First Look: Kitchen Six
Jason Jimenez and partners bring casual fine dining and neighborly vibes to Oak GroveMonday February 13, 2017 05:00 am EST
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“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor…” That’s the vibe at Oak Grove’s new Kitchen Six. Just like Mr. Rogers told us: “Ideas are gardens in our minds. All you have to do is think and they grow.” This restaurant came about with an idea from a few neighbors in need of a local spot for casual fine dining.
“What we are trying to do is create a community restaurant that invites outsiders in,” says executive chef and partner Jason Jimenez. “They know they are going to get a quality experience through our staff and food.”
Mission accomplished. Since opening day, Kitchen Six, located in the former Mezza space beside Oak Grove Market, has been a hot reservation to score. With so many partners from the neighborhood (eight, in addition to Jimenez), the phrase “I know the owner” is sure to be overheard more than once during a visit. Weekend evening crowds consisted of families, dressed up dates, girls’ nights out, and guys checking the game at the bar.
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Kitchen Six’s moniker refers to its concept of six appetizers, six entrees, and six wines. Limited offerings change frequently. Jimenez, a veteran of Muss and Turner’s, Canoe, Local Three, and his own Homespun Supper Club, wants his menu to be approachable and focused on technique. Or, as he puts it: “simple but quality items that shine on their own in a dish that is well-balanced, hitting on all of the notes of the highly seasonal ingredients.”
The 60 seat dining room is intimate with two sides divided by wine racks, tables of metal and wood, brick veneer walls, reclaimed timber, framed images of woodcuts, and dark plaid booths. Adding to the warm ambiance are various types of hanging lighting. A smallish opening in black subway tile gives a little look into the kitchen behind a sweeping black lacquered bar.
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The menu is concise with fair prices, especially when considering the careful sourcing from local and regional farms. The bites ($3-10) and starters ($6-12) sections could easily make for a coursed dinner while the entrees ($16-26) heartily make a meal on their own. On a recent visit, the popcorn of the day ($3) was a chili spiced caramel corn. Lightly sweet with a touch of heat, it paired beautifully with a Blackberry Farm Classic Saison, one of the six beers on draft.
The pickled vegetable salad ($10) with tender cubes of red and golden beets, nuggets of goat cheese, and drops of basil oil went well with a Rye’s Up — rye, chamomile honey, and lemon shaken. The layering of vinegar and salt alongside the rye’s sweetness and spice made for a burst of flavor from a tiny plate. Every table seemed to have pimento cheese ($5), served on sourdough crackers with bread and butter pickle slivers. No utensils needed. Jimenez makes his super creamy hummus ($8) with butternut squash, adding roasted pumpkin and pomegranate seeds for texture and garnish along with cilantro from Abundant Harvest Gardens. Even folks declaring they didn’t like squash ate it enthusiastically. A shrimp salad ($12) wasn’t the most exciting plate to look at, but the watercress, frisee and orange supremes lightly tossed in a basil citrus vinaigrette were refreshingly crisp and bright, while the six plump grilled shrimp equalized the dish with savory warmth.
Jimenez says he likes to highlight local produce in the Farmers Vegetable Plate ($16). On our visit, it included roasted veggies, golden raisin spinach, beautifully roasted and curried carrots, and a rustic mushroom lentil stew with shiitakes from Spartan Imperial. For those seeking the contentment of a burger and fries, we have a secret: There is an off-menu thick burger ($15) made with Brasstown beef, a slice of sharp cheddar, a smoky and tangy bacon onion jam, and house-made mayo. Ask for the zingy poblano cream sauce for dipping fries.
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Entrees were straight-up rustic comfort with sides that shined independently. The strip loin ($26), generously sized and grilled medium rare, was nestled among fingerling potatoes, a red wine onion compote and garlicky and pert broccolini. Candied garlic chicken ($19) is first brined then roasted golden while remaining ultra juicy. This cold evening called for the short rib ($24), meltingly tender meat with red wine cherries, crisp green beans, and a cake-sized slice of butternut squash gratin that could be a rich and cheesy menu selection on its own. The bold, sweet (maybe a tad too sweet) flavors of an Old Fashioned ($11) melded nicely with the rich and substantial slab of braised meat. Beware if you ask for rye instead of bourbon. My upcharge was $6.
Kitchen Six meets its early expectations as an approachable casual fine dining spot as comfortable as that sweater Mr. Rogers always donned before talking about the neighborhood. It has definitely won community approval. Jimenez flexes his culinary muscles by serving finesse with simplicity. Soon, as word spreads, everyone will be a neighbor.