We had a brief moment of panic Saturday night when our server at Little Savannah told us they had sold out of the herb-marinated wild boar tenderloin that Evan was salivating over. Thanks goodness chef Clif Holt had put one aside for us after his wife/partner Maureen told him we had expressed interest in it to her during a pre-dinner chat.
We've never had wild boar before (and I only got one taste!), but it was incredibly flavorful, yet not what I would call gamey. It bore very little resemblance to commercial pork. Where a domesticated pork tenderloin is light pink, fine-grained and tender, the boar was deep ruby red, coarser-grained and firmer, though not tough or chewy.
(Read more about wild boar at Chow.com)
My seared scallops, while perhaps not as adventurous, were divine, perfectly cooked and seasoned. They were served with braised pork cheeks, which was another new experience for us.
Here's what theotherwhitemeat.com has to say about pork cheeks: "As suggested by the name, pork cheek is a rich, highly flavorful cut that originates in the hog’s cheek. Because the cheek muscles do considerable chewing, the cut is typically rich in fat. Cheek also is not traditionally a tender cut, so it is best when prepared using gentle, moist-heat cooking methods such as braising and stewing." Braised as they were at Little Savannah, they fell apart into tender shreds that I ate with the wonderful grilled asparagus and some sauteed mushrooms that I could have eaten a whole plate of.
Little Savannah also has a cocktail menu that's one of our favorites, a nice mix of classics and creative originals, several using infused vodkas. I had a drink that was new, not on the list, a mojito-style drink with vodka, grapefruit juice and sage. We chuckled over the "Southern Baptist Martini" -- Absolut Mandarin, coconut and sprite.
Not everything was perfect; the red wine a bit too warm, a few dishes needed some salt, but those were fairly minor details.
We also enjoyed chatting with Clif and Maureen. (Hope they don't mind us borrowing the photo from their web site, where you'll find recent menus, cooking class schedules and a full bio.) Clif is a Cullman boy who traveled the world in the Navy; Maureen, a Birmingham native, turned to the restaurant world to finance her education but ended up staying. If you've ever found other restaurants too stuffy, chefs too full of themselves, Little Savannah is the antidote. The atmosphere is nice-casual and funky, with wine menu headings spelled out in a sort of Southern phonics ("Seer-aahhh", "Peeno-nwire"), and a logo that looks to be inspired by Harley-Davidson's.
Little Savannah is the type of neighborhood restaurant that makes us wish we lived in that neighborhood.