Review: Inn at Hunt Phelan
The Hunt Phelan Inn, an 1828 antebellum mansion located in a semi-sketchy sector of downtown Memphis, is considered by some to be a restaurant of impeccable quality. Someone even told me that the only other restaurant to have a 5-star rating was Erling Jensens. With such a rating, I was expecting French cuisine at its best. My experience illustrates how a restaurant can rely on its reputation and not on its food.
To start things off, I ordered the Goat Cheese Salad with baby lettuces, beets, and candied pecans accompanied by a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. When the waiter brought the salad, I wondered if somebody had already eaten it. Alas though! It was a French restaurant so I expecting small portions that were rich and filling. This salad certainly was a small portion but lacked the flavor. I also tried the French Onion soup. Best French onion soup ever. Full of vegetables with a rich broth- this soup was not your typical watered-down-grease-infested French Onion. For my entrée, I had the steak. This decision was a mistake on my part simply because anybody can cook a tender, juicy steak. The steak was tender and juicy but lacked a sauce to separate itself from other steaks around town. My mother ordered the “scallops.” Do not be deceived though by the use of the plural. When the waitress brought the item, she said “scallop ma’m?” One scallop for $12. It wasn’t worth $12. The waitress further contributed to our lack-luster dining experience. She was quirky, unrefined, and quirky (notice- I used quirky twice). After sitting down, we waited for five minutes before seeing her. I also had to remind her three times to bring me lemons for my water. Each time I asked her she would go, “Why certainly you may!” and then do an odd type of bow. She also mistakenly gave my dad a steak knife even though I was the one eating the filet. When I found the knife to be dirty and called her over, without looking at it, she said, “That’s just a water smudge.” If water smudge equals remnants of mashed potatoes then she was absolutely correct. She nevertheless agreed to bring me a new knife. She brought one and gave it to my dad. That night a close friend of mine happen to be working in the kitchen. He is Caucasian and I am Asian (for those of you who are unaware). When the waitress came, my mother jokingly said, “Tell so-and-so that his brother is here eating.” She then came back and asked my parents, “Is he your son?”
I know some of my complaints may seem picky, but a restaurant that has a 5-star rating and charges two arms and four legs for a quarter of a salad and one scallop should not be making these mistakes. To sum it all up, if you go to the Inn at Hunt Phelan, you will be paying big bucks for the restaurant’s reputation, atmosphere, and mediocre food.
-Reviewed November ’07