The Katharine offers a piece of Paris in Winston-Salem
By: Jennifer Zeleski
Paris is home to the Eiffel Tower, and Winston-Salem is home to the Reynolds building, which some people refer to as the original Empire State Building. One is an international, highly-acclaimed attraction, but the lesser-known of the two is still filled with history and has French culture found in the details.
The Katharine Brasserie, located at 51 E. 4th St., in the ground floor of the Reynolds Building, offers a trip into the world of French cuisine and honors Katharine Reynolds herself. It is a newly renovated space with a spacious bar, enveloped with large windows and fashioned with candle-lit tables.
The menu is a reflection of Adam Barnett, the executive chef who creates the French dishes while adding a hint of Southern flare. It features a take on the traditional steak-frites, a flat-iron steak served with hand-cut French fries, and steak tartare with avocado mousse and potato crisps, but both are just a few options away from the buttermilk fried chicken or locally-sourced beef burger.
The location and atmosphere embody elegance and romance, and my boyfriend Peyton and I were delighted to get our first true experience with French food at such a refined location. The restaurant recently welcomed Christina Morris, the new Sommelier with an extensive wine list, and the fall menu also made its debut for October, which has a variety of plates whose flavors highlight the season.
With the mentality of “When in Rome,” but with French cuisine, we made our decisions carefully, and the fragrant yet intoxicating smells from the kitchen compelled us to solidify our choices for le dîner with little debate.
Peyton approached with caution and ordered the baked escargot as an hors-d’oeuvre. Neither of us had tried the dish before, and it took a little convincing that snails could be appetizing. But anything served with roasted garlic, herb butter, fresh parsley, biscuit toppings, and champignon mushrooms had to stand a chance.
The entrées were the hardest choices by far, but my sights were set on the pan-roasted salmon, with savoy cabbage, turnips, gold potatoes, dill mousse, and Borscht sauce. Well-cooked salmon is often attempted but not always executed, so I tried not to set too high of expectations.
Peyton’s choice was the plats du jour, a roasted lamb shank with butternut squash risotto, and was a brand new addition to the fall menu. For good measure, we also had to try the macaroni and cheese, made with Mornay and Gruyère cheese and olive oil breadcrumbs. (We are in the South after all!)
After a glimpse of the baked escargot, I was no longer intimidating by the snails. Served in a cast iron dish with six bite-sized portions and a golden biscuit to top each one. The texture of the escargot was slightly chewy, but the biscuit made the experience into an indulgence. It felt as if we were being spoiled by such a dish, and I hardly thought twice about the reality of eating snails.
We let the escargots last as long as we could, but the dish was swapped for our main courses shortly after. Peyton’s lamb shank was a large portion on the bone, surrounded by the butternut squash risotto that could hardly be ignored. It was the perfect take on French comfort food making you long for colder nights and approaching holidays. The lamb was tender, pulling right off the bone without even a gentle tug, and reminded Peyton of roast beef without the occasional stringy-ness or tough pieces. The risotto was what really put the dish into the fall season. Each bite melted with a soft texture but lingered with a sweet taste, and Peyton decided he would enjoy it by the fireplace in the future.
The salmon was quite the contrast, and instead was my type of comfort food. The golden pan sear on the salmon was perfect and was beautifully crisp with every bite. The dill mousse offered just a touch of creaminess, and the deep red Borscht sauce (which gets its color from beetroots as the primary ingredient), gave an earthy but almost lighter flavor to bring each part of the dish together. The gold potatoes, turnips, and cabbage were tender and slightly astringent, which paired nicely with the salmon’s flavor and the combination of sauces. It was the best-cooked salmon I have ever eaten, and I will be craving it with the crunch and crisp of the pan sear from now on.
Last, but surely not least, was the macaroni and cheese, a representation of our young adulthood of sorts. It was not visibly creamy like many American versions of the dish but still had a creamy flavor from the Gruyère and Mornay. It had a toasted top from the breadcrumbs and was baked in a cast iron pan, which allowed the sides to get the soft yet crisp texture that good macaroni and cheese requires. Each bite felt like you were stealing a forkful from the oven at home, and the cheese had a wonderful savory aftertaste. It would be a great small side to share with an à la carte seafood dish or hors-d’oeuvres.
The meal wouldn’t have been complete without dessert. Seasonal sorbets, apple cobbler, and créme caramel, all are made in-house daily. But the top two choices were the opera cake and the pistachio vanilla rice pudding.
Peyton’s opera cake was thin layers of almond sponge cake, paired with coffee buttercream and a dark chocolate mirror glaze. It was the only dish of the night that didn’t quite sing. The portion was too sweet without another flavor of contrast, and although there were raspberries plated, they weren’t quite enough to take the cake to a higher level.
The real winner was the rice pudding. This was not my mom’s Pennsylvania rice pudding. This elicited an “Oh my God!” response with the first bite. It was served slightly chilled with cardamom, cinnamon honey, and sultanas (similar to raisins), and whole pistachios. The rice was just soft enough to be paired with the crunch of the pistachios, and it was satisfying for anyone without a strong sweet tooth. The portion was big enough to share, and I was craving it again by the time it was gone.
Rich with history and class, The Katharine Brasserie is a piece of Paris in downtown Winston-Salem. If you are looking for the best location for a date night, special occasion or celebration, then the restaurant should be the first on your list.
If you need the perfect excuse this weekend, the Katharine will offer an extended brunch in honor of Pride Winston-Salem on Saturday, Oct. 13, that will feature an exclusive dish and cocktail dedicated to the city’s celebration, as well as a body painter and live music by The Epiphany Project band. The restaurant is also walking in the parade and cannot wait to support the city of Winston-Salem. Cheers and bon appétit!
Jennifer Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.