On the ever-continuing cocktail crawl, aided and abetted by good food to sustain the body, the mind and, yes, the spirit(s), we made it to Radar on N. Mississippi to discover the perfect combination of lovingly created cocktails and an eclectic but inspiring range of foods.
This is a great restaurant, especially for twosomes with its kitchen-bar seating and two-top tables aligning the wall. That’s good, because the small plates/large plates menu encourages a wide range of nibbling, working your way down the list from one delicious creation to another.
A nice touch which eliminates unnecessary fuss and work is the ‘full service placemat’ with the foods listed in the middle, an irresistible list of cocktail specials on one side and the amazingly versatile short list on the other side.
The cuisine style ranges from Spanish to French to Italian to Portugese to Down Home Southern, with every dish executed with flawless precision to showcase each of the ingredients, which you can watch in the open kitchen. There’s no superfluity in this cuisine: each element (and there are some lovely unexpected touches) is there for a particular reason that is immediately obvious to the palate.
We sampled the piquant puffed and powdered garbanzos as we sipped and perused, then cleaned plates, in succession on the tempura-fried cauliflower; pork shoulder on a bed of crispy outside/creamy inside grits (!); salt cod and potato brandade croquettes in a piquillo sauce; one of the finest examples possible of a bluefish paté plate (Radar is very picky about their seafood sources and this shows it; the bluefish reveals all its good characteristics and none of the oily bad ones from mishandling, and the garnish of pickled rhubarb completes the succulent variety of the dish); and a gorgeous and tasty down-home-French plate of grilled asparagus, wafer thin slices of cheese, with Dijon vinaigrette and a perfectly poached egg on the top ready to ooze all over the plate when the fork hit it.
Ah, but what of the beverages? Start with one of the singular best short lists seen lately: Five beers, five ciders, a selection of reds, whites, roses and sparklers that would be chary were it not so nicely balanced. Any wine drinker would be able to find a companionable wine or three from this tiny list.
And the cocktails? Suffice it to say that co-proprietor Lilly, a vivacious, charming hostess with an honest smile, bubbles over with obvious excitement when she discusses her bar program, and her loving whimsy comes through, both in the tidy but intriguing spirits selection, and what she and her staff create from it.
The European Union, with something from the EU major countries joined together in one cocktail, was irresistible, a spirit-forward, pre-Prohibition style that perfectly showcased each of the spirits within. The Strega was a nice touch. Like the menu aesthetic, there’s no frippery and decoration here, with all the elements working together but emerging distinctly.
The Cap & Kid was intriguing, with a superficially strange combination of ingredients. I’m not an overall fan of Akvavit (caraway is okay, but often overwhelming in a spirit, and a little goes a long way in a cocktail) but the combination, especially when Lustau East India Sherry was mentioned, sealed the deal. Again, delicious. Intensely aromatic, with present but subdued Linie Akvavit and all the other ingredients intertwined, leading to a long finish alternately echoing all those ingredients. This is creative cocktail making!
So put Radar on your radar. Go for the foods and discover the amazing cocktails, or go for the cocktails and you’ll definitely enjoy the exquisitely prepared food. And on top of everything else, the price is right (i.e., very affordable, especially considering the quality of both food and drink.)