Honeywood is the newest addition to Chef Ouita Michel’s ongoing seminar celebrating regional cuisine with locally sourced foods.
She started with the white tablecloth Holly Hill Inn in Midway, which after 17 years remains a favorite spot for special occasions in the region. Other businesses include the more down-to-earth country cafes of Wallace Station and Wind corner, and the truck a little more than a food truck Smithtown Seafood which serves the West Sixth Brewing crowd near downtown Lexington.
But, if the themes of Michel are coherent, it does not repeat itself. Honeywood is his first adventure in a suburban mall, the upscale Summit.
In a way, this is an ambitious endeavor. The restaurant should satisfy shoppers looking for an affordable break, southerners looking for something better and more distinctive (but perhaps not much more expensive) than the chains around them, and the younger clientele looking for a place to get an innovative cocktail and good bites.
Honeywood must do all of this while showcasing the local foods that are at the heart of the Michel brand and dear to them.
After two recent visits to Honeywood, it seemed to me that Michel and Executive Chef Josh Smouse were on the verge of hitting the mark. The place is very welcoming – no southern or rural hokey decor, it’s a clean, bright environment where you can see the food without ever feeling dazzled.
And the staff, as promised in the promotional material, were uniformly pleasant and accommodating. When we wanted a soup and then a dessert split in two ways it happened with no complaints (or at no extra cost!), When we asked about the menu they got a quick and knowledgeable response. And the food – this is a restaurant review after all – was generally very good, sometimes exceptional, sometimes it was more like good comfort food, once only disappointing.
Let’s start with the aperitifs. I tasted two soups, both of which I would happily have. The gazpacho ($ 3) was exceptional. It is mixed so as not to have the salad appearance of some gazpachos. Even though you couldn’t see the vegetables, you could taste them. Honeywood’s reliance on fresh, local produce shone, tomatoes, cucumbers and the herbal range sang in the fresh, flavorful soup.
Another day I had the veggie okra ($ 4) with some reservations about how it might work. But, again, a real treat. The roux was creamy and complex, it had a distinctive spicy note, and the okra was plentiful and tasty. The Savory Sweet Potato Fritters ($ 7) and Tokyo Fried Chicken ($ 10) were very good but not as exciting to me. Each had a nice counterpoint – a sweet and sour chili sauce with the donuts and pickles mixed with the spicy chicken nuggets. And both were generous portions, easy enough for two to share.
For main courses, we tried Howard’s Pork Chop, served over creamy oatmeal. The chop ($ 11 for one, $ 15 for two) is thinly sliced ââbut it was cooked just right, not at all dry or hard. A pork jus with apple butter was sweet but not too potent, a nice compliment to the pork (recognizing one of the great classic pairings of regional cuisine: apples and pork).
Likewise, Honeywood did a great job with the roast ($ 16) which was beautifully caramelized on the outside from slow cooking in red wine and very tender on the inside. It was clear that the potato gratin and the glazed carrots that came with it had been in the local soils not long before.
For lunch, I tried the Fried Green Tomato BLT ($ 12) with a plentiful serving of fries. The bacon was excellent – this is where the right ingredients make all the difference – and in addition to the breaded and fried green tomato, there was a generous slice of flavorful red tomato, a leaf of fresh lettuce, and a homemade mayonnaise. Marvellous.
The big disappointment among the main courses was the Florida Fishing Cottage ($ 25), a casserole of sliced ââpotatoes, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, and spinach topped with a generous helping of grouper. Someone must have left this dish in a very hot oven because the grouper was way overcooked. Even the vegetables weren’t very satisfying, whether it was from overcooking or just because the potatoes were crushing others, I’m not sure.
The dessert was more successful. The Sweet Cornbread Skillet Cake topped with Salted Caramel Ice Cream ($ 8) was a delicious mix of sweet and salty, creamy and slightly grainy cornbread. Unless you’re a big desert eater, one serving might be enough for two. We also shared a sorbet and prosecco, a nice summer dessert with dry prosecco a nice addition to the sorbet.
And, finally, speaking of summer, try one of Honeywood’s seasonal cocktails. The elderflower spritz I had was very good, bright, balanced and refreshing. My dinner companion had the rose sangria which was also nice but a little sweet for my taste.
110 Summit at Fritz Farm Suite 140
11 am-10pm Monday to Saturday; 11 am-9pm Sunday.
Accessible to people with disabilities, all major credit cards.
Vegetarian options available.