- by Macrae Schaffler
If you have been to one of Karen Carrier’s restaurants before, you will not be surprised when you step through the door of Molly Fontaine Lounge. The old Victorian home, once Carrier’s personal residence, feels a lot like Cielo, the restaurant that used to occupy it
Unassuming from the outside, although located in the heart of Victorian Village, the space is a far cry from anything Memphis has seen in a bar or restaurant thus far. One’s first impression on entering the restaurant is that this place is destined for cool. Beautiful sketches and photographs, many by noted Memphis artists like Jack Robinson and Dorothy Sturm, clutter the walls. The furniture is vintage modern, from the faux-mink covered lounge chairs to the white Barcelona chairs on the upstairs landing. The colors are all romantic shades; the upstairs rooms are blue and fuschia with accents of black and white. There are no tables flanked by chairs as one would expect, but as the name states, this is not a restaurant - it’s a lounge.
We chose to sit upstairs on both of our visits to Molly Fontaine. There is a large bar downstairs along with plenty of comfortable chairs and side/coffee/cocktail tables, but the smaller upstairs bar and charming sitting rooms appealed to our naughty side - we felt a little like we were in on a secret by hiding out upstairs. On our first visit, we took our seats at the tiny upstairs bar. We found the wine list to be very affordable. My glass of Campanile Pinot Grigio was only $6. The bar also offers a few signature cocktails, one of which is a blueberry mojito that I highly recommend to anyone who is a fan of either blueberries or mojitos.
The atmosphere is perfectly complimented by the menu at Molly Fontaine. Composed of an incredibly varied selection of small plates, the menu is divided into sections labeled Earth, Garden, Sea, Land, and Desserts. Carrier has adopted a playful and trendy, yet sophisticated outlook in creating this menu. Featured ingredients include za’atar, the Middle Eastern combo of thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt; spice nut dust, candied lemon zest, pickled red onions, and sumac, as well as local ingredients such as Tennessee figs, Ripley tomatoes, and bacon from Benton’s.
On our first visit, we sampled the Tennessee figs with warm goat cheese, the warm ricotta, the Greek salad, the steamed mussels, the Fontaine sliders, the grilled chicken wings, the serrano ham, the sweet steamed corn on the cob, and the black pepper gougeres blta. My personal favorite on this visit had to be the sliders. Two miniature hamburgers with arugula, bacon, pickles, onion, mustard, and Mollies sauce (a chipotle-flavored aioli), and either gruyere or Vermont white cheddar. (On our second visit, we tried the french fries, delicious and served in a Chinese take-out box - a great accompaniment to the sliders.)
I also particularly enjoyed the gougeres, cheesy little cream puffs that, at Molly Fontaine, are split open and filled with bacon, arugula, tomato, avocado, pickled red onions, and sesame sage spread. The sweet steamed corn was ordered after all of the other items, because it was strongly recommended by our bartender. The kind bartender was right. The corn comes out on the cob, cut into two halves and served on a stick like a Mid-South Fair corn dog. They are coated in Cotija cheese and served with slices of lime and dots of hot sauce on the plate. The corn is best sampled with all of the condiments. Bring your toothpicks.
On our second visit, we sampled the fish club, avocado tempura, macaroni and cheese, garlic shrimp, Fontaine fish fry, twice baked potato, and crispy duck rice paper rolls. The fish club was delicious and loaded with fried red snapper, tomato, bacon, onion and marmalade on grilled slices of brioche - plenty for one person to have a full stomach. The avocado tempura was reminiscent of guacamole in a crispy little package. The garlic shrimp was served New Orleans style in a spicy, buttery barbecue sauce with bread for dipping.
Sadly, we filled up on too many small plates to have sampled any dessert, but if the rest of the dishes are any indication, then I am very much looking forward to sampling the profiteroles and Ricki’s toasted brioche chocolate sandwiches on our next visit.
Small plates at Molly Fontaine range in price from $3 to $10.
Molly Fontaine Lounge
679 Adams Avenue
Open Wednesday through Saturday from 5PM until 2-ish AM
Rating: 4/5 spoons
Ambience: 4/5 spoons
Food: 4/5 spoons
Service: 4/5 spoons
Macrae Schaffler writes the food blog Edible Therapy.