Earlier this month Shaun and I celebrated our one year anniversary. (Pause for collective awwww)
As if having an anniversary wasn't special enough Shaun made it more so by scoring us reservations at Restaurant Iris - which for non Memphians is the consistently ranked #1 , turned away Tony Parker bc it takes 6 weeks to get a reservation, restaurant in town. Needless to say I was pretty excited. Because of the time involved Iris only offers its 5-course menu on week nights, ordering off the regular menu is of course allowed on any night. Luckily our actual anniversary fell on a Monday. We arrived right at our reservation time and were taken to our table, decorated for the ocassion:
Iris has quickly become THE special ocassion spot in town as evidenced by the five other tables decorated for celebrations that night. It was also full on a Monday, which really never happens in Memphis.
We informed our waitress we wanted to do the five course tasting menu. I did a wine paring with mine and Shaun just had a soda. It took a while for things to get started but eventually we were brought the amuse bouche of crab and corn salad.
At Iris the tasting menu is basically up to the chef and they do try to bring different options for each person which makes for fun sharing. For the first course I had the bone marrow and Shaun the eggplant sweetbread
For the 2nd course Shaun had the BBQ shrimp with brioche and I had the lobster knuckle sandwich
For salads I had a friend green tomato with mozerella and Shaun had an eggplant salad
And lastly for dessert I had the lemon cake and Shaun had the bread pudding, I was jealous! And I appreciated the chocolate sause message.
At the end of the meal out waitress was nice enough to take our picture and the menu copy was brought for us to take home
We left a little shy of 3 hours after our reservation time and spent a little north of $200 including tax and tip. I know for a lot of cities a five course meal for $200 would be quite the bargain but in Memphis this makes Iris one of the most pricey places to eat in town. And it's the only place in town that requires reservations more than a week in advance. Thus, dining at Iris is surrounded by a lot of hype and a hype that unfortunately for me it didn't live up to.
Don't get me wrong, Iris is quite lovely and each dish was very nice but I think getting the tasting menu was a mistake. With the tasting menu it felt as if we were just getting extras of what other diners were ordering. I was thrilled to get the bone marrow and lobster knuckle but nothing else is something I would order. Being the "mathy" person I am I realized Shaun and I could have shared two appetizers, each ordered our own salad, each gotten the most expensive entree and each gotten a dessert and spent the same as the tasting menu. And for $25 I could have ordered two full glasses of wine I liked. The menu says parings are done by the sommelier but the waitress made my selections and seemed to just be choosing from bottle of wine already open - I was given the same wine the steak eating table next to us had with my dessert. I like wine a lot but I'm just not a fancy wine drinker and I only like one of the five, two in fact I disliked so much I didn't finish. Maybe the pairings would have been great for a true wineo but to me it was very blah. I don't think I'll ever let another restaurant ever pick my wines for me.
I think though the biggest disappointment for me was how the entire city goes on and on about this place so I had really high expectations. Not one dish was what I call food-gasmic. I really wish people would do Iris a big favor and not act like eating there is such a big deal. It is a very nice restaurant no doubt but it has many of the same qualities and as high end restaurant and quite frankly lacked the polish other places have. Since we went I've been wondering what deal is as to why I was unimpressed. Am I too simple to appreciate culinary delights? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I tend towards extravagant taste and an not one for simplicity? Am I too spoiled to be wowed? Surely not since many if the Memphis who's who have been the ones to give such accolades. Agh, what is wrong with me?!?!?
If you're a Memphian like me who has been very eager to go I'm not suggesting you don't, but just maybe stick to an entree and one or two other things to share and keep your tab around $100 like most other fancy places in town - I think this alone will give you a much more wow factor. If nothing else places like The Melting Pot suddenly seem like quite the value location.