Darnell Ferguson and his SuperChefs concept have had their ups and downs over the last year-plus, after opening the restaurant in its original location, losing it to a massive fire, then reopening in the Highlands. Ferguson is hoping for another “up” as he unveils DINNER, intended to be the evening yin to SuperChefs’ yang.
The restaurant officially unveils the concept on Friday, Sept. 23, but a soft opening for friends and family showed that, even if it isn’t 100 percent complete, it’s on the right track.
Ferguson’s “urban eclectic” fare was on full display, although the promise of a totally different evening concept in the space at 1702 Bardstown Road — a site most recently occupied by Strati Wild Italian — didn’t appear evident.
Basically, the difference is that the breakfast and lunch menu is themed around superheroes with items such as The Hulk, a dish of green waffles, while DINNER is about the villains.
“It will be different and it will be fun,” Ferguson told us in July. “They will be two totally separate things. I don’t want them to be connected; that’s why we’re opening it later. When DINNER comes, people will be, like, ‘This wasn’t here.’”
That wasn’t the case at the soft open, with only DINNER logo table covers providing a difference in the brightly lit atmosphere. Otherwise, the décor was the same. Perhaps the full changeover is yet to come.
Nevertheless, the somewhat succinct menu at the soft opening mostly made good on the villains theme, with five entrees called “Villains” bearing the names of some famous comic book baddies, from the Riddler (meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato icing and bacon sprinkles) to Dr. Doom (smoked shrimp gumbo).
The two salads available were labeled “Kryptonite” (I assume because salads tend to be green), while the appetizers were labeled “Henchmen” and the sides “Partners in Crime.” Fun, indeed, especially if you’re a comic book reader.
My friend Jennifer and I decided to split some Henchmen, er, appetizers, of which there were five choices. We went with the Southern egg roll, grilled oysters, crab cake lollipops and each ordered one of Pop Pop’s lamb chop lollipops (how could we not?).
As we waited for our food, we sipped on white wine chosen from the short but adequate list. There also are a few mixed drinks that seem to carry a bar/lounge theme, with names like The Flirt, the Drunk Dial and Last Call, if that’s your thing, along with a few beer choices.
The friendly service team brought our food to us pretty quickly, considering it was busy and was a trial run. Consistent with SuperChefs, the plates were presented beautifully on faux platters that look like sections of a sawed log, and garnished with greens and drizzles of sauce.
First we tried a crab cake lollipop, three of which stood beckoning with sticks aimed at the ceiling, just waiting to be grabbed. The golf-ball-sized cakes were coated on one side with a sweet glaze, which seemed like an odd choice. Regardless, the perfectly cooked balls were filled with fresh, flaky crab and packed plenty of flavor.
The Southern egg roll was an interesting collection of pulled fried chicken, cooked greens, sweet potato sauce and macaroni and cheese. Doesn’t get much more Southern than that, although the dish came garnished with a torched marshmallow cream. Yes to the sweet potato sauce, but no to the marshmallow with this dish.
Jennifer wasn’t interested in the oysters, which was fine with me. Four Blue Point oysters of varying sizes were topped with a parmesan garlic butter and lightly grilled. The key here is they weren’t overcooked, just grilled enough to warm and keep the butter gooey. They were delicious enough that I was secretly glad I didn’t have to share.
We chose to end our meal with our lamb chops, and we were glad we did. A fairly basic, but nevertheless delicious, Worcestershire glaze complemented the tender, medium-rare lamb. Absolutely delicious, and they are sold a la carte for $4 each. It will be difficult to not go back and order 10 of them.
As we munched away, we noticed other diners ordering entrees, which looked not only delicious but ample. For instance, the Ali Bomaye Burger, which is topped with scarlet red onion jam, smoked gouda, sweet habanero pickles and candied bacon, was stacked so high, I’m not sure how the diner got his hands around it, let alone his mouth.
And the home run on this menu might well be the Harley Quinn, which is a pile of “sticky ribs” with Sprite and agave barbecue sauce, and served with two lengths of fried corn on the cob. That was a lot of food, and the corn looked as good as the meat.
Most appetizers other than the lamb chops are $9.99, while entrees range from $13.99 (the burger) to $22.99 (the Green Goblin, which is glazed salmon with fried corn and vegetables served over butternut squash).
There is also a plate called the Suicide Squad, which feeds two people with fried Cornish hens, greens, fried mac and cheese, and sweet potato and apple chutney.
All in all, DINNER seems destined to make good, and to continue the tradition of fun dining set forth by SuperChefs. Hours are 5-11 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. With a 5-6:30 p.m. happy hour, every day but Saturday.