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Tuesday, May 20, 2014


A new restaurant recently opened in Savannah which means I had to check it out on my first night back at home.  I had no doubt it would be good because Ampersand is the latest venture from Brian Torres, the man behind Form and Form II Table (check those out on your next Savannah trip and thank me later).  Brian makes the best cheesecake you will ever eat.  The best.  I leave zero room for debate here.  On this trip, I tried a maple bourbon bacon variety and wooo baby.  I don't even like cheesecake.  Or, at least, I thought I didn't.  I know I haven't yet told you about the appetizers and entrees, but like it says on many an embroidered pillow, "Life's uncertain; eat dessert first."

How does Brian make such wonderful cheesecake?  Because he's Brooklyn born and bred.  Aha!  Now it all makes sense.  Naturally, I would love any restaurant that combines the flavors and vibe of the Lowcountry and NYC.  My entire adult life has been spent straddling those two areas so of course I would love seeing them combine in one place.  The menu pulls inspiration from both areas, whether it's the pernil to reflect Brian's Puerto Rican heritage or the pulled pork over gruyere cheese grits to pay homage to the South.  Mark and Allison insisted we start with the yuca and chorizo since they had tried [and loved] it before.  I, too, was a fan and found the yuca to be sufficiently fried but still light enough to pop pop pop in my mouth.  My preferred starter, however, was the Spanish rice eggrolls.  It was so simple: just an eggroll stuffed with red rice and served with an aioli but there was plenty of flavor and I loved the crunch of the eggroll skin giving way to thick, fluffy rice.  I had been snacking all day so for my main course I just had the stuffed avoacado.  The avocado was filled with a mound of chopped onions and tomatoes that spent a full day marinating in a citrus dressing, ceviche style.  It was nothing fancy but perfectly done and refreshing a midst the Savannah humidity.  That pulled pork and grits I mentioned earlier?  I tried a bite and loved it.  The grits were so rich and creamy it was like eating mac and cheese.  I also tasted a scallop special that was served with a pineapple curry potato (or yuca?) mash.  I don't know how to explain that flavor.  I'm sure it's not for everyone (curry never is), but if you like island flavors like I do it's a very good dish.

This is some New York level food but at Savannah prices.  None of the entrees go above $18 and the cocktails (which incorporate ingredients like mezcal, ginger, and agave nectar) are around $8 or $9.  I had a very similar drink in New York the day before I left the city and it set me back $14.  When I can get virtually the same thing in Savannah for $9 it means I can order two.  And we all know a tipsy Tess is a happy Tess.

I guess Brian and I did a little foreign exchange student switcharoo when I moved to NYC and he went to Savannah.  Now that they have these restaurants, I'm pretty sure the people of Savannah will tell you they got the better end of the trade.


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