Opening up it’s doors in 2008, Restaurant Iris is relatively new to Memphis. The awards given Chef English and his staff during the past 3 years ensure that it is here to stay. Dining in Memphis’ “best restaurant” while receiving the “best service” and eating food created by the city’s “best chef” has not only been on my bucket list for several years, but also my Dad’s. Iris is not somewhere you just stop in on a Friday night for a spur of the moment dinner. Reservations are highly recommended, as Iris is not a well-kept secret. My Dad tried for several weeks to allign his schedule with mine and then secured a reservation for the two of us and our dates. (my mom and T haha )
As we made our way up the walkway, we
immediately took note of the ubiquitous charm that is Iris. There is outdoor seating, but we were there on a particularly chilly evening so we headed inside. I cannot wait to return and sit outside! Take that as foreshadowing that I will return, as often as I am able! We entered the restaurant and I felt instantly transported, the character of the home in which Iris is situated exudes something that is not what we in Memphis are accustomed to frequenting. I felt as though I was in SoHo or Boston, the ambiance alone at Iris is worth another visit. After being warmly greeted and seated in a beautifully decorated room, we placed our drink orders and began to peruse the menu. Of course, my father and I had already familiarized ourselves with the menu via the website so we both had a general idea of what was being offered. We placed our order and were quickly given a tasting from the chef.
It was a smoky crostini topped with salmon and dill. I am not a fan of smokiness, but overall it was tasty!
Surprises were about to flood the table seeing as I ordered the degustation menu. The degustation menu was a five course dinner that my server choose for me based on my likes, dislikes, allergies, and aversions. I told him no salmon, pork, or bacon. The first thing he brought me…
Iris’ rendition of this cajun classic was complete with horseradish and parmesan. They sat on top of a variety of whole cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. This is the second time I have ever ordered oysters in my life and I must say they were delicious! My dad and T loved them also.
T and my dad each ordered what I would’ve had chosen had I not ordered the five course dinner (poor me) Iris’ famous “knuckle sandwich”
Oh my! This was incredible! We wanted to order another, but we knew that more food was coming so we just repeatedly reminisced on the incredible lobster roll we had just eaten. The succulent lobster was piled high on buttery brioche that had been perfectly toasted garnished with tarragon and tomatoes. I need another soon!!!
My dad also ordered another highly spoken of dish the brussel sprouts.
He loved them, so did T and my mom! Bacon makes everything better, or so Michael Symon says. These brussel sprouts are amped up with Allan Benton bacon, a well-known smokehouse located in Tennessee. My Dad and I are both huge fans of brussel sprouts, but these were some I would not order again because of the bacon. Call me crazy, but I don’t like the smoky flavor. I am alone here, so you should probably try them!
My mother told our server that one of my five course better be the griddle cakes. The second dish I received came out and what was placed in front of me, but
The corn cakes, while being thin, were perfectly moist- similar to a crepe while being tremendously more flavorful. The cakes were topped with crab ravigote and fresh corn kernels. This dish was so yum!! My mom ate most of this one, she must have like it as well.
Along came our entrees as our stomachs started to reach their full point, but I pressed on— with out complaining.
I never would’ve ordered sting ray (!), but it was unbelievable! It was flaky and buttery and reminded me of a white fish. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about the amazing crust on this fish frequently since that evening! I have found that sweet potato and/or butternut squash purees are often overly sweet, but this one was perfect!
My mom and Timothy both ordered Chef English’s creative interpretation of surf and turf. Instead of the typical lobster tail or shrimp, he pairs a massive new york strip steak with fried oysters.
Another great thing about Iris is that they are there to cater to you! In more ways than one! The staff here really does take your likes into consideration when preparing your meal. For example, T really doesn’t like blue cheese. Instead of totally writing off this dish and majorly missing out, they are willing to swap out the blue cheese for another. The recommended a gouda and it paired beautifully with the steak & oysters. They also offered to fry shrimp if either my mom or T were averse to oysters; however, they both chose to stick with oysters. My parents both dubbed this one of the best surf and turfs they ever had. I must say, I concur!
My dad went for the Shrimp & Grits. The Shrimp were huge and my dad enjoyed it. Iris uses delta grind grits. My personal favorite and a local purveyor of grits, polenta, cornmeal, and masa.
Our server surprised me yet again, when he brought out something I hadn’t had in over 10 years! I must admit, I was a little nervous when I saw that he brought out….
Iris serves the roasted marrow bone with a salsa fresca and toasted and buttered brioche. You know that food is well-prepared when you are on your fourth course and you still can’t stop eating. I honestly cannot say which element of the dish was my favorite. The buttery toast, the melt-in-your-mouth marrow, and the fresh salsa were all vying for my attention— and my attention it had!
Ice cream, berries, bananas, and brownie bites were garnished with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts. Shockingly, this was my least favorite part of the meal. I guess that shows how amazing the rest of the meal wast that evening!
My dad ordered the bread pudding which is pictured sans pecans. Iris omitted the pecans per request, since my dad has a severe allergy to nuts. (see my dad’s spoon
eagerly patiently waiting to dig in to his dessert. Having a food blogger as a daughter isn’t all fun and games 🙂
T never ceases to keep me on my feet. I never would’ve guessed that he would choose the lemon verbena creme brulee with earl grey shortbread. The shortbread is actually Memphis- native Claire Robinson’s recipe. I am guessing chef English is paying her homage by including her on the menu since Iris was featured on the best thing I ever ate because of her rave reviews.
I cannot say enough about Iris. It is definitely worthy of it’s accolades and your time. I am already looking for an opportunity to go back! I would recommend Iris without any reservations, but I highly recommend that you make reservations!
2146 Monroe Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104