An epic experience

04/28/2011 9:55 PM

04/28/2011 10:09 PM

Epic has so many definitions these days, it’s hard to know where to begin: There’s the adjective epic, which means imposing or impressive. There’s the noun epic, which can be a long poem or a movie concerning heroic deeds. In teen slang, epic can mean brilliant – or a mistake of huge proportions. And then there’s the chophouse Epic, in downtown Mooresville. It’s impressive, sometimes brilliant, and can involve a heroic deed if you order the 32-ounce cut of prime rib and actually eat the whole thing. Located in the 19th century brick building on South Main Street that used to house the restaurant Soiree, Epic Chophouse makes full use of its venue. Ceilings are high, artwork is large, and the potted palms in the center go with the 1940s-glamour vibe. That doesn’t mean dark, though: With white walls, light wood floors and soaring windows on the street, the place feels light and airy, and buzzing with activity. Mooresville seems to be returning the attention with a group hug: Even on a Wednesday night, almost every table was filled with large groups and couples. The room is big enough to handle it, so even when it’s crowded, it doesn’t feel overcrowded or unbearably noisy, Back to definitions: In most dictionaries, a chophouse is a restaurant that’s associated with large cuts of meat. Epic is true to the name there. The menu has an emphasis on beef just as you’d expect, along with chicken, a few other meats (lamb, veal and pork make appearances) and a smattering of pastas. Seafood is mostly of the luxurious variety (lobster tails, whole flounder, crab cakes). Duck shows up as the intriguingly named “duck duet” - tea-smoked, seared duck breast and confit leg with a pomegranate glaze. Before you tuck into steaks, take a stop on the appetizer menu. Knowing we had big cuts of meat ahead of us, we skipped over the lobster tempura (with regret) and the fried oysters Rockefeller and started simple with Chophouse Cheese Toast. Oh, my: What arrived was a generous plate of six slices. Long wedges of toasted, crusted bread were topped with a creamy, puffy, cheese mixture with a hint of green onion, browned in strips across the top. It was impossibly rich, and impossible to resist. So much for starting small. The Epic Caesar was worthy of the name. Instead of just chopped romaine lettuce sprinkled with Parmesan and tossed with salty dressing, it included chunks of spicy pecans and several marinated, roasted Roma tomatoes that were so much better than out-of-season tomatoes. It would have been a hit out of the park, except the lettuce included so many large chunks of romaine ribs that it was difficult to eat. Most steaks and chops come with a choice of a potato dish (baked potato, potato cakes, fried potato wedges, German potato salad or mashed Yukon Golds). Potato wedges were the size of summer-camp canoes and cooked all the way through, but the real winner was the potato cakes – light and fluffy, like patties of good mashed potatoes barely contained within a little crust. For something green, you choose (and pay separately) from a list of side dishes, ranging from asparagus with very lemony hollandaise to sugar snap peas. Fans of steakhouse classics will be happy to see a particularly rich and decadent version of creamed spinach, with almost more cream sauce than spinach and a hint of nutmeg. (Sides are $4.95 each, but they’re ample enough to share, or you can substitute one for your potato for $3). The New York Strip was large, but cooked well and had plenty of flavor. The Pork Porterhouse was a well-trimmed, bone-in pork chop that was almost 3 inches thick. Both were crusted with salt and pepper and seared, giving plenty of flavor. Desserts are made locally but not in-house, and featured the usual suspects – creme brulee, cheesecake, Key lime pie and bread pudding. We opted for Molten Lava Cake, which had plenty of warm chocolate in the center, but hardly any of the Strawberry Creme Anglais that was supposed to accompany it. In a place that gets so many details right, the few missteps tend to stand out. The first was the huge lettuce ribs left in the salad. The second was more annoying: A glass of red wine arrived with wine splashed all over the base of the glass, as if the server had been elbowed crossing the room. Accidents happen and we wouldn’t object – but to deliver it that way without ever tidying up? Big steaks don’t come cheap, but Epic’s prices seemed reasonable. Although most of the steaks are in the $20 to $25 range, that pork chop was only $13.95, and there were a number of entrees for $12 to $18. With so much going for it, here’s hoping that Epic gets a chance to make a name for itself in Mooresville.

Epic Chophouse 104 S. Main St., Mooresville. 704-230-1720; www.epicchophouse.com, and an active Facebook page. 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Saturdays. Free valet parking available (helpful, as Mooresville’s parking can be tight). Reservations suggested but not required. Prices: Appetizers $5.50-$10.95; soups and salads $4.95 to $9.95; entrees $10.95 to $32.95 (sides extra, $4.95). Occupancy: 250.

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