Kitchen 919: A tasty work in progress

Kitchen 919 is in the former location of The Orangery.

Last Friday, Alan and I decided to put an end to our curiosity and visit Kitchen 919, the new Bearden restaurant where the venerable Orangery used to be.  We are glad we did. Our verdict: The food was excellent. We had a great time. We are glad it is open. We think a few tweaks would significantly enhance the dining experience, but we recommend you check it out. You won’t regret it. Let me know if you agree with us.

Here’s our overall assessment. First, the pluses:

Food: Delicious. Our entrees were creative, beautiful and tantalizingly tasty. Alan had misoyaki glazed sea bass, and I had shrimp and a grits cake in andouille sausage cream sauce with a smoked red pepper puree. We loved both of them. And, of course, Alan was crazy about his dessert, red velvet cake, although, as you will see, it was a little unorthodox. Credit for the food goes to Carol Scott, a Cordon Bleu-educated Knoxville private chef known for her appearance on TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2009.

Pan seared misoyaki marinated sea bass fillet, finished with a sizzling soy vinaigrette, served with steamed rice and butter braised baby bok choy. Fabulous.

Isn’t this beautiful? Shelton Farms grit cake with Sweetwater Valley Farm smoked cheddar cheese topped with wild caught gulf shrimp, andouille sausage cream sauce and smoked red pepper puree.

Conviviality: Fun! We saw more than a dozen folks we knew during our dinner there, making table hopping a great way to pass the time. The central Bearden location at 5448 Homberg Drive guarantees a good crowd of recognizable faces. The eatery is named after its location in the 37919 zip code area.

Hash Hashemian, center, with his son, Alex, and Sawyer Beaton. They were celebrating Alex’ birthday.

Management: In good hands. General Manager Roland Michaud, previously with the Ritz-Carlton, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Citico’s, is a consummate pro with a customer-focused philosophy. A friendly workaholic, he will strive to make Kitchen 919 the success his previous dining domains have been.

Chef Deron Little and wife Sheah, owner of Seasons Innovative Bar & Grille in Turkey Creek, and son Drake Little, a commercial real estate agent, acquired the old Orangery location, gutted the interior of the building and are the owners of Kitchen 919.

General Manager Roland Michaud will make sure Kitchen 919 is a success.

Price: High-ish, but not outrageous. Two entrees, one salad, one dessert, one bottle of Vouvray, a martini and a glass of cabernet: About $150 before tip.

There are, however, a few things that, in my opinion, could be improved upon.

Ambiance: It’s too darn loud in there! We could hardly hear one another across our small table. We recently noticed that Oliver Royale, a Market Square restaurant which used to have a similar noise issue, fixed the problem by putting foam on the ceiling. It’s much more pleasant in there now. Also, I think it’s too bright in Kitchen 919’s dining room. And I hate that we could see the bathroom signs from our table in the dining room.

The view of the bathrooms from our table. I’m not a restaurant designer, but it seems that a door or curtains would be a big improvement. And look how bright the place is. Not good for romance or intimacy.

Service: Our waiter was really friendly. But he was a little heavy-handed when trying (successfully) to up-sell us on our wine selection. Since we both ordered seafood, we picked out a pinot grigio on the menu, but he insisted that we try a more expensive Vouvray. We like Vouvray in general, so we agreed. The taste he gave us was good, so we said, “OK.” But then I had second thoughts. “You know, I’d like to also have a taste of the pinot grigio, if you don’t mind, just to be sure I like the Vouvray better.” Well, he did mind. He brought the pinot grigio tastings, but he said, “I’ve already rung in the Vouvray, and they’ve already pulled the bottle.” We caved and said we’d take the Vouvray. But, really? How big a problem would it have been to switch? The bottle had not been opened. (I actually liked the pinot grigio better, by the way.)

That being said, our overall experience was good. All new restaurants need a few adjustments. We will be back. See you there.

The martinis at Kitchen 919 are perfect!

The bread and butter are delicious. We noticed they were served to the table to our right, but not to the table to our left. So, we asked for them. Be sure you do the same.

Here’s that Vouvray.

The red velvet cake Alan ordered was not your grandmother’s red velvet cake!

But he was happy with it!

It had lots of layers.

The decor is art deco. Here’s the right side of the dining room. I have to say, I’ve never seen a restaurant so transformed without being demolished. You would not know this used to be the quaint, delicate, elegant, almost fussy eatery that was The Orangery.

The left side of the dining room.

Remember the Palm Court, the private dining room to the left when you entered The Orangery? It is the bar now, called Temperance, under the direction of Michelle Porter.

Here’s the new staircase. Big change.

The Phoenix Room banquet space upstairs, formerly The Phoenix Ballroom.

Elevator is a major addition to the eatery. Very needed.

Do you remember the tiny, rickety restrooms in The Orangery? Big, spacious new bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.

It was great seeing friends at the next table! From left, Dale Teague, William and Sheri Pender, and Pam Teague.

Wendy Wortham, right, and her niece, Gretchen Rose.

Here’s Alan with Steve Bailey, who had been hanging out with friends in the bar until their table was ready.

Funny story. Anyone who knows Steve, knows that his beverage of choice is Miller High Life. Well, Kitchen 919 didn’t have Miller High Life. So, Steve phoned a friend of his at Cherokee Distributing Company, which distributes the brand, and had a case delivered to the restaurant! Hey, the guy knows what he likes!

