Crab and Corn Chowder
Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust
In less than a year at its new location, Wild Thyme Gourmet has firmly established itself as a Highlands Main Street institution.
Part of its appeal is the luxurious full-service bar, plush in its appointments and designed for sparkling conversation. The new location has allowed Wild Thyme to expand its wine list (earning it The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the last three years) and beer selection (both bottle and on tap).
The dining room is bright and cozy and adorned with gorgeous art.
Wild Thyme’s patio, with its bright red umbrellas, recalls the casual elegance of European bistros – during the day it’s the perfect spot to view the endlessly fascinating parade of humanity. At night, it’s candle-lit and perfect for whispered intimacies.
But let’s face it, that all takes back seat to Wild Thyme Gourmet’s exquisitely composed menu.
That menu derives from the genius of chef/owner Dindu Lama. He learned the fundamentals of kitchen work in his native Nepal, but it was his immigration to America that sparked his passion for culinary art. It was his arrival in Highlands that brought his gifts to their full flowering.
“It was good to be in America, I learned to cook Chinese and Thai food, but New York is so big and so different from home,” he explains. “But a friend of my brother was a chef at On the Verandah and he said I should come to live in Highlands. He said there was work and the people were nice.”
A visit convinced Dindu that Highlands was closer to the America he imagined as a boy.
After a lot of hard work, fate provided the perfect opportunity.
Now that he owns Wild Thyme, Dindu’s menu is a provocative blend of nouvelle cuisine infused with Asian spices and sensibilities.
Some people visit for a quick lunch – a salad or soup of sandwich. For them, the bistro is just a stopping point in a day built around shopping or golf or a vigorous hike. And sure enough, the food is fresh and delicious and undeniably nutritious.
They’re wise choices and it’s a good strategy, but I recommend you come to Wild Thyme ravenous.
That’s how my sweetie and I arrived, and we dove into each selection with unbridled delight.
She started with a wonderfully constructed Heart of Palm Salad – an emerald bed of mixed field greens, julienned vegetables, splashed with a carefully balanced Balsamic vinaigrette.
For me, The Wedge – a majestic chunk of iceberg lettuce drizzled with house-made bleu cheese dressing and warm bacon. It was difficult to share with Tricia.
The Wedge was complemented by a bowl of Crab and Corn Chowder that was hearty and delicately spiced. I did not share.
The singular quality of the salads set the tone for the entrees that followed.
My sweetie’s Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust had been slowly oven-roasted with a delicate citrus beurre blanc. The shallots in the reduction acted as a perfect complement to the salmon’s just-hauled-out-of-the-water freshness.
For me, it was the Panéed Breast of Chicken, a subtle parmesan-and-rosemary-crusted creation, served with a lemon caper butter sauce.
Despite my previous reluctance, we shared entrees because, come on, it’s Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust!
In fact, so right were the entrees that I ordered Waterfall Beef to go. It’s a spicy stir fry of beef tenderloin, fresh vegetables, ginger, cilantro and lime, served on a bed of basmati rice. Once, a thousand years ago, I lived in Bangkok and darned if Dindu didn’t return me to those halcyon days.
There’s obviously a lot of attention lavished on these dishes. Whether you’re one of those who considers Wild Thyme a quick stop bistro or you’re looking for a place to relax and indulge, you’ll find that Dindu and his crew have a place that’s just right for you.
Wild Thyme Gourmet is located at 343 Main Street in Town Square. Call ahead for reservations at (828) 526-4035. It’s open seven days, lunch 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., dinner from 5:30 P.M..-‘til.
By Luke Osteen