If you ever wondered what grilled rattlesnake looks like, look no further.
F.I.B was graciously invited to a “menu tasting” over at new Brooklyn “Pan-Southwestern” restaurant Ellis recently. As I am no expert on food (but I do like the stuff!) I had my dining companion, Jennifer Mitchell, an experienced food writer do the expose…..
Chef Ellis of the Southwestern/Native American “Ellis” couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he welcomed us to his new establishment. His only lament . . . the hurricane prevented him from getting the rattlesnake he really wanted to serve, a big one, straight from Texas . Hailing from Arizona , Chef Ellis seems to know where the biggest snakes come from.
We weren’t complaining, though. Well, maybe twice, but that had to do with the “classic margarita” and the “berry crush margarita”, neither one up to par. However, the jalapeno caipirinha was a wonderful drink; make sure you have a taste for peppers and a flair for, um, savoring a drink, to truly enjoy it.
Our six course sampling was solid and refreshing with a couple of surprises along the way. Our first ‘course’ was the White Bean Soup with Bacon. Very simple, very straightforward and just plain good. Next, the citrus and blue cheese salad with sunflower seeds, golden raisins and sunflowers was tantalizingly sweet. Its honey and grapefruit balsamic vinaigrette dressing combined beautifully with the blue cheese creating a crisply refreshing and savory salad. A favorite with us.
If you love garlic (and I for one, do), then you would love Ellis’s cilantro lime pesto, served on either chicken wings or shrimp. Other sauces included a very sweet and spicy Chipotle as well as a sweet red pepper jelly that would make any southern woman proud to serve on bruschetta with cream cheese (which was, btw, one of the pre-party appetizers. Being decidedly southern, I was reminded of Christmas party finger food and very happy about it). It is surprisingly good on chicken wings, too.
Next came the rattlesnake skewers in a citrus and garlic marinade with grilled and perfectly crispy asparagus. Chef Ellis recommended we just pick up that rattlesnake with our fingers and dig in. My kinda chef. Never haven eaten rattlesnake, I didn’t know what to expect. It was very tender, and more akin to a filet mignon than one might have imagined. Recommended.
Our final main course offering was a pan seared catfish topped by a blueberry/red onion salsa served with homemade mashed potatoes studded by sweet and crispy corn. The catfish could not have been cooked more perfectly. It was a thicker catfish than I am accustomed to, but the meat was tender and flaky, the outside maintaining its crispness even with the juicy salsa. Being served catfish with a fruit topping was a first for this MS Delta born and raised girl. I’ll definitely be writing home about this one. The potatoes were both creamy and chunky and I think would have been outstanding if they hadn’t been a bit cold. Another favorite.
The dessert, a sopapilla style Navajo fry bread with honey and powdered sugar just did not do. I guess, then, a third complaint. We couldn’t decide if it was a mistake such as too much salt in the recipe, or just a good idea gone bad.
Over all, we were very happy with our meal and our experience at Ellis. When main ingredients were given a platform, with a bit of an accompaniment, that is when they shined: the rattlesnake skewers, the catfish and, interestingly, the salad come to mind. Other foods tended to be overwhelmed by the sauce. Don’t get me wrong: while Ellis’ sauces do taste good, they tend to be a bit too sweet, or a bit too smoky.
Ellis is a very welcomed addition to the expanding South Slope/South Slope South neighborhood. With bar activities most nights of the week, you can be sure that this will be a favorite with the incoming hipster with a job crowd.
Ellis is located at 627 Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets.