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Three Blind Mice restaurant review, Lilburn

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For one of our first dates 20-some years ago, my wife took me out to eat in the suburb where she lived. A friend had told her it was the fanciest French restaurant in town, which I’m sure it was. An oleaginous maitre d’ who spoke with a (most likely fake) accent and upsold us at every turn served our food.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

But of course, we had to order the house specialty steak Diane, more expensive than any other item. He finished it with greasy flourish tableside — flaming a skillet with brandy, then adding fat glugs of cream. “For madame and for monsieur,” he said, lavishing the peppercorn-crusted, cream-soaked, bloody meat onto plates. It was, of course, delicious and the right meal for a very fine date.

I hadn’t seen steak Diane on a menu until I dined at Three Blind Mice in Lilburn. Here it comes with much less flourish. Plated in the kitchen with an artful swipe of brandy cream, a hillock of roasted potato and onion, and a pepper-dusted New York strip ($22), it’s a happy reminder of old-school indulgence with a laid-back modern edge.

That describes most of the menu at this welcome surprise of a restaurant. Tucked into a little shopping strip that’s still looking for tenants, Three Blind Mice cannily straddles two worlds. At one glance, it is the nicest restaurant in town. Chef Matthew Murphy (who co-owns the restaurant with several operating partners) drops French words, gourmet ingredients and plenty of heavy cream into the menu. But take another look, and it’s a bouncy neighborhood joint with live music, an attached wine shop, decent prices and enough comfort on the menu to encourage a weeknight meal. The food is good, if sometimes too rich. But the energy and tone of this restaurant seems pretty close to ideal for the neighborhood.

Chicken saltimbocca (all photos by Becky Stein)

Chicken saltimbocca (all photos by Becky Stein)

You enter into a small wine “library” set with lounge furniture and stocked with shelves of wine to drink there or purchase. If you’re dining, the hostess will lead you around the corner of the bar into the long corridor dining room — a noisy space decorated with the kind of semi-finish that registers as cool. Look for painted concrete floors, billowy curtains for space dividers and butcher paper on the tabletops.

Scallop appetizer

Scallop appetizer

Murphy’s training background includes stints at well-known restaurants in Paris and New York (as well as Shaun’s here in Atlanta). He brings real game in an appetizer of cast-iron skillet seared scallops ($12) with French lentils, thick celery root sauce and a bright ruffle of watercress.

Celery root reappears in a soup ($8) on this seasonal menu — here finished with mushrooms, tarragon and a good bit of cream. When you get one of the mini cubes of actual celery root in a spoonful, the soup sings its tune well.

Murphy’s strength is his palate. Chicken saltimbocca ($16) arrives as three breast fillets, each seared with sage and slivered prosciutto sticking to the surface like a porky graft. Add in a bracing lemon-caper sauce, and you get all kinds of interesting flavors that come together as you chew. The accentuated salt of the seared prosciutto plays gorgeously off the tart sauce.

But perhaps the kitchen’s weakness — at least on busy nights — is its execution. A roasted beet salad ($9) with greens, pecans, blue cheese and the ingenious addition of roasted butternut squash is a gloppy, drippy mess. It’s a kind of gloppy, drippy mess that you want to shovel in because it tastes so good, but it palls quickly. And as much as I liked that steak Diane, it did come out a full temperature too cooked.

At dinner the crowd seems to favor couples on dates or double dates, though the bar — which features all kinds of house cocktails — seems a good destination for Lilburn singles. At lunch, however, the tables fill with wine-sipping ladies.

Woudja check out the meringue on that?

Woudja check out the meringue on that?

And the kitchen serves just the lunch they’re looking for. A thick slice of ciabatta is the foundation for a grilled vegetable tartine ($8) spread with peppered goat cheese and piled with juicy nubbins of mushroom, onion and roasted bell pepper. A croque madame ($8) is no ham sandwich in drag but the real deal — a bubbly concoction of bread-sandwiched ham with mornay sauce and a fried egg that adds runny yolk to all the richness.

These ladies manage to save room for one of the house desserts — preferably the tart key lime pie ($7) crested with a fluff of toasted meringue.

Three Blind Mice really knows how to deliver the experience that its neighbors need. Once the kitchen can execute the food more consistently, it will be a real draw for everyone.

THREE BLIND MICE
1066 Killian Hill Road, Lilburn; 770-696-4139
2stars5Food: Nicely prepared American bistro fare
Service: Endearing, even during the dinner rush
Best dishes: Seared scallops, chicken saltimbocca, steak Diane, croque madame, key lime pie
Vegetarian selections: Salads, sides and a risotto dish
Credit cards: All major
Hours:  Breakfast, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday; lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  Tuesday-Saturday; dinner, 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday; brunch, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Children: Seems like most people here got babysitters, but older kids would be fine
Parking: In lot
Reservations: For parties of  six or more
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Fairly high
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes

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34 comments Add your comment

Genevieve

May 26th, 2011
8:28 am

We found it a lovely spot for a group luncheon of 12. They seated us in the wine library where it was somewhat private and not too noisy.

