Rebel Kitchen: A second helping

Serving up an additional take on Knoxville’s best new restaurant

Rebel Kitchen in Knoxville’s Old City • All photos by Bill Foster

By Brandon Gibson

Utilizing a combination of locally sourced ingredients, cooking techniques both traditional and cutting-edge and a staff that was both attentive and knowledgeable, Rebel Kitchen wowed my dinner companions and me with some of the finest meals that any of us had ever had.

The atmosphere was open and inviting, and even with the space full to the gills with happy patrons and staff zipping back and forth, the noise in the room never rose above a pleasant buzz, and the table never felt cramped.

Sweet potato appetizer

The menu itself will rotate regularly to make best use of a host of locally sourced produce, herbs and meats. We sampled three appetizers and three entrees throughout the evening. For me, the standout amongst the appetizers was the mushroom Bolognese, an earthy and aromatic dish featuring Mossy Creek mushrooms over a bed of house-made pasta that masterfully walked the line between savory and rich without swaying too far into either. The cucumber and crab dish was no slouch, either. This soup made excellent use of the base ingredients to create a flavor profile that was both delicate and striking. This commitment to balance was a trend that carried over into each of the entrees sampled.

Cucumber and crab soup

The must-try dish amongst the main courses was definitely the crispy veal sweetbreads. Don’t Google what sweetbreads actually are until AFTER you’ve tried this decadent dish, but even if curiosity gets the better of you and you do … still try this. Perfectly crisp and seasoned skin gives way to a succulent and moist center to form an exquisite burst of flavor.

The creamy supergreen-and-mushroom mixture that accompanied the sweetbreads was also exceptional and grounded the dish with both its earthiness and its simplicity.

The seafood dish on this particular evening was a red snapper filet that had been pan-seared to perfection. The skin was flaky, and the filet itself tender and cooked just long enough to be done. The other entree sampled was a beef hanger steak. Cooked using an unusual and very specific method, this dish in particular gave both the chef and the wait staff an opportunity to shine, the former in both creativity and actual preparation and the latter in their ability to explain it. Both were successful.

Hanger steak

The desserts sampled were tasty, but it was evident that they were not the restaurant’s focus. These will likely rotate, as well, to complement the entrees. The standout was a chocolate mousse that, though I didn’t immediately recognize it as what I ordered, still got the job done and then some. French-press coffee, and a well-made craft cocktail (both boozy and imaginative) capped off a stellar evening. Featuring cuisine that will compare favorably to any gourmet fare that you’ll find in a city ten times Knoxville’s size, a prime location in the heart of a rapidly expanding Old City and a price point that’s manageable for even the most budget-minded. I can envision Rebel Kitchen quickly becoming destination dining for foodies and couples from all over the region. Knoxville and downtown in particular should count itself fortunate to house such an establishment.

For Bill Foster’s look at Rebel Kitchen, click here.

Brandon Gibson enjoying an after dinner coffee (server Brad Poyner back left)

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