Marisol’s owner brings it to Elm

by Brian Clarey

The thing you need to know about tapas-style eating in the Triad is that most people don’t quite get it just yet. Multiple courses? Tiny portions? Which one is the appetizer?

Also, when you tell people you’re going to a tapas restaurant, many of them think you’re saying “topless” and will harrumph accordingly.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat like a Spaniard around here. Speakeasy Jazz in Winston-Salem and Solaris in Greensboro have subscribed to the formula for years. And now there’s Rim Tapas and Fine Wine Bar on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, in the space that once housed the Next Door Tavern and, for a hot minute, Bar Fry.

I should say right off that I find the name a bit disconcerting, and I could probably make a hundred jokes right here about it.

But I won’t. Because Rim is serious business, begun by Steven Schneider, the mind behind Marisol, one of the finest restaurants in Greensboro. And to run the kitchen he hired my friend Greg Brown, an enormous talent who made his bones in the sauté station of Bert’s Seafood Grill (and its precursor, Mosaic).

One look at the menu will show you their commitment to quality and innovation – marinated artichokes, imported cured meats, diver scallops, a Kobe beef meatball and truffles everywhere. And the wine list is no small affair, either.

We started out with a bottle of the Incognito Red, a mixed varietal described ably by our server, and picked out a few courses.

When I see diver scallops on a menu, I get them. Each one is harvested by hand from the ocean floor, as big around as a poker chip and without the grittiness of its mass-collected brethren. They are smooth and buttery, and, when accompanied with a fennel-grapefruit sauce, sublime.

We also scored a portion of baked goat cheese (from the Goat Lady, natch) served in a small soufflé dish with crushed fresh tomatoes and basil. The simple flavors sang out when paired with crostini.

Thin spears of asparagus were roasted and served cold with chopped boiled egg and a drizzle of truffle oil. Magnificent.

But the dish I’ve been thinking about since I tasted it is the lamb ribs.

I read about lamb ribs in the New York Times Dining & Wine section just a few months ago as an up-and-coming culinary trend, and I wondered how long it would be before I got to try them, living as I do in this remote gastronomical outpost. I couldn’t believe it when I saw them on the menu – it is, I believe, the fastest journey a dish has ever made from the New York Times to Greensboro.

The ribs wore a light dusting of salt and pepper, and the lamb fat melted under the broiler to become an integral part of the texture. The meat was both sweet and dusky, and so tasty I forsook the side of plum barbecue sauce. There was no need for a dip. And the sweet and spicy watermelon pickles, also on the side, were a perfect counterpoint to the rarified grease.

I had the opportunity to sample a few thin slices of bresaola, a Hungarian air-cured beef that had all the charms of pastrami and none of its gristle, more flavorful than prosciutto without the overwhelming component of salt. I am now a fan.

And for dessert my companion and I split a chocolate pot de crème, served in a small cup with a single mint sprig. It was so good I swore aloud – the richness, the tones of dark cocoa, the buttery finish… it was all we could do to stop from licking the serving dish and we agreed we could probably eat a dozen of them.

And this, I venture, might be Rim’s problem. The portions are small – the Kobe meatball dish, for example, consists of a single meatball – and the prices, while certainly not exorbitant, are a bit more than many Greensboro diners, even the ones who don’t think this is a topless place, might be willing to spend on a regular basis. I say this based on years of waiting tables in this town and watching a two-top split an entrée and share a cup of coffee afterwards.

But I can also say that Rim is a winner based on the quality of its ingredients, the creativity of the menu, the knowledge and technical expertise of the staff and the restaurant’s prime location in the heart of Elm Street.

And I will absolutely be back, even if it’s just for the lamb ribs.

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