Clementine Won My Heart

As promised, we gave Clementine another chance.  It was a celebration night!  My husband and I were celebrating our 15th anniversary.  I wanted to go to Clementine.  It’s a local joint, in my hood and I have continued to hear good things.  I noticed a little bit of expansion happening…and wanted to get a closer look.  As we walked by, I noticed the vintage stove in the window.  Oh my!  It’s screaming for vintage or handmade wallpaper behind it…with a big bold pattern!  (You see, I’m an artist and can’t help but take in the whole picture, the entire environment and of course critique and form a creative opinion!)

We walked in and were warmly, much more warmly than the first time I might add, greeted.  We were escorted to our table.  When Devon and I settled in, we took a few minutes to look around, check out the tables, the guests, the servers…again the whole picture.  It was a good evening.  The tables were full, there was a nice hum and rhythm happening.  There were two servers working the dining room.  This is good!  Clementine is generous to their servers!  We were greeted with a cheerful smile by our waitress.  I asked her what her favorite item was on the menu.  She pointed out the smoked duck breast and the pork chop.

Devon and I agreed on the smoked duck breast with sweet corn and tomato salad as a starter.  When it arrived, something transformed at our table.  We went into Roger Ebert mode.  Maybe it was the wine…maybe our years of restaurant work…or maybe our 15 years together…whatever it was, it took over!  “This duck is smoked to perfection!” Devon exclaimed.  “It melts in my mouth,” I chime in.  Then Devon dove into the rest of the salad and wasn’t too sure about the combination.  (I personally think it’s because he’s not a huge fan of blue cheese.)  “I think the blue cheese is too heavy for this dish,” said Devon.  “I disagree!  The smoked duck needs a bit to stand up to,” I countered.  We both agreed, the tomatoes were not ripe and a bit mealy.  (I know, I know, we were getting into the details.  I think we thought we had some kind of audience.)

I ordered the homemade sausage with shrimp and cheesy grits.  To me, it was amazing!  Every bite, every nibble was incredible.  How can grits be incredible you ask?  I’m not sure.  You’re going to have to go in and try them for yourself.  The sausage was flavorful and spicy…Devon agreed!  The shrimp were cooked perfectly…not overdone, just right.  I sprinkled the grits with the house hot sauce (Is it homemade? I wonder.)  If it is, it needs to be bottled!  (If it’s not, I need to know what kind it is!) It was so good!

Devon had grilled lamb steak with tomato, caper and oregano salad… topped with tzatziki and served with jasmine rice.  “It’s not bad, but it could’ve been better,” he told me.  “The meat was cut too thin, which means it will be overcooked (can’t help but make it well done) and a bit tough.  The tomato salad was by far the best part of the dish, and the element that saved it!”

I talked Devon into the chocolate peanut butter cake.  This cake was highly recommended by Leslie F. Miller, author of Let Me Eat Cake.  So, I had it on good authority that it was worthy of digesting the extra calories.  It reminded me of a Tastykake peanut butter Kandy Kake.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or not, but I will say, it tasted homemade.  It didn’t have that processed bakery taste.

As we waited for our doggy bags, we began to go into Roger Ebert mode once again.  Somehow, (definitely the wine talking at this point) we (or should I say I) began to break down the philosophy behind Clementine.  Forgive me Clementine owners if I got it all wrong!  But, the restaurant evokes a feeling of being in grandma’s country kitchen.  I could almost smell the fresh lilac outside the kitchen window and the smell of a baking cherry pie in the oven.  The food is made with love.  The ingredients are chosen (or in my mind, picked that morning in the backyard garden) with care.  Devon was not as convinced.  He felt that the items the chef cared about the most, the sausages, the smoked meats, the charcuterie…should have stood out more on the plates, or at least be blended with more balanced ingredients.  Technical I say!

I gave it a thumbs up.  A four out of five stars.

He gave it a thumb.  A three out of five stars.

Not that our opinion matters…but for now, we are Devon and Kristin, at the Restaurants!

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