Up Close and Personal at Rebel Kitchen
A Night to Remember
March 27, 2019
Tucked away on West Jackson Avenue in Old City Knoxville is a gem of a dining experience known as Rebel Kitchen. We have dined at several places in the vicinity of this spot but hadn’t quite made it there until last night.
Let us say, we were incredibly pleased and impressed with our visit from the moment we stepped inside the inviting atmosphere until we exited after a truly wonderful meal.
The restaurant is attached to Old City Wine bar, which we were planning to visit before our reservation, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Or so we thought.
We arrived about 15 minutes early and were quickly reassured that we were welcome to enjoy a drink at the wine bar before we were seated and to enjoy it; not worrying to rush. So … we cozied up to a table in the middle of the room and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink before making our way over to the dining room for our reservation just a few minutes after 7.
We purposely made reservations for the bar seating that looks directly upon all the action in the open kitchen. Gazing upon the tantalizing menu and seeing the plates being built and put up for service really gives one the full view of what you, yourself, can be enjoying once you place your order.
Having done our research before visiting, we already knew that Rebel Kitchen focuses on a menu centered around what is in season and what is available locally. They strongly support local farmers, fishers, dairies, and are doing their part to support sustainability however they can.
Rebel Kitchen opened in September of 2018, and they are going strong under the direction of new Chef Preston Williams and looking to continue the innovative style they began with.
Our meal began strong with an appetizer of prawns with royal trumpet mushrooms, jalapeno, sautéed onion, seaweed salad, and some delightfully crunchy bean sprouts. The prawns were perfectly tender with such delicious notes from all the other components. It is truly unlike anything we’ve ever had before.
Along with that, we decided to try out the Mushroom “Bolognese” which was incredible paired with the luscious fresh pasta. I can say, T isn’t such a mushroom lover, but both of these dishes made him rethink that for sure.
Our server was super knowledgeable and incredibly welcoming from the very beginning. He helped us make the very important decision of what to have for entrees & we were nothing short of pleased with our choices.
Initially, I thought about having the vegetarian option of Royal Trumpet mushrooms as my main course, but after he described the North Carolina trout with watercress, fennel, and radish; I quickly changed my mind.
To say that this was some of the best Trout I’ve ever had would be an understatement for sure. Growing up along the creeks and rivers of Western North Carolina, I’ve had my fair share of trout, but this was something almost magical.
Chef de Cuisine Amber Reed absolutely killed it when it came to crisping up the skin and cooking those filets to a perfect texture. Topping sautéed watercress and fennel along with fresh, thin slices of radish, this dish blew my mind.
T is a lover of all things pig, much like the late, great, Anthony Bourdain. This being said, he went for the Berkshire pork chop that was deliciously moist and juicy. It was plated on gorgeous pottery (which all items were) with a nice serving of lightly sautéed chard and perfectly pickled jalapeno slices.
Even though we were pleasantly full, we opted to go for dessert: Not only one, but two desserts.
Cruze Farms buttermilk panna cotta topped with a blood orange puree to die for came capped off with a single wild violet for garnish. And then came the pecan tart that was almost reminiscent of a ginger Moravian cookie for me in its delectable flavor. It was topped with juicy segments of orange and blood orange nestled amongst piped cinnamon whipped cream--a polished finish to a memorable meal.
The staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming, all the while checking in to see how we were enjoying our meal, answering any questions we had and sharing photos of their beloved four-legged friends with us (admittedly, we jump-started that with doting about our recent puppy addition to the family). They worked seamlessly as a team and couldn’t have been more pleasant to watch and enjoy our meal with.
Before we departed, we were treated to something neither of us had ever had before: small, almost abundantly purple in color, pollen from a pine tree. About the size of a pine nut, they were just the right size to pop in your mouth like a morsel of candy.
They had a delightfully crunchy texture with a muted pine flavor at the end. It was a wonderful surprise to end our evening. Thank you to chef Williams and all the staff for making our Tuesday date night a charming memory!