GEORGETOWN — The past year has been good to chef Rodney Jones. He has been a featured chef for the PGA, got a write-up in the March issue of Southern Living and opened his own restaurant in Georgetown. Jones has earned every bit of this long-overdue attention, because when it comes to grilling, he has few equals.
Rodney's on Broadway is set in a refurbished home circa 1840. The spacious foyer provides a grand welcome, whether you enter from the sloping hill at the front or mosey along the hardwood floors through the parking lot door in the back.
Each room has its own persona. The bar is dark but glittery, with just enough light so one can see the mementos from the neighboring Old Friends equine retirement home. There is a wonderfully intimate space with a fireplace and comfortable couches. But most of the dining rooms are straightforward white-tablecloth affairs, and they get additional ambience from the walls, painted teal or dark tan, or revealing simple exposed brick.
The menu offers a wide range of items that have nothing to do with a grill's leaping flames. The include baked artichoke dip, Caesar salad and meatloaf. But I had come for the chef's grill skills, and that is pretty much how I ordered. On the menu, the red "R" beside the chef's signature dishes provides good guidance.
I strayed just once, for a starter of fried chicken livers, and it was worth it: Several plump chicken livers were breaded in panko to give a crunchier crust, then napped in a creamy demi-glace with green peppercorns.
Lamb chops might seem an odd appetizer, but not here. Two medium-size chops are ideal for a couple to share ... or not. They will arrive cooked exactly as you have ordered them. Jones covers them with a delicious rich, salty brown sauce with a hint of garlic, yet the meat is so terrific I will order the sauce on the side next time.
Move from lamb to beef with an entree of melt-in-your mouth butcher's-cut rib-eye. Its slight crust is fabulous. I'll admit, though, that I ordered this dish as much for the Kentucky wild mushrooms sautéed in sherry and butter as I did for the meat.
A glass of the reasonably priced malbec ($7) pairs nicely with both the steak and the lamb.
If you prefer seafood, however, there is nothing better than the grilled sea scallops and shrimp on toast points — more like Melba toast rounds — topped with a bourbon cream sauce.
By comparison, the vegetables seemed more like afterthoughts: flash-fried string beans, a "garlic and lemon" risotto timbale with little flavor, undercooked broccoli florets and lukewarm potato slices with onion shards. In an era when upscale dining embraces the earth's bounty to the point of religiosity, one expects more.
Let's discuss baked goods instead.
Among the options are a good homemade cheesecake with a cookie crust, and a special dense chocolate torte. Each was served with a spectacular sauce: a simple, unadulterated mango coulis, tropical and a great partner for the rich vanilla of the cheesecake, and, for the torte, a seedless raspberry purée that tasted like fresh raspberries, with a slightly tart bite alongside bright natural sweetness.
Winter will be here before we know it, but at Rodney's, whatever the season, Jones' impeccable hand with the grill will give comfort from the cold.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.