For my birthday weekend, my parents and I decided to drive up to Asheville, NC and spend some time in this charming town. Asheville has a population of approximately 87,000 people, nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, and is known for its arts, the great outdoors, and of course, incredible cuisine. For this particular evening, we narrowed our choice to Rhubarb based on their availability for seating for three between the prime dinner hours of 6PM to 8PM.
The James Beard Foundation highlighted the owner/chef of Rhubarb, John Fleer, as a Rising Star of the 21st Century. Additionally, John Fleer received a finalist spot for James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast on several occasions. However, you don’t have to be aware of the chef’s accolades to enjoy a wonderful meal at Rhubarb.
The location of Rhubarb is at 7 SW Pack Square, although if you are looking at a zoomed-out map of Asheville, it’s located a few feet away from the very busy Asheville Avenue and Patton Avenue intersection.
If you pay attention to the details, both on the exterior and interior of Rhubarb, you will notice the incorporation of natural elements (such as wood and flowers) and the rustic ambiance.
We were made aware by our server that because of the farm-to-table nature of Rhubarb, the menu is actually changed daily (as evidenced by the stamp with the current date on each of the menus the diners review). The appetizer menu is dubbed “Passing Time” and for fall 2018, it appeared very similar to what is presented on Rhubarb’s website:
We decided to try out the barbecued lamb ribs and the seared royal red shrimp from the “Passing Time” section of the menu for our appetizers.
The lamb ribs were very tender with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. They were absolutely delicious and could serve as one’s main course. The shrimp were delicate, and the cashew butter was an amazing touch to the shrimp.
From the main course menu, we decided to order the wood-roasted whole sunburst trout, wood-grilled BCF bavette steak, and the quail (which isn’t seen in the menu screenshot below).
The server kindly asked whether we would like to have the trout cleaned for bone removal, to which we agreed. A few snaps from this de-boning (which was riveting in its own right) are below. (I commented this procedure shares a fine balance between an art and a science).
The quail was beautifully presented and the raspberry sauce on the side was delicious.
Rhubarb (the setting) is charming, rustic, and embodies Chef & Owner John Fleer’s perspective on the connecting power of food:
I believe in the power of the table, the value of passing food, and of sharing stories and listening. These moments around a shared table deepen the ties between people we care about, in turn strengthening the web of our families, friendships, and communities.
Sharing food is transformative. I have experienced it throughout my life with family and friends and strangers. As a chef, I have witnessed how sharing a meal can reveal insights and discovery – often unexpected – about who we are and why we do what we do. These experiences deepen the connections between us, connections that ultimately elevate our lives.
Overall, Rhubarb was a five-star experience all-around: food, service, and ambiance were incredible. I definitely recommend trying out Rhubarb if you’re ever in Asheville, NC.
If You Go
Rhubarb is located in downtown Asheville, NC at 7 SW Pack Square. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner, although Rhubarb has some tables open for walk-in customers during prime hours.
On a future visit to Asheville (and especially if your itinerary falls on a Sunday), it would be really interesting to check out the Sunday Supper at Rhubarb. The Sunday Supper is a three-course meal ($34 for adults and $13 for children), and its premise is explained by Chef/Owner John Fleer:
Each Sunday at 6:30 we serve a three-course meal at the communal tables. The Sunday Supper menu is different from the regular restaurant menu and reflects the bounty of the weekend markets presented family style. Also, a local guest farmer hosts our weekly convivial community tables. It’s not just “farm to table”, it’s “Farmer to Table”. We start with a selection of snacks to pass, proceed to an entrée with several accompaniments served family style and finish with dessert.
The supper table is a universal opportunity for people who may or may not know each other to reflect on the day and on their shared experiences. Maybe children and restaurants don’t always mix perfectly, but the table is where kids learn to talk, listen, share, and become a part of a community. Families and communities, however you define them, harmonize naturally at the dinner table, at a restaurant or in the home. That’s how I hope everyone will experience Sunday Supper.