachios, and an orange reduction. Also on the plate, a few crostini for added crunch. Beet lovers (not talking to you Nancy H) rejoice. Not only is this dish pretty, it’s a delicious beet rendition.
Chestnut has a well deserved Lobster Bisque reputation. Chef Joe Mitchell sent out the cutest demitasse soup set, perfect for tasting. Lobster Bisque, made with Troy and Sons (moonshine) Oak Reserve Cream & sprinkled with chives, and Tomato Bisque, served with a parmesan crisp. Both were rich, creamy and full of substantial flavor.
Creamy Farro Risotto followed. This dish blew me away! Squash noodles and wild roasted mushrooms topped with arugula had been placed on top of perfectly cooked risotto in tomato essence (sauce). Man, was this good! Love, love, love the roasted mushrooms. Talk about flavor. And don’t ask me how Chef developed such intense tomato flavor in the sauce. Needless to say, the pesto bread was perfect for sopping up every last drop!
Then came a totally different take on risotto, Risotto Cake on Lobster Ragu. Risotto had been breaded with a Fontina cheese mixture and fried to light brown. Tomato essence surrounded fresh lobster meat ragu, garnished with fried Basil. Another hit! Loved the understated fried basil punch in mixed bites of succulent fresh lobster, crunchy/creamy risotto, swirled in both sauces.
More substantial, but still light, Wild Caught North Carolina Redfish, cooked Louisiana style with Creole seasoning. On the side, reduced cream polenta, pepper Chow Chow, and braised collards topped with thin fried sweet frites. A Beurre Blanc drizzle and classic French butter sauce encouraged the fish to shine.
And now, a big reason I go to Chestnut, from their “Medium Plates” selection, “Petite Filet . . . Really”. A 3oz grilled Medallion served over classic mashed potatoes, served with hericot verts. For those who like a little extra butter, a dollop of compote butter with chive. I love filet and am frequently served more than I can manage in one sitting. Three ounces is perfect! And it has come out of the kitchen cooked to order every time.
This is the point at which I found myself in a food stupor and murmured to our server, “would you tell Chef, please stop”. He giggled and said, “we were ready to bring you another dish, so won’t do that, but would you like dessert?” Maniacal laughter – “oh, okay . . .”
Dessert! Oohing and aahing from our table caused diners at the next table to raise themselves up in their seats to look over the partial wall. We explained this was not a typical dessert plate. Chef had gone all out on this one, creating miniature versions of some of their most popular desserts. How fun was this!
Our server waited patiently while we both shot away with our cameras. Then he poked a hole in the warm After 5 Daily Souffle – Strawberry this day – and slowly poured the chocolate-loose, sweetened cream (see last photo). Also on the plate, Creme Brulee (this night’s flavor, Highland Brewery Oatmeal Porter), Alden’s Lemon Curd Cheesecake with a Ginger Snap crust and Blueberry Compote, and house made Chocolate Ice Cream.
Funny, we were so full, but still managed to finish off every delicious crumb on this plate.
- Chestnut owners were about reuse/re-purpose when it came to building materials. Chestnut wood from an old barn was used behind and on the front face of the bar. Windows and doors were rescued from the closed Swannanoa Cleaners building. I’ve always wondered about the interesting rest room doors. Now I know.
- Chef Joe Scully’s answer to “Why the name ‘Chestnut’?”
- Chestnut’s interior was designed with “open ease” in mind, and a nod to Art Nouveau.
- Notice the new sign outside. MUCH more visible!
When I ran into Joe Scully the other day, he mentioned this was a fun evening for the kitchen. Well, Joe, anytime you want more fun, give me a call. Thank you Chestnut and Chef and Co-owner Joe Scully for hosting myself and Greenville, SC food blogger, Nichole Livengood (Gap Creek Gourmet)! It was a one of a kind experience!
48 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801