The restaurant called twice to reconfirm the 5:00pm reservation leading us to expect a madhouse when we arrived. But there were hardly any cars in the parking lot and only a couple tables filled inside. Things did fill up fast and we were glad we’d planned to be there early and be the first to order.
The menu was more sophisticated than I expected from the casual atmosphere. Our server was a pro and took my many questions about the preparation and ingredient sourcing in stride, including checking with the kitchen when needed for more complete answers. Her recommendations were also spot on.
To start, we shared a dish of marinated olives, nice variety and very good quality with firm and not overly soft textures. We also had a cheese plate, described in a separate thread, Cheeses by Goat Lady (North Carolina) and Sweet Grass Dairy (Georgia).
The cheese plate came with some slivered apples, crostini, and a basket of assorted breads. The bread is baked at another facility under the same ownership, and we managed to finish the first basket and requested another. Carol pointed out this ancient table used as the bread slicing station, worn down with use through the ages.
For me, the seafood special of the day: Pan-seared North Carolina flounder, Georgia corn puree, California wild mushrooms, cipollini onions agro dolce, fiddlehead ferns, Tega Hills nasturtium pesto, edible nasturtium blossom, $25.
More of a foraged and wild harvested selection than farm-to-table, this selection gave me a good tour of local food stocks and sensibilities. The flounder was just incredible, so fresh, juicy, and beautifully seared with a delicate dusting of spice rub. The velvety corn puree heightened the natural sweetness of the fish, and the bitter notes of the peppery nasturtium pesto and the tart-sweet tiny onions added extra depth and acidity to balance.
We don’t see fiddlehead ferns often at home, and when they are available, they’re not nearly as freshly gathered as these. I liked the firm bite and nutty taste, here’s a closer look at the fiddlehead garnish.
I had a bite of Paul’s barbecue chicken entrée and was entranced. Smoky and bursting with natural juices, the flesh was so succulent and tasty. The thickened, vinegar-based saucing was assertively sour and sweet but did not overpower the poultry. Whoever is manning the hearth knows what he/she is doing. I rarely order chicken in restaurants, but I’d get this again in a heartbeat.
The side dishes of grilled polenta, perfectly cooked roasted asparagus spears, spinach, and Georgian corn, served in separate dishes to share family style, were equally impressive. The cheese-y stoneground polenta was buttery rich and scented with char. The whole leaf spinach was silky and barely cooked. The corn had been highly recommended by our server, and it delivered both sweetness and intense corn flavor.
The children had eaten lightly to save room for dessert and the adults requested spoons to taste their treats. I missed sampling the chocolate brownie, must have been great as it disappeared first.
I hadn’t been too excited by the idea of cheesecake after relishing so much of my savory courses. But after a bite of the Hazelnut cheesecake, praline, and salted caramel gelato, I was impressed by the lightness of the cheesecake itself and the pastry chef’s ability to integrate and play off multiple forms of toasty nuts and burnt sugar in this dessert’s composition. And I can’t say enough about that salted caramel gelato.
Noble's coconut cake with cream chantilly and creme anglaise was highly recommended by our server, “even if you don’t like coconut”, and she was spot on once again. The super-fluffy and moist cake was layered with deep strata of crème Chantilly. What made it really special was the puddle of crème anglaise and the gelato crown.
My friends mentioned that the owner used to have a more upscale, fine dining establishment that had closed recently and Roosters was more of a step-down place geared to families. So often these attempts to downscale do not translate well, but not so here. They also said that this meal was much better than their earlier visits, and we were still talking about how wonderful the food was the next day. I’ve read other mentions here of disappointment at Roosters, so perhaps things have turned around and it’s time to go back.
More photos from Roosters (click on each thumbnail to enlarge or select “slideshow”, then “show info” for captions)
Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen
6601 Morrison Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28211