To start off the year, I booked reservations for Felicia Suzanne. In the heart of downtown, Felicia’s is an upscale, American, restaurant with distinct southern influences, especially Cajun. This Cajun influence probably stems from the fact that she worked closely with renowned chef Emeril Lagasse. In a period of seven years, she was Emeril’s assistant, writer, and producer for Food Network’s “Essence of Emeril” and “Emeril Live”. Eventually, she decided to move to Memphis and start up her own restaurant, a decision providing a much needed boost to Memphis’ culinary district.
While the décor wasn’t what I was accustomed to, I could definitely get use to the food. Situated inside a business building, Felicia’s dining room is small but hard to notice with its high ceilings. The cold, bare floor is balanced with red, velvet chairs and booths. After being seated, it was a while before we met our actual waiter. When he finally came, he took our drink order and left. We never received these drinks. He then came back, took our order from the menu, and shuffled away. Not long after, a different waiter came by our table to ask us if we were aware of the specials. After informing him that we had already ordered, we said we weren’t interested. While I’m not making an excuse for the waiters, I’d like to point out that the restaurant was full and that there was a giant party in another part of the restaurant. These large parties wreck havoc on waiters along with the kitchen because all drinks, appetizers, entrees etc. must be served at the same time. For this reason, that’s why, I think, the service was very chaotic and confused.
For my appetizer, I ordered the “Tennessee Goat Cheese and Caramelized Sweet Onion Tart with a Cornmeal Crust and a drizzle of Pecan Pesto”. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, caramelized onions, or pesto sauce, then don’t order this yet and consult a physician. If you are, you have to order this. The goat cheese was very mild, the onions were sweet but not too sweet, and the fresh basil and pesto added a nice kick to the dish. For my entrée, I ordered the “Roasted Maple Leaf Duck Breast in Confit of Duck and Wild Mushroom Rague served with Handmade Potato Dumplings”. The duck breast was cooked to perfection, as its flavors didn’t overpower the actual duck, and the meat was very tender. One of the best parts of the duck was the crispy skin the underlying layer of fat. Although the potato dumplings were a bit flavorless, the confit complemented the duck breast well. To finish off the night, I ordered the “Peppermint Patty”, an old fashioned baked fudge cake with warm chocolate sauce and peppermint ice cream. One of my weaknesses being chocolate fudge cakes, this patty was excellent. The warm cake was very moist and the chocolate very rich. The accompanying ice cream made for a nice transition from hot to cold.
Diner #1’s experience was also excellent. For it’s entrée, it ordered “Shrimp and Grits”, which were gulf shrimp and andouille sausage sautéed in a creole sauce over a crispy Delta grind stone ground grit cake. It noted that the shrimp worked better with the sausage than the grits, which were bland. The shrimp itself was fresh. For dessert, it had the “Praline Pain Perdu,” a crispy broiche layered with buttermilk brown sugar, topped with ice cream and a warm praline sauce. It originally had ordered the Blueberry Cobbler, but after some confusion in the kitchen, received a different dessert. The waiter then appropriately “comped” the dessert. Within minutes, Diner #1 had demolished its dessert. “Fantastic…” it declared.
Overall, the food at Felicia’s was excellent but the service lacking. Despite the faltering waiters, I still think that this place deserves 4 stars (or buzzards). Waiters come and go and these problems can be fixed relatively easily. It’s when the chef in the kitchen performs poorly that the problem is much harder to correct. So if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, I highly recommend Felicia Suzanne (and be sure to make reservations two days in advance!).
-Reviewed August ’08