Chef Driven

Veranda's chef Tom Robey

Veranda on Highland’s kitchen is an imaginative workshop.

by Jan Walsh, Photography by Beau Gustafson

Combine a beautiful, historic ambience with impeccable service and Southern hospitality. Add the inventive fare of a top-notch chef. And you have Veranda on Highland.
The Place
The building that houses Veranda on Highland dates to 1908 and was originally a private home—The Merritt House. An enhanced version of the American Foursquare style, the home featured expansive porches, dormers, and stained and leaded glass. Today the restaurant has nine separate dining rooms  as well as a popular patio, where Sunday Jazz Brunch and dinner (Monday through Saturdays) are served amidst the glow of fireplaces and stained glass windows.
The Chef
Executive Chef Tom Robey graduated from Johnson & Wales University. He worked for Trump Castle briefly before his 18-year stint at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans—working his way from line cook to sous chef, as well as assisting in the restaurant’s expansion into Las Vegas. For the past three and a half years he has made Veranda on Highland his home and his own.
The Service
Dining room manager Stanley Reynolds ensures my dining experience is optimal. From the friendliness and professionalism of the valet to the attentive yet unobtrusive table service, Reynolds has a hand and an eye on it all. He came to Veranda on Highland with Robey from Commander’s Palace, where he was also the dining room manager.

Papa Doble

The Bar

The new signature drink at Papa’s Bar is Papa Doble, which was one of Hemingway’s favorites. It is served with touches of whimsy—in mason jars with paper straws that are color coordinated with Veranda’s décor. This light, rummy and red grapefruit concoction is a newfound favorite. And the Ultimate Chocolate Martini achieves the right mix of deep, dark chocolate flavors offset by a frothy creaminess. It is not syrupy. It is not too milky. It is heaven in a martini glass. Papa’s Bar has its own menu of starters, salads and sandwiches. Don’t miss the Shrimp Remoulade and Veranda Burger.
The Chef’s Table
My favorite seat in the house is a private space—The Chef’s Table. The custom built, heart redwood, 1,500-bottle capacity Wine Cellar is located upstairs. This climate–controlled environment is optimal for aging wines and for reds to be opened and immediately served—at cellar temperature. The cellar is filled with bottles from both the new wine list and library wine list, including many half-bottle selections, large formats and vintage wines. Centered in the middle of the room is a mahogany chef’s table with an antique pedestal of hammered iron. It can also be opened into the adjacent dining room or moved to the entire upstairs for larger private events.
Favorite Fare
Chef Robey’s Seared Scallops appetizers make a lovely presentation. Served on a small, white, shell shaped plate, the succulent scallops are dotted with bacon-braised shallots, apple smoked bacon and horseradish cream. The scallops are enhanced, rather than overpowered, by the variety of interesting flavors and contrasting textures synthesized here. I never fail to order it when I find it on the Veranda’s menu. Chef Robey is famous for his soups, and his Lamb and White Bean Soup lives up to this reputation. This deep, dark rue is filled with bite-sized bits of lamb, tender white beans and layers of complex flavors.

Grilled Cold Water Lobster Tail

An entrée of Grilled Cold Water Lobster Tail is served in a deep bowl atop an early winter succotash—of field peas, corn, carrots and Chardonnay butter. The pink lobster tail is melt–in–the–mouth tender and succulent. A tablespoon of tomato jam accents the top of the tail and adds a lovely acidity to the lobster meat and the crisp, vegetables. Tanglewood Farm’s All Natural Chicken Breast entrée arrives with tangy dried cherries, bites of orzo pasta, tiny teardrop tomatoes and an orange horseradish jus. The finest chicken cooked to perfection with a chef’s touch of accenting flavors—just lovely! And a dessert of Butterscotch Brulee—made of a divine homemade butterscotch—ends another special evening at Veranda on Highland on a sweet note.•

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