When mark and others talked about how good The Admiral was, I thought they meant it was quirky and fun and had surprisingly good food for a dive bar. I totally did not understand they meant it's the best damn food in Asheville. By a mile.
We made the drive from Greenville last night. We got the last inside table around 7:30. With some help from our waitress, we had: The cheese plate, the arugula salad w/ Humbolt Fog, the Trigger Fish w/ squash purree and apple/bacon chutney, the lamb chop w/ bacon/pistachio brittle, the fried quail w/ blue corn grits and a fried egg. Jeff had a Wedge IPA and I had a glass of garnacha.
Holy Cow! Everything was fantastic. The cheeses were very good (especially the aged goat) and my super-picky husband loved the bressola. The arugula was lovely, nice dressing which went so well w/ the Humbolt fog I actually liked it more than I usually do. The Triggerfish was just ridiculously beautiful, with a firm but not tough, almost lobster-like texture. The fried quail was very nice but the grits and egg were what really stood out to me on that dish.
But the lamb...oh my lord, the lamb. We were sitting right next to the open kitchen, so we watched the chef build the plate, starting with cubes of pickled feta, topped w/ a bit of pistachio bacon brittle. Then a little pile of arugula to display the gorgeous lamb chops (2) which were rare as they could be, just the way we like them (interesting they didn't ask first, but more power to them!) They were excellent quality meat, no hint of mutton which I note a lot these days. They were smoked before grilled. Fab. But let's back up to the PISTACHIO BACON BRITTLE. Did you hear that ? I swore at that moment I would figure out how to make that. Divine. And they weren't chinzy with it, there was a lot on the plate.
At that point we were agog. It's been a long time since I've had a meal I liked that much. We compared the lovely cheese on our cheese plate to the "artisinal" cheese that came w/ our salad at Table last Saturday. Table's cheese according to the husband was "like if your sales rep from Sysco offered you the slightly upgraded industrial cheese." I compared the triggerfish to Charleston's FIG...it was just as good. I compared the salad to those one gets in Greenville...not only better, but at $6...cheaper.
So I thanked our waitress for steering us toward the Triggerfish and the Lamb, and asked her what she thought of the cake (Short Street). "I like the cake, but I like the pot de creme better." So we got the pot de creme, and you guessed it, it was very nice, and was sprinkled w/ Maldon sea salt, which pretty-much guarantees i'm gonna love it.
I feel compelled to think of SOMETHING negative to say (it's in my nature.) My wine, chosen from an interesting list, was fine but not special($7), the glass was what people considered a nice glass 6-8 years ago, before we were all spoiled by oversized pricey stemware. There...that's the best I can do. I loved the place. I'm in love w/ the chefs. I want them to open on Saturday for lunch. Barring that, I'm going to have to start planning longer rides, so we finish up around 5, when they open.
Thanks, Chowhounds, for the recommendation.