Chef's Choice: Lisa Slay, Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar

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Slay still has her professional kitchen chops. During my visit, she couldn't decide what to make. We bounced around the kitchen, exploring this and that: a batch of lamb-stuffed grapevine leaves being made from her grandmother's recipe, feta mousse on fried Lebanese bread, curried chicken for Mediterranean club sandwiches. Before I left, she insisted I take bread pudding with both caramel and hard sauces as well as tapenade with crostini.

click to enlarge Chef's Choice: Lisa Slay, Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar
Robin Wheeler
For her recipe, Slay decided to go with one of her favorites, Bronzed Mahi: a piece of fresh mahi mahi crusted in a smoky, peppery blend of seventeen spices pan-seared for crispiness and then lightly roasted for a moist, delicate finish. It's served in a light sauce of white wine and butter, atop an earthy pool of French lentils and itself topped with two lightly seared jumbo shrimp. When we walked through the restaurant with the plate, every employee we encountered commented on the mahi mahi, their favorite.

Remy's has won Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for the past eight years, so of course there was wine. Navarro "Edelzwicker," a blend of riesling, gewürtztraminer, pinot grigio, and muscat provided a light sweetness to balance the robust spice of the mahi mahi, while the slightly sour viognier and Marsanne of d'Areberg "Hermit Crab" gave a bright, palette-cleansing burst of sunny dryness.

Even though Remy's has always been known for its wines, Slay's just recently ventured out of the kitchen and behind the bar. Having worked on wine dinners and pairings for years, she's now working on the wine lists and doing some of the wine ordering. "I guess when you're in this business for a long time -- and I've been in it for a very long time -- you have to challenge yourself and do different things or you get burnt out," she says. "But I still love it like I did 30 years ago."

That challenge includes removing herself from the kitchen and spending time on the floor with her guests, a role that suits her gregarious and hospitable spirit. "For so many years I've been back there and I hear from servers that they [guests] loved it. It's nice to be able to be out and talk to people, help them figure out what they're going to have, or being able to say, 'I've got something in the back. Let me make it for you.' I'm letting them into my home. I'm here more than I'm at my real home. This is really home, except I can't bring my dogs."

Robin Wheeler writes the blog Poppy Mom and is a regular contributor to Gut Check, including the columns The Dive Bomber and Throwback of the House.
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