Chef's TV Dinner at River Oaks

I had dinner last month at River Oaks in East Memphis for the November restaurant review in Memphis magazine (be sure to check it out), which meant I also had lunch as part of the process.

While I had trouble at dinner deciding what to order, I had no such problem at lunch thanks to the Chef's TV Dinner, a menu option that jumped off the menu and into my heart. "Look at this," I said to my husband. "A French chef with a sense of humor."

Not that I was surprised at the menu whimsy, as the chef at River Oaks is Jose Gutierrez, whose years at Chez Philippe, in my mind a very serious restaurant, did little to dent his infectious personality. I asked the chef how he came up with the TV dinner concept. "It came from the plate," he said, referring to the plate's four squares, divided like traditional TV dinners. "Like most dishes, they come from either the wine or the plate."

When the dish I arrived, I was delighted with it's charming presentation and by the four mini-plates of food: pork tenderloin with bordelaise sauce, a medley of zucchini, carrots, baby pearl onions and broccoli florets, an arugula salad with chopped red pepper and shaved Parmesan, and (be still my heart) a chocolate fondant cake holding court in a pool of strawberry glaze.

Before you run right out tomorrow for this TV dinner at lunch ($16), remember that the four selections change every day. Sometimes the entree portion is a pasta or seafood depending on the chef's proclivity, but rest assured: One of the four selections is always dessert.
River Oaks, 5871 Poplar, 683-9305 (

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