I haven’t reviewed a meal at the great Vidalia in far, far too long. On a frigid, torrential Tuesday before Thanksgiving (when, of course, the parking meter wasn’t working and I got soaked), I stepped into Vidalia looking like a wet rat.
“Sommelier” Ed Jenks is now “GM” Ed Jenks.
“GM” Mike Nevarez is now “Director of Operations” Mike Nevarez.
And of course, executing Vidalia’s classic southern menu is now Chef Hamilton Johnson.
The bar menu online is from June 4th and is a bit outdated, but my friend stuck with bar bites and got more than his share of food for a whole lot less money than I paid; I was in a more celebratory mood, and wanted to see what this kitchen could do for me, so I went all-out with the Shenandoah Lamb Loin ($36.50), several medallions of loin with perfect fat-to-lean ratio, served with lamb-shoulder truffle bread pudding, scooped balls of butternut squash, fennel marmalade, pear, and lamb jus. A great, satisfying, fully composed dish topped with shavings of black truffle, served in a very Cam-like fashion in that everything was warm, but nothing was hot, and so the top end of the flavor profile was not lopped off. This was an extremely complex, luxurious dish that lost nothing when it slowly fell to room temperature as I nibbled and picked at it over the course of a good 45 minutes – it wasn’t a huge portion, and I left comfortably full and not stuffed, as I didn’t order an appetizer or dessert.
I’ve heard for a long time that Chef Johnson had really come into his own in taking control of Vidalia’s modern Southern menu, and on this desolate evening (the restaurant was very empty due to the day, the weather, and the week), it was obvious that was the case.
It’s hard not to go for the relatively inexpensive Bar Bites (especially when you’re sitting at the bar!), but I’m looking forward to seeing more of Chef Johnson’s handiwork in the future, and his best work almost surely lies in the more complex plates that challenge him the most.
Kudos also to our wonderful bartender, James, who graciously allowed us to overstay our visit and catch up over a few drinks, after the check was closed and as the staff was trying to clean up and get out early. In no way did we feel rushed or pressured; to the contrary, we were made to feel like family which is remarkable given the confluence of weather, evening, and week. Thank you to Vidalia for making us feel so welcome.