Rebel Kitchen rocks refined rations

Chef Paul Sellas, right, with D Leron, the employee with the third-longest tenure at Old City Wine Bar, a sister business.

Rebel Kitchen opens today at 5:30 at 108 W. Jackson Ave., in Knoxville’s Old City. Our recommendation to you: go as soon as you possibly can!

Alan and I attended a soft opening on Saturday night with our friends Bill and Gay Lyons and, I have to admit, I was a little dubious about it. How, I wondered, could this new place measure up to the great local chef-owned gourmet restaurants we already have and love downtown? Our favorites like Emilia and Knox Mason by Chef Matt Gallaher, J.C. Holdway by Chef Joseph Lenn and Lonesome Dove by Tim Love? Even our favorite go-to everyday eatery, Martha Boggs’ Bistro by the Bijou?

Well, I’m happy to say our old friends need to make a little room for Rebel Kitchen in their luscious lineup. It’s that good.

Alan Carmichael has found the place! It’s right next door to Old City Wine bar.

The hostess stand is an antique oven!

The atmosphere is cool and eclectic. I liked the mismatched chairs, which added visual interest.

And, guess who was there Saturday night? Faris and Ghada Eid. He’s the architect.

Here’s owner Thomas Boyd, left, with his grandfather, Tom Boyd.

Although there is an emphasis on local products, I was so happy that Rebel Kitchen stocks Grey Goose vodka for my favorite dirty martini. This one was good!

Other mixed drinks, like Gay’s gin and tonic, are served in cute beakers!

Oh my God, the bread! Made in house, an interesting variety is served in a wood box.

Alan, a bread lover, often complains that most Knoxville restaurants don’t automatically serve complimentary bread. “Why is it,” he asks, “that when we go to nice restaurants in New York or Europe, they automatically bring bread? But, in Knoxville, you have to ask for it — or buy it!” Good question. (If anyone knows the answer to that, please enlighten me in the comments section!)

So, needless to say, with the martini and the bread, the evening began sublimely! (I picked focaccia.)

Sommelier Matt Burk was a huge help selecting the wine. Here he is with Gay.

My starter, fresh Alabama coast crab cream soup finished with cucumber foam was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. There were flavorful little beads in it. I’m guessing some kind of molecular gastronomy?

Bill selected a starter called, cleverly, “Farewell to Summer.” It contained local tomatoes, feta from a Georgia micro-creamery called CalyRoad Creamery, braised mango and pine smoked olive oil. He loved it.

This starter is called Peachs-N-Cream: braised peaches from Mountain Meadows Farm, roasted kabocha squash, and fior di latte (related to mozzarella) from North Carolina.

Now, let’s talk wine, shall we?

Bill and I like white wine (anything but chardonnay for me!). So, on Matt’s recommendation, we selected this 2016 Anselmi from San Vincenzo in Italy. We liked it with his fish entree and my pasta dish.

Gay and Alan like red wine. They settled on this pinot noir.

Called Wonderwall, the label changes every year with a portrait of a different historical figure. The 2016 version featured Teddy Roosevelt. I love the quote on the label: We are not here to simply break even. We are here to break rules, break records and break through. (Oh, they liked the wine, too, as well as the label!)

Brandon Gibson, right, was enjoying the experience, as well. (The fellow on the left did not want his name used.)

Here’s Tom Boyd with his sweet bride, Sandi Burdick.

Downtown residents Charles and Sharon Lindsey. (Yep, the former Knox County Schools superintendent.)

My mushroom bolognese technically was a starter, but I opted to make it my main course. It consisted of mushrooms from Mossy Creek Mushrooms, scratch pasta and aged Mahon cheese.

The folks who ordered the Florida red snapper were well pleased. (I tasted it and agree!) It was served with charred baby leeks, chef’s garden salad, sunchokes and orange crema.

Gay, who rarely orders beef, was glad she opted for the Painted Hills hanger steak. It was prepared by sous vide for 24 hours and served with classic Bernaise, pommes puree and house-made steak sauce.

Franchesca Sellas is front of house manager. She’s here with our tablemate Bill Lyons.

Here’s the busy open kitchen.

Franchesca is an expert on and loves cheeses. So, they are experimenting with offering a cheese course prior to dessert. We asked for little tastes of each: Robiola, Piper’s Pyramide goat, and Winsome (named for all the awards it has won!). We like this new tradition.

We ordered and shared all three desserts that were offered — and boy, are we glad we did!

Here’s the chocolate mousse with banana caramel, banana bread, coffee syrup, powdered butter and potato chips. Can you believe? (Powdered butter? That molecular gastronomy, again.)

This is called ravini. It is olive oil and semolina cake with green tea syrup and Greek yogurt. Loved.

But this was the total winner. We were almost fighting over it! Scratch apple tart made with local apples, puff pastry, apple caramel and nitro rum raisin ice cream. Gee whiz!

This is Lauren Lazarus, the artist responsible for the wonderful paintings, like the one pictured behind her. All are for sale. I have one suggestion for the folks at Rebel Kitchen: improve the lighting on the artwork so part of it is not in the shadows.

Thanks to our great server, Ian Bolden, here with Alan, for a fun, fun night!

A couple of other interesting things to note. Most of the plates and other serving dishes were made locally through a collaboration by Mighty Mud studio and Pressnell Hill Pottery. The beer glasses were made at Pretentious Beer Company in the Old City.

So, there you have it. I suggest you run — don’t walk — to Rebel Kitchen!

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