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Highland’s Bar & Grill Review – 8/10

August 15, 2009
Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio

If you were to ask a casual passerby in Birmingham, “What is the best restaurant in the city?”, I can say with a high level of confidence that most answers would be Highland’s Bar & Grill.  I would venture to guess that a number of those people haven’t actually been to Highlands but are basing their answer on reputation alone.  Highland’s has been a staple for fine dining in Birmingham since the 80’s.  It’s hard to believe that a restaurant that has been around the better part of two decades is still cranking out innovative food and challenging the next generation of chef’s in this city to keep up. 

Frank Stitt’s flagship restaurant, currently up for a James Beard award for top restaurant in the country, is without a doubt one of, if not the, top restaurant in Birmingham.  Frank has created a well rounded restaurant which leaves little room for criticism.  His staff is well trained, educated and enthusiastic about the place in which they work.  The restaurant’s wine list is far and away the most thoughtful and interesting in the city.  The most important variable, the food, will (for the most part) live up to the reputation this kitchen has developed.  Highland’s is a French-influenced, high-end dining restaurant which will at times feature southern ingredients cooked using, largely, French techniques.    

On my most recent visit, I started the night with the popular appetizer, beef carpaccio.  This is raw beef sliced very thinly, sitting over a horseradish sauce, with fresh arugula and indescribably good parmesan shavings over the top.  This is a simple but flawlessly executed dish.  I’d also recommend giving the charcuterie platter a try.  Charcterie platters will typically include a country pate, assorted meats, radishes and pickled beets.  For my entrée, I had the veal tenderloin and sweetbreads (thymus glands).  Both were sautéed and although the veal was slightly overcooked, both were tasty.  The waiter, an Italian immigrant named Marco, was one of the more knowledgeable and well-trained restaurant staff members I’ve had the luxury of interacting with.  He was pushing me towards an off-menu beef cheek dish that the kitchen had prepared and while I would have loved to have tried that, my date was less than excited about the idea.  My date had the Alaskan Halibut over smashed peas and new potatoes.  She exclaimed the dish to be the one of the best she’s had in her lifetime.  I can’t give mine quite that much praise but it was a rewarding dining experience overall.  With 5 glasses of wine, an appetizer, 2 entrée’s and a dessert the tab came to $140 which I found to be very reasonable given the quality of product served at Highland’s.  Frank, and the staff at Highland’s, are worthy of the top 5 ranking from James Beard and I’m hoping they receive even more praise in the future.

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