When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Location: 2 East Jefferson Street Open: Almost two weeks Eats: New American Price Point: $11 to $30
If you happen to be at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, the "contemporary gastro-lounge" at CityScape's new Hotel Palomar, and feel a slight pain in your arm, it could be from pinching yourself. The restaurant, headed up by 32-year-old chef Stephen Jones is not only satisfyingly delicious, but feels like an honest-to-goodness downtown restaurant and (gasp!) a reason to visit CityScape.
Nearly every dish on Jones' menu is available in two sizes, giving diners the option to go solo or sample a few plates with friends. Which on my visit, seemed to be most popular.
The not-to-be-missed dish is Jones' version of the Mexican stew pozole ($17). Featuring tender Ancho chile braised pork neck, cabbage, hominy, avocado, pickled red onion, and a fried-egg topping, each bite featured a hint of cinnamon. Two accompanying slices of grilled bread were put to good use, to sop up every last drop.
And speaking of sopping, you'll want to do lots of it when it comes to Jones' stellar red beans and sausage gravy. It was served with his crispy, well-seasoned (though a bit of a chore to eat, because of all the small bones) Kentucky fried quail ($15) and a thick slice of foie gras cornbread. I'm not sure there's much that wouldn't benefit from being covered in this gravy.
There also are four fresh-tasting street tacos ($12/$15) filled with bay scallop ceviche, pickled red onion, and micro cilantro. And a wonderfully unique duck confit flatbread ($12) with zesty pickled kumquats along with roasted onions, Gruyere, and arugula is a crowd-pleaser.
Unfortunately, the only let-down of my visit was its ending. A caramelized pineapple upside-down cake topped with a scoop of Medjool date ice cream sounded amazing, but the cake was dry.
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Blue Hound's cocktail list, in the form of a fun booklet, is filled with boozy goodness as well. And diners can expect the drinks to be as tasty and as well-crafted as the fare.
The restaurant's second-floor location, along with its large windows looking out to the surrounding high-rises, high ceiling, view into the bustling kitchen, and contemporary touches of polished wood and dim lights, sets the scene for a lively atmosphere and the feeling of being in a true big-city establishment. The bar and patio areas deliver the same vibe.
Can I get an amen?