I finally went to Stella, and I'm glad I did. It's definitely one of the better places in Memphis.
My friends and I were perhaps a bit nervous venturing to a "fine dining" establishment after the ridiculous treatment we'd encountered a few weeks earlier at Wally Joe's. And things didn't start on a promising note. The hostess wanted to seat us outside, we wanted an inside table, she sulked away and disappeared for about 5 minutes before sullenly leading us to an upstairs table. (We had made reservations a few days before and the place was empty).
Once upstairs, things picked up quickly. The waiter was attentive, friendly and mercifully unpretentious. The martinis were excellent.
For appetizers: The buttermilk fried oysters were excellent; crisp with a chili zip. The only problem was that the avocado in the avocado-corn relish was tasteless. The wild mushrooms were great - lots of chanterelles, very rich. (I couldn't eat the crawfish cheesecake - allergies).
For entrees: The lamb with perigueux sauce was outstanding. The veal cheeks with taglietelle was also very good. I'm not a huge fan of veal cheeks, but couldn't resist ordering them if they'd made their way to a Memphis menu. The pasta was great and the addition of rapini added a wonderful contrast. We also tried the tuna and more tuna. The tuna was excellent, totally rare, with a fascinating wasabi foam. The sushi wasn't as good, though.
The wine list had a lot of decent stuff for under $40-50. We had the King's Estate Pinot for $39 - maybe a bit high markup - but it worked well.
There was no dessert list (unfortunately) and most of the stuff the waiter recited didn't sound too appealing. We split a mocha cheesecake - quite good, with a soaked-in-butter graham cracker crust.
The waiter divided the bill into three without being asked, a nice touch.
So forge past the sullen hostess and head to Stella. It's very near the top of the Memphis heap!