Many locals will be familiar with the name of Knoxville’s newest restaurant. Chef Paul Sellas has been doing regular installments of his Rebel Kitchen Pop-Up for some time and always to sell-out crowds. So when the opportunity to open a new concept adjoining the Old City Wine Bar, we knew magic would happen. Owned by Thomas Boyd, Old City Wine Bar and Rebel Kitchen is managed by Franchesca Sellas and wine director Matt Burk
The Rebel Kitchen will open on Monday evening. But last night we got a preview of some of their excellent cuisine. The menu is subject to change of course as the culinary team works through what works and doesn’t. Overall, the interior is classy Old City with exposed brick and light wood to soften the industrial look. The walls are adorned with artwork from local painter Lauren Lazerus. The restaurant is open to the Old City Wine bar and guests can freely pass from one side to the other. This provides a perfect place to have a glass of wine or craft beer while waiting on a table. The open kitchen in the back is outfitted with chef’s counter seating. We always recommend because you can talk to the culinary artists in the kitchen and see your dish prepared.
Chef Sellas is a character with a punk rock mop of ink-black hair, chef-required tattoos and large ear gauges, he fits the look of today’s chef. Witnessing him in the kitchen, even on a large soft-opening night, he was calm and incredibly patient with newer staff who were learning the ropes. No l’enfant terrible here. By all appearances, he is a thoughtful teacher and leader of the kitchen with a passion for guest experience.
The menu for the evening provided a diverse selection of red meat, fish, and vegetarian options to suit most diners. The dishes were rich so keep that in mind when ordering or, like us, you will end up with to-go boxes of goodies for the next day (not a problem for us).
We started with Japanese Kobe Ribeye accompanied by a house-steak sauce that should be bottled and sold(!), heirloom tomatoes and Valdeon blue cheese (one of the best blue cheeses we’ve had). We also had the Mushroom Bolognese which was spectacular! Mossy Creek Farm Mushrooms were paired with house-made pasta and Mahón cow’s milk cheese. It was a wonderful and seasonally appropriate flavor profile is a bit under-salted.
Next up were the main courses. The Seared Cobia was fresh, flaky and arrived with the perfect light crust with lemon confit, rich carrots cooked in carrot juice and butter, and fingerling potatoes. The Painted Hills Beef Sirloin Cap is sous vide for 24 hours before finishing with a nice crust and being beautifully plated with bernaise, fluffy potato puree, and sour-sweet-funky fermented onions for a perfect combination.
We barely had room to try desserts, but we powered on with a Banana-Chocolate Mousse and Banana Bread and an Apple Tart with fluffy-crisp layers of filo and rum raisin ice cream.
Paul and his team are off to a great start and is a fresh new addition to the Knoxville restaurant scene. You can book now on their website for dinner beginning Monday evening.