Dining Review: Paulette's move is in right direction

Paulette's core menu at the   new location remains much the same as before the move. An old favorite, Filet Paulette, is cooked to perfection.

Photo by Mike Maple, Photos by Mike Maple/The Commercial Appeal // Buy this photo

Paulette's core menu at the new location remains much the same as before the move. An old favorite, Filet Paulette, is cooked to perfection.

Note to the message board naysayers: You were wrong when you said it was a bad idea to move Paulette's from its long-time home in Overton Square to Harbor Town. What resulted is an invigorated institution at the former Currents restaurant at River Inn.

That's not to say that everything has changed -- it hasn't. If you liked Paulette's before, driving over the Auction Street bridge is an inconsequential concession to make for brunch. If you didn't, a visit might change your mind.

As a native Memphian, I enjoyed many childhood birthday celebrations and later, dinner dates and Sunday brunches at Paulette's. For no specific reason, somewhere along the line, I

   Longtime waitress Alice Payne is still at it at the new   Paulette's, relocated from Midtown  to the former Currents restaurant at    River Inn in Harbor Town on Mud Island.

Longtime waitress Alice Payne is still at it at the new Paulette's, relocated from Midtown to the former Currents restaurant at River Inn in Harbor Town on Mud Island.

just quit going. When I went to the new Paulette's for the first time, it was with a slight sense of apprehension: I loved the ambiance of the old place and thought I would miss it.

Instead I found that the elegance and comfort of River Inn certainly equaled and possibly even surpassed the charm of the old Paulette's.

The two front rooms of the restaurant are cozy and intimate without being dark or feeling closed-in. Large windows provide a nice view of the river, deep red upholstered seating and double-clothed tables lend a clubby touch, and the tucked-away booths are private enough to make you feel removed from the tables, just a few feet away.

The dining area seems to connect seamlessly to the inn itself, and in fact, walking through the "Little Bar," which is exactly what it says it is and about 10 feet from door to door, takes you from the restaurant to the lobby.

But a restaurant is about the food, when all is said and done. The core menu is much the same: There are crepes, the famous K-Pie still feeds a full table, and warm popovers still come to the table with strawberry butter. There are new items, though, and other items such as the salmon and the grouper are prepared differently.

The Filet Paulette blessedly remains the same, though I'm not sure I've ever tasted a filet quite as tender as this one. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare, and the only reason to use a knife was because, well, that's how you eat meat. I detected a hint of brandy in the butter cream sauce, but restaurant owner George Falls tells me it contains none. Whatever -- it's delicious and it's also $3 cheaper than it was at the former location. All dinner entrees are reduced a bit because a salad is no longer served with the meal.

A scheduling conflict forced me to eat dinner in the restaurant on a Monday night, something I avoid when possible. Let's face it: The A-team is usually taking a night off on Monday, and I'm going to blame the undercooked crab cakes on this. The flavor was nice and simple, just lumps of crab bound together with a bit of mayonnaise and lightly seasoned. Unfortunately, the inside of the cakes were still wet, though they had a delicate crust on the outside. Perhaps they cooked too quickly, or maybe they were too wet to cook through.

Other than peculiar service at dinner -- it started fine, but then we simply seemed to be forgotten and had to ask for the check several times -- the meal was good, and it was the weakest of the three I tried.

Lunch was the best. The Nicoise salad was excellent, a hearty plate of mixed greens in a delicate yet sprightly tarragon vinaigrette. The seared tuna was tender and flavorful, cooked just enough. A generous handful of briny Kalamata olives was tucked in the greens, along with a cut boiled egg, a roughly cut boiled potato, and tender-crisp asparagus stood in for the traditional green beans.

The grilled salmon BLT was also a very good sandwich, with the fish cooked just until done, crisp bacon on top and basil aioli on a toasted brioche roll.

Servings were generous, and there are daily specials available, too. Brunch is a bit different, but not too much. Eggs Oscar remain on the menu, but Southern Eggs Benedict replaced Eggs Houssard.

Both were very good. Eggs Oscar, as all things Oscar, come with crab meat. The poached eggs are served on Holland rusks, crisp and airy rounds that are a bit like a thick cracker and a bit like hard toasts. Hollandaise sauce finishes the dish, a more delicate one than the Southern Eggs Benedict, which uses country ham in place of Canadian bacon -- a huge improvement to the traditional dish.

Falls, who had a management contract with River Inn for Currents, said the move has been good all around, and the crowds at each meal bear this to be true.

"Business is better than ever," he said. "People are driving the extra 10 minutes and coming back because they like what they see, and we're getting new people, too. It's been incredible."

-- Jennifer Biggs: (901) 529-5223

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Paulette's

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

Address: 50 Harbor Town Square

Telephone: (901) 260-3300

Hours: Open daily 7-10 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch, and 5-9 p.m. for dinner. On weekends, brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Reviewer's choices: Filet Paulette ($26.95); Nicoise salad ($13.95); grilled salmon BLT ($11.95); Southern Eggs Benedict ($10.95).

Alcohol: Full bar.

Star Ratings

Poor: Zero stars

Good: One star

Very Good: Two stars

Excellent: Three stars

Extraordinary: Four stars

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© 2011 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 6

Allie writes:

So... service still inattentive, huh?

I'm afraid I've spent way too much money on what should have been nice meals at Paulette's spoiled by waiters who seemed to think they were working at Denny's. The food isn't THAT good.

anita_m writes:

I've always had a very pleasant and professional service at Paulette's. The new place is amazing and food is even better!

Evelyn writes:

Last weekend, we had a coupon to stay a night at the River Inn. We ate at Paulette's for both dinner and breakfast. The food (nicoise salads, crepes and red snapper for dinner and fruit with eggs, potatoes and grits for brunch) was all very good. The atmosphere was very nice. But like you, we had a waitress who was in over her head. She took our order and then simply forgot about us. 2 parties came in after us and got their meals before us. At one point we heard her ask the table next to us "How was your meal?" They politely replied, "We haven't gotten it yet." We gave her credit for trying and she was friendly, but it was the only downside to dining at the new Paulette's. Glad we ate their last week because after a good review like this, it'll be even more crowded this weekend!

ReginaRomana writes:

I must disagree. We are longtime Paulette's customers, dating from the first week they were open in Overton Square. We went to the new location a couple of weeks after they opened there and ordered our favorite ham palacsinta. It and the mustard sauce were good as usual, but my husband's accompanying apple crepe (the only choice that day) tasted like canned apple pie filling. We left a comment card with out waiter but never got a reply. We have regretfully removed Paulette's from our favorite places list.

Gypsyfish writes:

I had possibly the worst meal of my life at the new Paulette's. The shrimp were so spoiled and smelled so bad that I couldn't even stand to have the plate in front of me. The waiter never came near us after we got our meals, and by the time someone came by that I could tell about the problem, my friends had finished eating, so it was too late to order anything else, even if that option had been offered, which it wasn't. It was handled horribly by the restaurant, and I left the restaurant very hungry- not a pleasant experience by any means.

d81165#274570 writes:

I have heard from several friends that the service and food quality took a nosedive after the move. Service was iffy while still on Madison, but now it is apparently horrible.

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