At Christopher's, located on Brookhaven Circle in East Memphis, two cement lions guard the entrance. A small host area leads to two dining rooms and a small bar area, which, combined, seat about 100 comfortably. I had called early on a Saturday to make reservations, but the dining rooms were already booked. A little surprised but with my interest piqued, I agreed to dine in the bar.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and immediately guided to our table. The hardwood floors, the hardwood bar, the fireplace, and the candles created a warm and glowing atmosphere. Unfortunately, we were seated at an awkward table too close to the end of the bar. Perhaps fewer or smaller tables would be more practical for such a cozy space.
To start, my companions and I selected the sea scallops in Rockefeller sauce -- three large scallops and a slice of grilled herb polenta topped with fresh spinach leaves. The creamy sauce was infused with the flavors of butter and Pernod. Delicious. Not to be outdone was the savory, dried-tomato cheesecake. I have made a sun-dried-tomato cheesecake or two in my day, but I have never thought to oven-dry or purée my tomatoes prior to mixing with the cream cheese. The puréed tomatoes made the cheesecake reddish pink and absolutely lovely in contrast with the white serving plate. The pepper-seared tuna carpaccio, with pickled-ginger slaw and a drizzle of wasabi, was packed with flavor.
For the salad course, I had my heart set on the Bibb lettuce salad with chilled Maine lobster. Unfortunately, they were out of lobster and the substituted shrimp did not tempt me. So we went for the mixed green salad with crumbled feta and diced tomatoes, olives, and cucumber pico tossed in a traditional herb vinaigrette. The spinach and arugula salad with port-poached apples, roasted walnuts, and Roquefort dressing was tasty but seemed to be missing the arugula.
Christopher's specialty soup that evening was lamb and Black Angus steak stew -- a hearty broth that also contained carrots, potatoes, and a bit of cayenne. This slightly spicy soup matched the roaring fire and reminded me of my days living in the Northeast. Enough reminiscing: If they offer the soup when you're here, get it.
The entrée selection had hints of Caribbean, Southern, and Asian influences. I chose the Chateaubriand of veal with wild mushrooms and Cognac cream. I rarely prepare veal and rarely resist ordering it. Christopher's Chateaubriand featured medallions of velvety veal thinly sliced and slightly grilled with a melt-in-your-mouth sauce (a reduction of white wine, shallots, herbs, mushrooms, and butter). The veal was complemented with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus.
The chef's featured entrée was trout. The large serving of fish covered the plate, was perfectly prepared, and was almost too beautiful to destroy: The succulent trout was placed on a mound of yellow couscous and crowned with a relish of orange cantaloupe, cucumber, and honeydew melon. The subtlety of the fish with the fruit danced on the taste buds. And while my companion claimed he was full after his stew and appetizers, he almost finished this large portion.
(At this point I would like to thank the wait staff at Christopher's. They were very attentive without being obtrusive. They made our experience delightful.)
For dessert, we tried the Grand Marnier-scented crème brûlée, which came in a small teacup and made the perfect mate for coffee -- not too much but a smooth and creamy treat with a caramelized crust. The "Chocolate Decadence," a flourless chocolate cake, was very rich and very fudgey and absolutely delicious.
I was just thinking about how good our meal had been when our waitress appeared with the walnut French toast. The richness of the bread with chunks of walnut prepared as French toast and smothered with caramelized bananas and ginger ice cream made this grateful diner realize she needed nothing more to make an evening perfect.
Christopher's is located at 712 West Brookhaven Circle, 682-5202. Appetizers range from $9 to $10, soups and salads $6 to $12, entrées $20 to $28, and desserts $5 to $8. Full bar and wine list are available.