Background: Chef and owner John Fleer opened Rhubarb in 2013. Fleer is a three-time nominee for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast Award,” and this restaurant plays a central role in the rapidly multiplying upscale Asheville dining scene.
Eat This: Literally everything. Okay, but if we have to narrow it down, let us direct you to these standouts:
- Start with the Rosemary Sea Salt Pecans. We know what you’re thinking: “Wait, what?! A huge menu of appetizers and you tell me to get the nuts? You cray.” But trust us, the nuts have the most exquisite flavor, and it changes from amazing to ethereal as they cool. The flavor is the nutty embodiment of Christmas and joy.
- Order the Berber Pie (Rhubarb Jam, Benton’s Prosciutto, Spiced Onions). Eating a hand pie makes you feel like a peasant, but in a good way. And yes, rhubarb is peppered all over the menu, from the foods to the cocktails. Cute! Skip the Frito Misto (fried pickled vegetables)--you can get something similar anywhere.
- For entrees, we highly recommend the Muscadine Duck Confit and the Goat Cheese Gnudi. The duck has so many different elements--duck ham, sweet potato cake, walnuts--and it all just works.The muscadine glaze is a great addition and a duly noted nod to local fare, as well as a nice change from the typical fruit pairings you see with duck. Surprisingly, our favorite dish was the Lyonnaise Salad. This was amped up from the traditional version with fried trout sardines--this dish was the ringer that impressed the whole table.
Dessert: The dessert menu had one clear winner, the Figgy Toffee Pudding. Oh lawd. We had never tried traditional sticky toffee pudding, but I am certain that the substitution of figs for dates was an upgrade. We tried a Brown Butter Squash Cake that did not impress--it was dry and lacked flavor.
Drink: A wide selection of craft cocktails that rotate as often as their seasonal food offerings. The night we were there they had an “Inigo Montoya” cocktail made with Hendrick’s gin and egg whites that was stellar.
Atmosphere: Rhubarb is adorable. It is the kind of place where you want to linger, and the vibe is modern farmhouse chic. The lighting is soft and there is an outdoor patio that must be killer in warmer months.
Southern Hospitality: There was team serving, which we feel sometimes does not go as well as the alternative. We had to ask for some items more than once, but overall the servers were knowledgable and polite with no major missteps.
Frankie’s Notes: Can they make nuts that taste like Hanukkah?; Seeds and North Carolina wine give muscadines a bad rap; “You killed my father, prepare to drink this delicious libation”; There should be more restaurants that resemble an Anthropologie; That classy Renaissance peasant feeling can be achieved with a turkey leg and/or a hand pie.
Rating: 4 out of 5
7 SW Pack SQ.
Asheville, NC 28801
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm
Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm
Saturday 10:30 am to 10:30 pm
Sunday 10:30 to 9:30 pm