|PHOTO by john landrigan|
Now forget about comparisons. Chef Harry Nicholas' well-constructed and creative fare deserves your undivided attention. Harry's Detour is a powerhouse of a place that does just about everything right.
The dining room is crammed with character -- walls adorned with posters and artwork -- and should you prefer to dine outside, Harry's offers a small, front deck with plastic tables, chairs, and umbrellas, which sits nicely elevated above Cooper.
We kicked things off with some spicy appetizers. The Scallops Detour, Chaurice Diablo, and the chef's special, shredded pork won ton. These choices were smokin'. The sea scallops, prepared with dried chiles alongside roasted corn and black-bean salsa, packed a fiery punch. The smoked Cajun chaurice sausage, bathed in a dark Cajun barbecue sauce and served with crackers, cranked it up a notch. But our favorite, the stuffed won ton with black beans and spicy shredded pork in a sticky currant sauce, was most definitely hot. The delayed reaction of the chile on the palate made itself known, forcefully, without a residual afteraste.
Samples of Harry's entrées included curry Shrimp Bangkok, Pork Evelyn, Greek lemon chicken Newport, and Scallops Harry in a lobster cream sauce. The star, however, was Dave's Rap, succulent Chilean sea bass wrapped in bacon, flash-baked and surrounded by perfectly wilted baby greens, then crowned with a pear-and-peach vinegar sauce. The bacon wrap was a tad undercooked but the fish melted like butter in our mouths. The tangy vinegar contrasted with the sweetness of the fruit and provided just the right companion for the greens. The Tequila Mockingbird, a jumbo chicken breast stuffed with roasted peppers, was topped with a divine mixture of herbs, lime, and tequila all served over a mound of seasoned new potatoes. This is one large entrée, and, for just over 10 bucks, we definitely got our money's worth.
The Shrimp Nirvana is ecstasy itself for a shrimp-and-grits lover. Chef Nicholas adds his own twist to this regional favorite -- the herb-seasoned jumbo grilled shrimp are surrounded by a molded polenta gnocchi (a peasant porridge shaped into a dumpling) and enhanced with a cream sauce. Our final entrée was the filet dauphine, a beef tenderloin stuffed with tasso (Cajun pork, highly seasoned with chile and other spices then smoked), oysters, spinach, and breadcrumbs atop wild mushrooms with a red-wine reduction. My guest requested the filet extremely rare, and it arrived as ordered. He especially enjoyed the marriage of pork, spinach, oysters, and beef.
No dessert menu was available, but our waitress was quick to indulge our sweet tooth. She eagerly suggested the warm pound cake soaked with a delectable warm rum sauce. It was divine, but it had stiff competition in the white-chocolate bread pudding with white-chocolate rum sauce and candied walnuts. For chocolate lovers, there's a fudge brownie topped with white-chocolate chips and served with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream smothered in fudge sauce and melted caramel. The least exciting dessert, although appropriately crafted, was the chocolate Chambord truffles with walnuts and whipped cream. The truffles failed in comparison to the other desserts.
Harry's Detour, 532 South Cooper (276-7623), is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a..m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appetizers range from $3.95 to $6.50 and entrées $9.95 to $19.95. No reservations accepted.