Our trip to Art and Soul came as the deserved exclamation point to a long, stressful week. Friday evening was to be when Angela would find out her results of the California Bar Exam, and it would've been an understatement to say that she was a little anxious about it. In the week leading up to the results, it would be safe to assume she'd slept a combined three hours, and her body was just holding out until Friday at 9 PM to give way to sleep. I lined up a surprise dinner shortly after the results were to be released to help her celebrate. The only problem was that if she didn't pass, well... we probably would've gone anyway to eat away our sorrows. At 9 PM we got the news that she passed. And at 9:15 we were in a cab headed towards our mystery restaurant with completely empty stomachs and the ticking clock of Angela's pending slumber (I hadn't ruled out the option that she could very well fall asleep AT the restaurant).
Once inside the restaurant, we were greeted with a warm atmosphere that does wonders combining the elegant and the casual. The look of the decor (below, left) certainly mirrors the food as well; its like having all your Southern Comfort classics dressed up in their Sunday's best. The meal kicks off with some of Chef Art Smith's skillet bread (below, right). Lacking all pretensions, the delicious buttery rolls are a recipe straight from the Chef's 91-year old grandmother home recipe.
We started with a couple of hoecakes. Not to be mistaken with traditional hoecakes, these guys are loaded with toppings like some sort of pancake flatbread. I tried the Pantry Hoecake which came loaded with caramelized apples, blue cheese and frisée. With all of its toppings, it was surprisingly savory and sweet. Angela got the Oyster Po' (below, right), topped with fried oysters, chow chow remoulade and romaine lettuce. Angela raved about her hoecake, talking up how the fried oysters were fantastically crisp on the outside, and burst with juiciness in her mouth.
For her main course, Angela got the Seared Black Bass (below), which was served atop a green beans with celery root slaw over a Vidalia onion vinaigrette. This dish was a hit with her as well, as she loved the subtle flavors and the perfectly cooked, almost silkily textured fish. Let's just say I was lucky to snap a picture of it, because it disappeared in a short matter of minutes.
My entree was the Grilled Lamb Loin (below), served over caramelized Brussels sprouts, a chestnut puree and a cranberry veal jus. While the Brussels sprouts were a tad undercooked for my liking, the meat was cooked perfectly. Between all the flavors of the grilled lamb, the delicious puree and the cranberry veal jus, I was in heaven.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who found my dish enticing. Having tore through her dish like a hundred meter dash, Angela continued (without asking) to help herself to what was left on my plate. It had been a long week, and she certainly deserved it.
When it came time for dessert, I could see the sleep-to-end-all-sleeps welling up in Angela's sagging eyelids. We asked our server for suggestions and I leapt at the first two. I sensed we were running out of time, and I didn't want to see my sleepy Filipina pass out in her bonne bouche. The first dessert pick was to satisfy my sweet tooth. The Chocolate Terrine was served with an espresso gelato and- surprisingly its best component- a little popcorn brittle.
We also tried the Cinnamon Bun Pie, a dish I was particularly impressed with. It was served alongside a mini kahlua milkshake which could be poured overtop the cinnamon bun (or in the case of creativity, the chocolate terrine). The warm and moist bun was much sweeter than the usual breakfast-style buns, but not overly sweet when classified as a dessert.
We got the bill and made it out of Art and Soul still awake. We were both delighted with our meal, completely full and ready to rid ourselves of sleepless nights and anxiety. Angela was sound asleep before I could even tell the cab driver the address.