Friday, April 17, 2015

Fine Dining in a Special Setting

When our friends Lynn and George invited us to join them for dinner in an upscale restaurant on Tellico Lake in Loudon County Tennessee, I must admit that I hesitated just a tad.  It wasn’t the cost…it was the fact that the dress code called for men to preferably wear a sports coat!  I hadn’t worn a sport coat since I retired over 5.5 years ago… I’d only worn a suit twice in the same period of time…once for a wedding and once for a funeral.

But…the temptation to try a new restaurant that has been building a pretty fair reputation was just too much for me to resist!

This dining establishment is ‘Citico’s Restaurant and Club’.  This restaurant is located in a very large upscale home or mansion in the gated Wind River Lakefront and Golf Community off of US Hwy. 321 near Lenoir City Tennessee.

Citico, (also "Settaco" or "Sitiku"), is a prehistoric and historic Native American site in Monroe County, Tennessee.  The site's namesake Cherokee village was the largest of the Overhill towns, housing an estimated population of 1,000 by the mid-18th century.  The Mississippian village that preceded the site's Cherokee occupation is believed to have been the village of "Satapo" visited by the Juan Pardo expedition in 1567.  The actual Citico site is now submerged by the 1979 Tellico Lake impoundment of the Little Tennessee River.  

I wonder if anyone ever uses that pool table...  The décor and woodwork evoked a setting reminiscent of an upscale inn up in the Adirondacks.

George definitely looks at home in that big leather wingback chair!  The bar is in the background…as is the chef.

Laurie and Lynn both liked the casual luxury ‘feel’ of this restaurant.  Citico’s interior is very plush…much like the upscale model home that it once was.  My wife had visited this home a couple of years earlier when it was part of a charitable fund raising home tour.  She told us that the interior hadn’t changed significantly.  

This isn’t the greatest photo…and it wasn't sunny out either but, as you can see, the view of Tellico Lake from the restaurant and from the deck is quite nice.  It was warm enough on this winter day for some folks to visit with each other out on the deck while waiting for their table.

Lynn, George and Laurie had to put up with me wandering around taking photos… They were studying Citico’s seasonal menu.  My thought is that the setting is very nice indeed!

Robert Allen is the Executive Chef of Citico's Restaurant and Club.  He is originally from Texas, where he most recently had worked as the Executive Sous Chef at Escondido Golf and Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay.  Chef Allen is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Austin.

So…onto the food!  This little ‘chef’s taste’, a bit of duck, was the first item we were served…other than our drinks.  It was quite nice.

Warning… I am much more critical of ‘upscale’, ‘expensive’ restaurants than I am of most establishments. 

Credit is where credit is due.  We were a little startled when the server and the bar tender didn’t know how to make a kamikaze.  However, despite any trepidation on our part, they took on the challenge and delivered the perfect kamikaze that Lynn ordered.

I ordered a Jack Daniel’s straight up, ($11.00), and Laurie ordered a very nice glass of Malbec. ($12.00)  The server did forget to bring napkins with the drinks.

In our opinion, our appetizer/item designated for sharing, was “the bomb”!  This is the Fried Brussel Sprouts Pork Belly. ($14.00) It consisted of ‘Tender Brussels Fried with Tennessee Pork Belly Tossed in a Soy Lemon Vinaigrette.’  George and Lynn thought that it was too sweet…but Laurie and I loved this offering!

The menu is seasonal…so the offerings on today’s menu will differ from what we had to choose from.  There are soups and salads, small plates for one and shared/larger plates. A current example of a small plate is the “Short Rib Empanada…Red Wine Braised Short Rib inside a Tender Crust with Cilantro Cream and Ranchero Salsa. ($9.00)  Another example of a ‘shared item would be the “Seafood Fritto Misto…Corn Flour Crusted Shrimp, Fish, and Calamari with Roasted Garlic Remoulade.” ($17.00) 

Laurie and I both ordered Citico’s Caesar Salad. ($9.00…but on the current menu it’s now $8.00) The menu described this salad as being made with “Eco Rich Farms Red and Green Romaine Lettuce, Manchego Cheese and Herb Croutons in a Rich Anchovy Dressing.  It was a nice if overpriced salad…but neither Laurie or I could taste any hint of that distinctive ‘rich’ anchovy flavor!

George ordered the House Butchered Fish. ($30.00) In this case it was Mahi.  It is described as “Sustainably Sourced Fish Cleaned and Butchered in House by Our Chef, Served with Garlic Sautéed Wild Grains and Market Vegetables.  George said that it was very good…

Both Laurie and Lynn ordered the 12 oz. Veal Chops with White Asparagus and greens. ($36.00) Lynn said that hers was overcooked.  Laurie was very happy with hers…medium rare as ordered.  She gave me a taste and it was very good indeed.

Currently, the six entrees listed on the menu range from the “Hen Roulade - Cornish Game Hen Filled with House Made Guanciale and Green Onion Cornbread Stuffing Spinach Fettuccini in a Blood Orange Butter” ($26.00); to the 10 oz. “Beef Tenderloin - Brass Town Tenderloin Filet with Truffle Parmesan Potato Dauphine, Caramelized Carrots and Haricot Vert ($44.00).

I looked over the menu and decided to go with the “Crispy Pork Shank - Tender Pork Shanks Braised in Bacon and Tomato Broth then Coated in Bread Crumbs, Served with Parmesan Grit Cakes and Wilted Greens.” ($26.00) 

Maybe I’m a traditionalist…but I would have described this entrée as “Four shredded Pork Shank Meat Balls”.  To top it off I thought that they were a little dry in the middle.  In fairness, Laurie told me that the server did ask if I would like any additional sauce…but sadly I didn’t hear her.  The ‘pork shank’ (meat) was OK if not special and the greens were very good but I thought that the parmesan grit cakes were completely tasteless.

Citico’s facility and its setting are both dramatic and beautiful.  In general, service was very friendly and efficient… There was a little confusion as waitstaff served the food…it was like a dance that needed a bit more practice.  Our opinion of the food was mixed.  Given the prices, we would look at Citico’s as a good restaurant for a special occasion, especially a romantic one.  It was a nice touch when Chef Allen came out, introduced himself and chatted with us for a few moments. 

We hope that Citico’s Restaurant and Club grows, matures and succeeds.  They have a way to go before they can replace our #1 and #2 upscale restaurant choices in the area.  Number 1 is still the Foothills Milling Company in Maryville and number 2 is Northshore Brasserie in Knoxville.

Citico’s Restaurant and Club is located at 2698 Oakum Court (Wind River) in Lenoir City, Tennessee. (Reservations Only) Phone: 865-986-0009.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. You can tell I don't eat out much as a $36 entree blows me away, especially if it isn't perfect.

  2. It all looks delicious and a great restaurant. My uncle always told me, "it only costs a little more to go first class." :-)

  3. what lovely place David, I love all! and what lovely food, lookdelicous!!
    I love the Caesar salad! but 9 dollars here is $ 5.400 is a little cost!
    I think a salad like this here is about 5 dollars (In a really expensive restaurant) other plates are more expensive of course sigh!