The Critic | A night at the Mockingbird
We had a night away from the kids – inspired in the form of a friend hosting a play date for the kids away from home. So we traveled to Staunton, drove past Mockingbird and, having previously discussed the newly-opened restaurant, decided to give it a try.
We were greeted promptly and with many welcoming staff attentive to obviously new customers, and perhaps underdressed for the expectations of the décor, but relaxed T-shirt black on black uniform vogue in so many restaurants that use as a clean image and cost-conscious management choice for struggling F&B types.
The room we chose, because of our attire, to the left, and aimed at a very private booth of beaded wood painted in contrast to the overall color schemes, and the most beautiful maple tabletops and seats, symbolic wood of culinary work stations or original cutting boards. The menu again raised suspicion of what may be in store. The selection was candid of the region we live, pot roast, pan-seared chicken, oyster stew, macaroni and cheese with homemade sausage. So as a culinary mind of many experiences both corporate and private, I assumed the presentations and culinary technique would far outweigh the selection of words that describe what was about to unfold.
We chose the pot roast, mac sausage and cheese, oyster stew and a couple of microbrews. I did ask of appetizers, and the pleasant yet concerned face graciously responded, “Sorry, we have this our Sunday offerings,” and then seemed a little pained, but again professional, that maybe our impression would be altered for a future engagement of apps and drinks. I quickly dismissed the appreciative server of our questionable stance, as we were along for the show.
Our beverages appeared as we ordered, and then our selection was recorded and sent off to the culinary incarnations of the viewable kitchen top-half window (above counter view). The stew arrived, and it was delicious and delicate of oyster liquor, and succulent oysters, and laden with a jardinière cut of a white potato, in some instances the skin overpowered the delicate oyster, but made for a full-bodied instrument to carry above the ranges of bisque (no potatoes) The oil drizzled atop of the stew was pleasant garnish, and had a Hungarian paprika flare.
In a flash before the arrival of the stew, a server whisked quickly by and deposited our bread, an Italian loaf-like bread, drizzled with oil and asiago or a reggiano type parmesan and accompanied with a flavored butter infused with sundried tomato. I refrained from the bread, but found it unique to have oil and butter, but one applied and the other to the side. Simply put, either would have stood alone.
I finished the stew, and the plate was removed most unobtrusively, and the server declared a need to see what else they could offer in the interim to our meals.
A second stew mistakenly arrived to us, and I stated we already were served. No big deal, a new restaurant always has mistakes, this by no means was mistake of any misfortune for anyone in the restaurant, simple and elegant the server returned to the kitchen to appropriately correct.
So here it comes, the meal we were waiting for, the culinary vision of the simplistic words, the arrival of a concerned server once again to prepare us for a plate that was very hot, and too remain concerned for the glowing heat. I can only further to say that the rendition of the foods was made in the most appropriate measure to culinary correct, or applied cooking methods. The roast was tender with evident of the braising method utilized to break down the connective strands making for the easy pulling or ease to cut with a fork, the root vegetables and vegetables alike were braised to perfection caramelizing the residual sugars to a melt-in-your-mouth texture with a refined nutrient rich broth, and grilled breads to soak with.
The presentation was simple and appropriate of the menu. The macaroni and cheese and homemade sausage was amplified with caramelized onion flavors but subtle sausage flavor; the presentation was one that belonged at a bar, or some expected armchair dinner course amongst a football game. The welsh rarebit dish (boat) carried and retained much heat, appropriate to the entrée, but the dish just lacked the culinary vision it may have originally incarnated prior to its delivery. A doily, a charger, a base plate with a napkin, anything to give this presentation a little more glamour and certainly overshadow the spooning serving method.
Whatever happened to the clever soufflé of macaroni and cheese, and sausage made to the expected link or even less appropriate patty? The dish, while maybe intriguing to someone from another coast and diet, lacks appeal, draw and memorable taste much less the presentation.
The meal selection based around foods of Appalachia is garnered to offer tourists a taste of the mountains, and likely a venue of such music once the theatre area is open. Perhaps the identity will come full circle with the crooked road music and fare, but to draw on local support could prove difficult when such menu items are not far from the very table in which they dine daily on the home front.
The ideas are rich in spirit, the service was exemplary for a new store, and the staff seemed to work in unison while attending to the individual needs. The space is appreciative of the very customer they wish to attain and retain. The atmosphere is styled; the bar looked inviting and welcoming of relaxed conversation and visual offerings of sports and cool background music.
The restaurant fills a needed niche on that end of Beverly Street, and compliments the trendy growing sector of gourmet and locally raised ingredients, which is featured on canvas through out the eatery. The people behind this venture have a lot to offer, and hopefully will put a twist on the Appalachia fare to garner the support of this remarkable investment.
My review is simple to the food, culinary correct, and a tad overpriced compared to similar fare. The restaurant is a model store in which more places could take a lesson on design and décor. The servers were gracious, prepared and complimentary of the intent and vision of the new endeavor.
Overall-I would pay more for the culinary work if it were presented in higher fashion. Many people say the prices are reasonable and justly stated if the culinary arts were amplified. Simple food is always best when it comes to preparations, fresh and new.
Mockingbird could learn to grow into the experimental stages of finding a niche upon Appalachian fare and style
The Critic Weighs In
2.5-3 # (pounds) of possible 5
Could they earn a 5? Twist the culinary vision and keep cooking correct — presentation, presentation, presentation — you’ve got the location.