Allure: "To entice by charm or attraction." That's what the dictionary says anyway. And I must admit that Allure -- the restaurant -- certainly hit the mark when I visited.
Set off the main drag in an area of Montgomery that conjures a cross between Cape Cod and a Japanese tea garden, the sounds of a bubbling fountain greet you as your feet hit the boards of the walkway leading to a little village of restaurants and businesses.
This attention to sound is repeated once indoors. The bar area leads into an open dining room that could easily be distracting if sounds were allowed to bounce off hard surfaces, but the tables retain an intimate feel, protected by fabrics, and a translucent red curtain hangs on the ceiling.
Once settled into one of the curved leather booth couches, which are soft shades of mustard yellow or sea green, I found Allure's affordable wine selection attractive as well: Only three of the 26 wines offered by the glass top $10.
As for the dining menu, Executive Chef Ron Perez has created an appealing blend of offerings which includes touches of Southern (Fried Green Tomato BLT; $7) and Asian (Edamame Succotash side; $5) influences and a heavy emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients: The goat cheese in the Pan Fried Goat Cheese Roulade ($7) is from Indiana and the Iceberg Wedge Salad ($7) is served with seasonal white peaches rather than the more traditional pears.
My appetizer, the Bruschetta of the Day ($7), featured Black Russian heirloom tomatoes from a farm in Chillicothe with six cheeses: Vermont sharp cheddar; Pecorino Romano from Italy; a sage Derby from England; dry-aged provolone; manchego from Spain; and Point Reyes blue cheese ($7). How can you go wrong with that combination?
My husband's Proscuitto & Melon Wrapped Prawns ($12) looked phenomenal. The prawns were wrapped in a neat package of prosciutto with a slice of cantaloupe and honeydew on either side. The presentation is attractive as all get out, but the taste didn't wow me -- I think I was expecting a more robust flavor.
For the next course I took up the gauntlet the menu threw down: Real French Onion Soup ($8). As someone who never orders French onion soup at a restaurant, I practically guffawed at the description: beef stock, toasted baguette, six onions and imported Gruyere. Well, I know when I'm licked -- Perez's version was excellent. The broth -- which he later confided was a brown chicken stock made in-house rather than beef as the menu states -- was rich and sweet with the flavor of slow-cooked white, red, Vidalia, yellow, cipollini and green onions. The sweetness of the cipolin and the sherry Perez used for deglazing added a wonderful depth to the dish.
While I slurped down the last drop of my soup, my husband worked on his Caribbean Jerk Tuna Salad ($12) with haricot verts, mango, radish, pickled ginger, spring mix and garlic lime dressing. It was a refreshing change from the usual rawish Ahi tuna offerings on so many menus today. And the hunk of fish would easily have made a main-dish portion.
I had picked my entrée weeks ago when I checked out Allure's menu online -- Crispy Fried Free Range Breast of Chicken with waffles ($19). "Sounds like drunk food," my husband commented. I thought it sounded like a dish a kid would make up.
Turns out that he was closer to the legend of the dish's origins: The Wells Supper Club in Harlem claims to be the birthplace of chicken and waffles. Legend has it that the club started selling the dish to customers in 1938 as a late-night snack for folks who wanted a meal that could be both dinner and breakfast for the next day. Crazy jazzers.
My serving was definitely designed for two, if not three, meals. Two halves of crispy, pan-fried chicken were served with a waffle drizzled in a sweet-tart pomegranate molasses. I would have liked my waffle a little browner, but otherwise it was like eating candy for dinner without getting yelled at by Mom.
My husband's 10-ounce Maple Smoked Prime Rib with Thyme Au Jus and Horseradish Cream ($24, or $30 for 16 ounces) was tender and its maple flavor was surprisingly conservative. A little maple can go a long way, and Perez's control in that department seemed just right.
While our server wasn't entirely menu savvy, he did make us feel that each of our choices was a spectacular decision on our part. Bless him. He didn't even try to guilt us into dessert when we had reached the Monty Python one-wafer-thin-mint stage of fullness. We'll have to save that for next time. ©
Go: 8300 Market Place Lane, Montgomery
Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m, Friday and Saturday 5, 5-9 p.m. Sunday
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, past, seafood, chicken
Accessibility: Fully accessible