at the Columbia Bar and Grille
148 Bridge Street
Note 2013: Daddy Mims moved to the Columbia Bar and Grille location. This review was written in 2010 at the old Bridge Street location.
Chef John Mims and controversy seem to be old traveling companions. And if you happen to check the various comments floating around on the Internet, you realize that Mr. Mims' character and business endeavors have generated a host of vociferous opinions on both sides of the fence. But there is one aspect of his career upon which most appear to agree: The man can cook up a storm.
And in a community that is quickly becoming saturated with a plethoric variety of dining possibilities, the Chef's current venture, Daddy Mims, a Creole restaurant that made its debut this past March (2009), has already succeeded in turning heads and tantalizing palates. The cuisine, for the most part is well prepared and presented, the portions are generous, and the prices more than reasonable... A recipe for success in anyone's book.
To start things off, I would highly recommend the chicken andouille gumbo, a rich pottage rife with flavor and an ingratiatingly assertive hint of spice. For those with heartier appetites, the grilled sausage, aided and abetted by caramelized onions and zippy mustard, more than fills the bill.
Among the opening greeneries, the spinach and goat cheese salad gets top marks. The spinach is nicely trimmed and at the peak of good health and the dabs of goat cheese wonderfully creamy and altruistically applied. But the culinary catalyst here is a subtle but exceedingly persuasive molasses vinaigrette. A terrific starter.
The retro iceberg lettuce "Wedge," however, didn't set off the same bells and whistles. Yes, all the usual suspects were present and accounted for: bits of smoked bacon, cherry tomato halves, crumbled blue cheese, and a copious smattering of earthy blue cheese dressing. But the "wedge" itself didn't look freshly cut, the dressing had started to congeal, and the plate was inordinately gelid, indicating that the dish had probably been made up sometime in advance and tucked away in the refrigerator. A relatively minor point, I grant you... but greenery is always better (and the customer better served) when prepared to order rather than left to its own devices in the nether regions of fridge.
With regard to entrées, let's begin on the positive notes... The jambalaya - incorporating duck confit, crawfish, and smoked sausage - is benchmark. And when it comes to matters piscatorial, the butter-roasted Chilean sea bass is a superlative effort. The fish is cooked through - rather than underdone, which is a common faux pas with this particular species - yet it is still exceedingly moist and flaky. It is topped with crispy coconut-coated shrimp and an impossible-to-resist mango-curry butter, which, in concert, exhibit just the proper interplay of sweetness & spice; the entire affair is then set on a flavorful seabed of ginger-basil rice.
Other main courses, however, were not quite as successful... The jumbo lump crab cake set on a pillow of sautéed spinach and crowned with still more jumbo lump crabmeat was good but not outstanding... The crust was inordinately hard, while, conversely, the interior manifested a rather peculiar, spongy consistency. A textural problem also manifested itself with regard to the pan-seared filet mignon. The accompanying red wine demi-glace was the perfect complement... ditto the truffle fries, which were nothing short of spectacular. And the meat itself was certainly tender - too tender; in point of fact, its consistency was downright mushy - an off-putting culinary oddity, to say the least.
The trout meunière was somewhat of a different story. Trout has a very distinctive taste, which I happen to enjoy. The representative in question was beautifully sautéed... but its own unique flavor characteristics were completed obliterated beneath a heavy-handed pecan crust and a reduction overwhelmed by Worcestershire sauce.
On the other hand, side dishes shine. As I noted above, the truffle fries may constitute an entirely new food group and are worth the price of admission... and the same may be said for the sweet potato fries and the extraordinarily delicious Boursin cheese grits. The sautéed spinach was also quite excellent... although garlicky enough to dissuade any vampire within reasonable commuting distance.
Desserts can be variable... and certainly not for the faint of appetite. The bourbon-spiked cinnamon bun bread pudding is absolutely top-notch. Conversely, a disc of peanut brittle surrounded by an armada of vanilla ice cream exhibited the density and chew-ability of a hockey puck. This is one denouement that should never have been allowed to escape the confines of the kitchen.
Despite a few minor faux pas - and what eatery is perfect? - Daddy Mims is a solid restaurant that deserves a visit - and revisits. The atmosphere is as comforting as the cuisine, the service is friendly and personable, and the quality/price ratio, especially since you may tote along a vintage of your own choosing, is certainly on the plus side.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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