I dropped in for a couple of drinks and appetizers to check it out. One of Asheville’s finest photographers, Stewart O’Shields, tagged along and captured these shots during the evening visit, as well as a visit he made earlier in the day. (If you need photo work, O’Shields can be reached @ 828.423.2262. He does a fantastic job.)
The restaurant space – the former Bistro 1896 right on Pack Square in the heart of downtown – has been beautifully deconstructed to create an open, rustic experience. It’s now more barn than bistro, with rough-cut timbers and muted colors that blend to create a comfortable, intimate dining experience. There are a mix of textures, from the wooden tabletops to leather-covered booths and stools, that all come together to create a warm vibe. A couple of nice nods to the family dining experience are also on display – a reminder written in crayon to wash your hands over the bathroom sink, and a couple of giant chalkboard walls featuring art and updates – complete that homey feeling. The entire restaurant has been opened up and is much bigger than I ever imagined. An open kitchen allows dinners in the back dining room to see all the kitchen action.
While I only sampled a couple of appetizers, my sense is that Rhurbarb will stand on par with Curate and The Admiral in Asheville as a delicious, creative dining experience that locals and tourists alike will flock to. I had a lobster corn dog that melted on my mouth, and a slice of berber pie (local fig-rhubarb jam, Benton’s prosciutto and spiced onions) that was a perfect compliment to my Bell’s Two-Hearted brew. Other snacks: brown sugar-benne popcorn, rosemary sea salt pecans, brick oven roasted oysters, wood-grilled broccoli rabe and more.
The “full plates” include a wood-roasted whole Sunburst trout featuring fennel-leek confit, shoestring potatoes and green tomato catsup; wood-grilled Ashley Farms chicken with brown butter sweet potato/sage hash and rosemary-chile braised Tuscan kale; and a charmoula grilled Georgia grassfed flatiron steak with smashed and seared Adirondack blue potato and soffrito snap beans.
This is a restaurant is offering a truly creative take on Southern food the likes of which Asheville has not seen. It’s a great new addition to the city’s blossoming food scene.