I debated for a hot minute over whether or not I’d be writing this story so quickly. Whenever a new restaurant opens in town, I prefer to give them some time to get their systems down before I pop in for a visit. There are exceptions, of course, but generally I wait 4-6 weeks before I visit a new restaurant. Meanwhile, if I visit a place very early and the experience is not enjoyable, I’m not going to repeat that for a while. Ive always believed everyone deserves a decent opportunity to get it right. The only restaurant I’ve visited on opening night was The Florence. Which makes for an ironic twist with this story.
I was invited to dine at the all new 1540 Room at The DeSoto Hotel last week. A couple of days ahead of their official opening. Not only did I come away impressed with the food, but there are some things about this new space that are very important to keep in mind as Savannah continues to transition from what the dining scene was say, 10 years ago, to what it is increasingly becoming today.
For starters, Kyle Jacovino is the Executive Chef at 1540 Room. Kyle, you may recall, was also in charge of the kitchen at The Florence, which closed back on June 25. For my money, and I have said this many times before, Kyle is one of the best culinary talents in this city. It was a huge day for our growing culinary scene when he decided to stay here after The Florence closed. Believe that.
I’ve already heard whispers around town that 1540 is essentially The Florence 2.0. It is not. The chef is the same, yes, so forgive him if he happens to tweak some dishes that are good and brings them to this menu. “Kyle is going to do Kyle food” as a friend of his told me. I could not agree more. But that is all I’m going to say in comparing the two venues. They are different. When you visit the new one, you will see how-so.
Kyle describes his menu as “Mediterranean, Spanish, Latin and maybe a little Italian” in its influence. Those menus will be printed daily. That will allow the kitchen to adjust on the fly to whatever they may have on hand, or very little of, frankly. If some fresh fish comes in that day, it makes it easier to put on a menu rather than try to do it via a special. A lot of restaurants do this, not too many in this area. A nice touch.
You will find seafood on the menu, yes. A few starters include a Swordfish Bruschetta, Flounder and Octopus Ceviche and Cast Iron Octopus dish. Mary Elizabeth Vaquer will be very happy to know there is a Farm Egg dish on there. Mains include a Whole Roasted Fish, their version of a Chicken Saltimbocca and a Braised Wagyu Short Rib that is one of top 5 dishes I’ve eaten in Savannah. Ever.
A couple of things to keep in mind with the 1540 Room. This is not trying to be what anyone would characterize as “Fine Dining.” This is more elevated dining that is a little more comfortable in its approach. Just because it sits in a beautifully renovated dining room inside of a beautifully renovated historic hotel does not mean that they are going for ‘James Bond’ stuffy. In fact, I am told that guests calling for reservations are going to have this fact explained to them. The vision for the 1540 Room is energetic and approachable. For the sake of comparison, those of you who have dined at Atlantic. Would you consider that fine dining? Not at all. It’s quality food in a great atmosphere. It may actually get loud in there. Although I’m told The DeSoto is addressing that issue already.
If you are looking a quiet, romantic white linen table cloth along with a $400 bottle of wine dinner, 1540 is not your spot. The wine list is smallish and the most expensive dish is under $30.00. There is a plan for a ‘community table’ standing area just off of the wide open kitchen to encourage people to enjoy a glass of wine and a small dish while they wait on their table for dinner. Capacity is only about 88. I expect 1540 to be full, regularly. And yes, considering it is now open-dinner only (as well as Sunday Brunch), I would recommend a reservation.
See you on TV,