Mon
Apr 25 2011
11:30 pm
Fast facts:RouXbarb
Rating: (Enthusiastically recommended)
Cuisine:Nouveau Southern
Price range:$12 to $14
Summary:Sunday brunch. Bruce Bogartz. RouXbarb. Just go.
Address:130 S. Northshore Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919 Map
Phone:865-212-0024
Website:http://www.rouxbarbfood.com

I love a decadent, leisurely Sunday brunch. RouXbarb brings it.

I've been something of a Bruce Bogartz groupie ever since his days at Lucille's about a million years ago. He's a brilliant chef, and I've long enjoyed watching his cuisine evolve. He's made several (sometimes notorious) business mistakes over the years, but none of those errors detract from his obvious, blazing talent as a culinary star. Bruce is one of the greatest chefs this town has ever seen, and I'm thrilled that he's now showcasing his talent at Sunday brunch.

On a recent Sunday, I met two cohorts at RouXbarb at 10:30 AM. We had a reservation, which turned out to be a smart move -- the place was packed.

The menu changes so frequently this review is already out of date, but it will at least give an impression of the kinds of food offered on Sunday mornings.

We started with an order of hush puppies with pimento cheese and pepper jelly. The rather small hush puppies were crunchy and a little hard on the outside, but soft, tender, and moist on the inside. The pepper jelly was slightly spicy, and the pimento cheese had a subtle smoky flavor; the combination was just enough to elevate those cornmeal hush puppies to something lively and vibrant. I could have eaten a bushel of them. These were a big hit with the three of us.

I ordered a smoked brisket and potato hash, with two eggs (over easy, of course). The brisket was lightly touched with a spicy, smoky barbecue sauce. It was entirely too much food for one person, but the construction was beautiful nonetheless. The dish was hearty, robust, and earthy. The beef was tender and moist, and could have easily stood on its own without accompaniment. The presentation was gorgeous, which is typical of Bruce Bogartz's creations: the eggs were partially concealed beneath part of the hash, with the main attraction (the brisket) resting on top of the eggs and potatoes. It was a beautiful if somewhat immense pile.

One of my companions ordered eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. The eggs were surprisingly light and fluffy. The Hollandaise was perfectly executed, and it was a suitably subtle base for the smoked salmon. It's difficult to make eggs and fish compatible, but this dish succeeded on every level. Not a morsel remained on that plate.

The third entrée was Krispy Kreme French toast.

That is not a typo.

I realize that some people have a sweet tooth at breakfast, but just take a minute to imagine this: Krispy Kreme doughnuts cut in half, coated in egg, fried, dusted with sugar, crusted with caramelized bacon, and topped with ginger-and-maple syrup. Contemplate that. The dish was so cloyingly sweet, it should have been served with a side of insulin.

God Almighty.

I can't really fault a chef as talented as Bruce Bogartz for experimenting; everyone in the creative arts has their successes and their failures, and I'm usually quite happy to be the guinea pig for someone that talented. I'll just chalk up this dish as one of Bruce's less successful creations and leave it at that. I want to encourage his experimentation, but if he ever offers a Benton's bacon mousse with a Mayfield Dairy foam, I'll be the first to complain.

Alongside all of this, we were also served a side of sweet biscuits with a blackberry and ginger preserve. This was another big hit. The combination of blackberries and ginger surprised me a little; I didn't expect the two flavors to be that lively and compelling together, but like the hush puppies, I could have eaten a bushel of those biscuits.

RouXbarb is BYOB. Some mixers are available, but they were not serving orange juice the day of our visit, which made mimosas and screwdrivers impossible. We brought a coffee liqueur, for which we were charged a $5 cork fee.

On the current menu, entrées range from $12 to $14. I think we paid between $10 and $14 the day of our visit. RouXbarb is a tiny place, seating about 30 people, so reservations are a really good idea.

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R. Neal's picture

You had me at hush puppies.

You had me at hush puppies.

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