There are many good things about Georgia's Kitchen, the Flag Fork Farm remake that has transformed a cozy little home into high Victorian kitsch.
One of Georgia's best features is the gardens. There are stalks and shoots, flowers bursting with summer's bright palette, and perfect produce to whet the appetite, all growing lushly along pathways, beside a cottage and on the outskirts of a marvelous outdoor party area.
[Review of Georgia's Kitchen on UrbanSpoon]
If you're a shopper, you will love that almost everything is for sale. Beaded pashmina scarves, dinnerware and the blingiest bling are woven into the décor, and it seems that no matter what gets sold, there will be plenty more where that came from.
The food has its high moments, too. The eclectic menu borrows globally from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the United States, and when it plays to its strengths, the experience equals relaxed and delicious dining in unself-conscious sensory overload.
The hummus trio appetizer, with rich herbed toasts and a bowl of Kalamata olives, could serve four. Its finest moment was the red pepper and garbanzo purée, bright, pretty and slightly sweet. The other two were basically chickpeas, healthy but bland, requiring the right ratios of tahini, lemon and garlic to liven things up.
Georgia's french fries, wrapped in paper set in a metal cone, are being raved about all over Lexington, and with good reason: They are hot and crisp, served with a garlicky dipping sauce that resembles a thin fondue. When shared, they could be a great starter without demolishing your appetite for the main course.
In two visits, I've sampled a salad entree, a sandwich and three "casseroles." Each scored points for presentation, and some went the extra mile on execution.
The eggplant Parmagiana, for instance, is a toned-down, more delicate version of the greasy, cheesy examples that are served almost everywhere else. The sauce is tangy and light, there are fresh basil leaves, and cheese is a textural accent rather than an overwhelming component.
The kitchen does a fine job on the pulled barbecued beef sandwich, too, with succulent short rib meat, a bit of melted pepper jack cheese for spice and additional richness, and yeasty sourdough bread. Order a side of fries with this dish.
Had there been more restraint with the salt, the quinoa salad with grilled shrimp would have been perfect. The lemony dressing had hints of mint and tender Italian parsley, you got several big shrimp with a lovely grilled scent, and the quinoa itself was cooked perfectly. Beneath all this were mild raw onion rings and tomato slices. It was a feast for the palate and the eyes, minus a little salt.
I wanted to like the kibbe — a Middle Eastern beef "pie" with seasonings of cumin and minced onion — but it tasted dry. Moisten it with a drizzle of the excellent cucumber yogurt accompaniment. I also had mixed feelings about the chicken curry. Its vermicelli rice was terrific, and the coconut sauce was slightly spicy, rich and creamy, but the chicken tasted like a last-minute addition rather than meat that had been simmered in the stew.
Finally, the jury remains out on Georgia's sugary desserts, given the examples of a soggy apple crumble and a heavy chocolate parfait.
Overall, Georgia's Kitchen is a great place to kick back, wander around, shop for Christmas in July, savor Kentucky gardens and have fun. Isn't "fun" a major part of why we go out to eat?
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.