Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dinner at the Red Roost Tavern: New farm-to-table downtown

Red Roost Quinoa Salad
For our 18th wedding anniversary, my husband and I dined at the new restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, the Red Roost Tavern.
It's an impressive operation, combining a front-of-the-house sports bar atmosphere with an expansive bar and a dozen large-screen TVs and a more intimate dining room facing the open kitchen in the rear. On our Monday night visit the bar area definitely had a lot more patrons, but on other nights the dining room also fills up, according to staffers.
How to describe the Roost in a nutshell? What impressed me, at least, is its farm-to-table orientation, a varied menu that includes plenty of healthy choices but also heartier and more casual fare, and an environmentally conscious approach to everything from sourcing of ingredients to recycled materials in the decor and an Eco-friendly kitchen.
We started by sharing one of the entrees as an appetizer -- an organic grit cake that turned out to be our favorite dish of the evening. The grits are enriched by a touch of smoked Gouda, and is presented with fava bean and corn succotash (also available as a side), crunchy kale chips and dried cherries. Highly recommended!
There are three salads on the dinner menu, and we each had one. The Quinoa Salad my husband had was a winner--lightly dressed, a tasty combination of chewy grains and crisp veggies. The grilled radicchio on my Baby Romaine Hearts salad was the bomb -- I just wished there had been more of it and less of the relatively boring romaine.
Organic Grit Cake

For entrees, he had a big, fat, juicy burger -- not a beef but a bison burger, layered with avocado, arugula  and Gouda. My Salt Grilled Shrimp was more than I could finish, as were the sides I had chosen, but it went home with me for future consumption.
We appreciated that each entree comes with two side dishes, and the choices included the expected mashed or roasted potatoes as well as a few more unusual options, such as "crunchy cauliflower" and pan-fried quinoa or peppered pappardelle.
Grilled shrimp, with potatoes and cauliflower sides

I thought that the cocktail list was adequate -- I had a serviceable mint julep -- and the wine list barely so. (My husband suggested that the restaurant doesn't aspire to offering significant wines, just enough familiar varietals to provide acceptable accompaniment to the food.) I would add that an upgrade in the glassware would make me happier. All they had were small, white wine type glasses -- which I don't even like for white wine -- that diminish one's enjoyment of a wine's bouquet and taste.
We'd had a big meal and shouldn't even have ordered dessert....but we did share (and only half eat) a lemon enhanced creme brûlée that would have been delicious under other circumstances.
Overall, I think Red Roost Tavern will and should be a success in its location. The hotel chain has invested millions in refurbishing the lobby, meeting space and guest rooms here, and being across the street from the Convention Center will bring in lots of business to the restaurant and bar.
Red Roost replaces the old Champ's sports bar, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week -- another good thing for downtown, since it can be hard to find a nice meal on a Sunday.

Healthy foodies, you're going to be happy here, I think!

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