Do you know TJ Pryor-Wells, one of everyone’s favorite servers from Bistro by the Tracks? Well, she’s at Kitchen 919 now! (She wasn’t our server on Friday, but we were glad to see her!)

Here’s a nice touch. Very New York. When your bill arrives, it is delivered with delicious sea salt caramels to help it go down easier!

Here’s the sleek new exterior of Kitchen 919.


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16 Responses to Kitchen 919: A tasty work in progress

  1. Celeste Herbert, on January 12th, 2018 at 1:45 pm said:

    Wow, I would have never recognized the space had you not said this is the old Orangery. We will have to give it a try. I love these reviews, Cynthia.The only better restaurant reviews were by Tom McAdams when he wrote the Doggie Bag!

  2. Gay Lyons, on January 12th, 2018 at 2:18 pm said:

    Can’t wait to go! Carol’s great. I like the decor, but I agree with you regarding the importance of sound/light considerations.

  3. Deborah Sams, on January 12th, 2018 at 2:57 pm said:

    Great recommendations. Enjoyed the food and drink photos. I would have ordered those as well. Will have to add this to my list for 2018. I think that the Smoky Mountain Foodie would enjoy a visit as well. Thank you letting us know more about this new place!

  4. Mary Ellen Brewington, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:02 pm said:

    One of our new favorite restaurants. The food, the staff, the ambiance— all delightful. And thank you for showcasing our #1 mascot for Miller High Life.

  5. Judith Foltz, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:02 pm said:

    Michael and I discovered 919 back during Christmas and have decided that it is our new “go to” place in Bearden- love it!

  6. Tina Rolen, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:07 pm said:

    We must have just missed you guys! We enjoyed our time at the bar before dinner, and our food was enjoyable, too. (I tried the duck and liked it.) But have to agree with you about the noise. It was my only complaint.

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:32 pm said:

    Celeste: I totally agree with you about The Doggie Bag. Those reviews were classic! My favorite line was when Tom reviewed Hagaman’s Truck Stop. He said, “When I asked what was on the seafood platter and the waitress said, ‘Fish,” I just couldn’t resist!” Haha.

    Gay: I’d love to hear your take on it when you go.

    Deborah: Would love your opinion, as well.

    Mary Ellen: He’s a hoot, isn’t he?

    Judith: We’ll have to meet you all there sometime.

    Tina: Sorry we missed you guys!

  8. John Dominic Barbarino, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:33 pm said:

    You are right on your wine choice. The one upsold is not really a dinner wine. It competes with the flavors. You want a pairing for your experience. Never be bullied. Though waiters relying on.less than 25 percent tips are forced to be car salesmen. A lot of people share in that fifty bucks. Restaurants really have to sell their experience to move people from their usual ways. Good observations and pictures. Very fair assessment.

  9. Lauren Miller, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:43 pm said:

    This has been next on my list of restaurants to try after we finally made it to Walnut Kitchen. Thanks for the insight!

  10. Indya Kincannon, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:55 pm said:

    We tried Kitchen 919 a few weeks back and thought it was quite good. Excellent service by TJ Pryor-Wells – she was really top notch. Delicious food creatively prepared. Didn’t have one, but friends who had the cocktails said they were outstanding.

  11. Monique Anderson, on January 12th, 2018 at 3:59 pm said:

    Cynthia. Let’s go together. It sounds great.

  12. Sheri Pender, on January 12th, 2018 at 4:02 pm said:

    Well written Cynthia!

  13. Michael Gibson, on January 12th, 2018 at 10:39 pm said:

    Kitchen 919 is a beautiful culinary experience with so much emphasis finding local & regional farms for speciality beef, pork and fresh seafood. All scratch sauces, stocks and fresh pastries by Chef Carol Scott , sous Chef Josh Davis & the pastry chef. The bar serves crafted Cocktails by trained mixologist trained by Michelle Porter has been a truly outstanding pleasurable experience. The happy hour pricing is comparable with other bars in the area as well as West Knoxville. The bar small plate menu has the most creative offering in the market. The plates are a perfect complement with a glass of wine or a top shelve scotch, whisky or the unbelievable old fashion. Bar is great great and when full it is a full loud environment. The main dining room needs to have less noise so you can a conversation. The food is excellent with a trained experienced staff I believe this restaurant will be a solid choice for locals and visitors who want a place everyone knows your name. The entire management team truly make you feel special that you are there.

  14. Georgiana Vines, on January 13th, 2018 at 8:55 am said:

    Love how Steve Bailey got his beer of choice.

  15. Bette Bryan, on January 13th, 2018 at 12:32 pm said:

    We have dined at Kitchen 919 twice and been to the bar twice also. I agree, Cynthia, you nailed it. All the good points and the needed adjustments (noise level, lighting, visibility to the restrooms). My one difference is that we did have great service all 4 times. We definitely want this restaurant to be even better – it’s on the way! Great review!

  16. Susan Watson, on January 15th, 2018 at 8:38 pm said:

    Nope….I will always miss the good old days and the Orangery. All we need in Kville is another fern bar. Oh well. Nothing left around here from the elegant days of our youth.

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