Monday, February 3, 2014

True - Montgomery, Alabama

While in Montgomery, Alabama we relied on Yelp to find us a nice meal and we found True, a gem, in the process. It was not until I got home that I found it was the number one rated (out of 362) restaurant in Montgomery on Trip Advisor. It is what has become my favorite type of restaurant: locavore fresh food with a great, inventive chef. I would put it in the same category as Au Cinqueme Peche (in Montreal), Hen of the Wood (in Waterbury, VT), Incanto (in San Francisco), Red Medicine (in Beverly Hills) and FIG (in Charleston, SC) as one of my favorite restaurants of that type. I love restaurants that experiment with unusual ingredients and combinations and have truly fresh food. 
Wesley True, the owner and chef, has been a semi-finalist twice for the James Beard Award as the Best Chef in the South. He was named the best chef in Mobile, Alabama, where he owned two restaurants, and then he just recently moved to Montgomery to open True.  

We got there right as it opened and we found the atmosphere relaxed and pleasant. I was also comfortable taking a few pictures with a flash until we started to get other guests in the same room and I felt like I needed to stop. As a result, my pictures are poor because of the dark lighting. 

I'd not eaten much and was very hungry. The initial bread offering provided a remedy for the empty stomach. The bread was thick, had a nice crust and great taste. I put down my share then asked for more. 
Reviews really liked the fried chicken skins and it was an unusual dish that we simply had to try. They came in sort of a solid mound that we had to break apart. As we broke them apart, the skins were thick, relatively hard and a taste and texture very similar to pork rinds. Had I not known what it was, I would have guessed pork rinds (which I love). They were salty and spicy, with a fermented hot sauce on them,  and came with some side buttermilk ranch. With the added buttermilk ranch they were almost overwhelming. I really enjoyed them, but had plenty and would probably not order them again in favor of other menu items. 
Fried chicken skins and buttermilk ranch.
The chicken skins spread out and after devouring a few.

Judy got fried shrimp and homemade gnocchi with Parmesian-Reggiano melted cheese. She gave me a taste and I absolutely loved it. The gnocchi was soft, moist and flavorful. I am not a pasta person and I never order pasta if I can order something else. I would order this. In fact, I think I would rate this my favorite pasta dish ever (but mind you, my pasta dishes are on a short list). Judy, on the other hand, was not enamored with it. She likes her gnocchi small - the smaller the circumference, the more of the sauce is clinging to gnocchi per bite. 
Shrimp gnocchi.
I got the grilled lamb ribs with pickled onions and yogurt sauce. I have to get lamb ribs whenever I see them, which is not often. I find them more flavorful than pork, beef or bison and there is just something about the lamby taste that I can't get enough of. These were meaty, fatty and had a nice vinegar bite to them. I could have eaten two or three more orders of them. 
Lamb ribs
Lamb ribs from another angle - so beautiful.
Judy ordered duck with greens and yams. This was my least favorite of the dishes we had and she was not enamored with it either. The duck was a little chewy and had a little bit of a bitter flavor to it, not the sweet and savory that I typically enjoy with peking or roasted duck. This is a dish I would not order again. 
The real keeper was pheasant cooked two ways. I'd already ordered another dish (I don't remember what) when one of the waiters came up and mentioned that he'd just had two fantastic new dishes in the kitchen: pheasant and grouper. I've had pheasant several times before and have always found it dry and relatively tasteless. The waiter assured me it was moist and flavorful. So I switched dishes to the pheasant, and glad I did. It included a buttermilk fried leg and thigh, a poached breast  and a sort of seafood sausage. It has a sorghum syrup drizzle, onion puree and Brussels sprouts. I always pick dark meat over white meat. I always order chicken thighs over breasts and eat the dark meat of turkey. So I was very surprised when the pheasant breast was the best part of the dish. It was moist, very flavorful, a little bit of sweet, perhaps the sorghum, and just divine. A 5+ piece of meat. The leg and thigh were decent, but not even close to the breast. I asked the waiter about what appeared to me to be a sausage, sort of a light veal type sausage, not mentioned in the dish description. He told me it was an amalgamation of various types of seafood brought together somehow. I really enjoyed it as well. 
Pheasant two ways
Toward the end of the meal we had Wesley True visit the table and ask us if we enjoyed our meal. I asked him how he'd cooked the pheasant breast, noting that I usually find pheasant very dry. He indicated it was cooked sous vide for two hours at 200 degrees which has sealed the deal - I'm getting a sous vide. It was very nice to meet the chef and put a nice cap on the visit. 

I would go back and try every item on the menu if I could. I suspect there are other jewels there waiting to be mined. This is a destination restaurant, one worth driving a long distance for, like the others I've listed above. I quite liked Montgomery, but if we ever go back, this place is at the top of my list for places to visit. 


  1. Very fun place. While not every dish we tried was a 10, several were, and I appreciated the experimental approach. I'd love to go back and try a few more selections. There were many things on the menu that were interesting.

  2. What a great name for a restaurant!