Samantha

May 26th, 2011
12:50 pm

And if they would just keep their website updated with what is currently on the menu it would be great. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone in expecting to get something off their menu from website only to be told it isn’t current. It’s 2011. There is no excuse for them to not have updated website/Facebook page.

Teddy

May 26th, 2011
3:02 pm

The thing about Lilburn is who wants to go to dinner there? The place is run down and gives me the creeps. I live in Gwinnett and go out of my way to avoid the area. Too bad the Jimmy Carter slum has spread into another part of the county.

Harrison

May 26th, 2011
3:06 pm

We go way too many times each week than we should. This is far and away the best restaurant in Lilburn. As mentioned in the review, the scallops are fantastic. I’ve had everything on the menu, except the chicken saltimbocca. I will try it next time. Menu is very limited on Sundays, so go Tuesday-Saturday if you want the full menu. We always sit at the bar. Everyone that works there is friendly and knowledgeable.

Tonya C.

May 26th, 2011
3:18 pm

Teddy, where the hell in Lilburn are you going? This area encompasses great schools, nice homes, and is a very stable suburb. I don’t live in Lilburn but can’t sit by while it’s trashed unnecessarily.

ted from tucker

May 26th, 2011
3:35 pm

jimmy carter is the rodeo drive of a-town.

Liz from Lilburn

May 26th, 2011
4:23 pm

Got news for you folks. This little joint isn’t anywhere near Jimmy Carter. A good 15 minutes away once you catch all the lights on Killian Hill/Indian Trail. It’s right by a daycare and a handful of neighborhoods.

Alison from Lilburn

May 26th, 2011
4:27 pm

Teddy, you don’t know Lilburn do you?This joint is in the Brookwood school district. Last time I checked, that school district is the most desirable in the county if not the metro area.

ted from tucker

May 26th, 2011
4:29 pm

teddy teddy fofetti phi fi fofetti teddy. teddy you got served.

Teddy

May 26th, 2011
11:55 pm

Well, I think any honest person knows what I am talking about. Yes, there are still some nice areas around Lilburn, but been down Indian Trail, Lawrenceville Highway, Pleasant Hill lately? These areas are falling into disrepair and it is hard to see this as an area to hang out in.

Baltisraul

May 27th, 2011
7:23 am

$7.00 for a piece of pie????? Sounds nice but doubt it will be around this time next year. Folks have cut back on going to sporting events and other types of entertainment because of the economy. There just does not seem to be a “hook” to draw folks to this place. Sell-A-Heap Sell- It- Cheap places are doing better when times are tough. Not as many $7.00 for a piece of pie wallets out their right now. Sorry

george

May 27th, 2011
7:40 am

thanks for the tip. steak diane was one of “the” go-to meals in my (relative) youth for anniversaries, first date after the birth of a child, etc. and i look forward to going to the apparently dreaded lilburn to try this version. i hope their absence of an up to the minute facebook/menu page keeps some of the poseurs away as it does from bowens island, my favorite oyster joint near charleston. it is a terrible thing to be de-friended on facebook.

Fred

May 27th, 2011
7:46 am

We’ve been several times and have enjoyed it. As others have said, it is about as far away from Teddy’s vision of Lilburn as you can get. It can be a tad bit tricky to find. I’ve had the steak Diane a couple of times and liked it. The portions are huge. Last time I shared the Caesar salad and steak Diane with my teenager and we both had plenty.

Linda

May 27th, 2011
8:14 am

Teddy – I’m a native of Lilburn for over 33 years. I’m an honest person and wouldnt trade living elsewhere other than Lilburn. Newsflash……Indian Trail, Lawrenceville Highway, Pleasant Hill are mostly not considered the “heart” of Lilburn so its not fair to compare. Anyways, Three Blind Mice is a great restaurant. Great food and a nice atmospehere.

Diane

May 27th, 2011
8:20 am

Teddy…watch your mouth. My son live 3/4 mile from T.B.M. in Lilburn (mailing address only!!) This area is a lovely, stable community of families who take pride in their surroundings. It is not “slum” (your term) but upscale. Take a drive off your mountain and go visit the area before you make blanket statements! You offended everyone.

John Kessler

May 27th, 2011
8:30 am

LOVE Bowens Ialand!

Susan

May 27th, 2011
8:41 am

I live1/4 mile from TBM and have dined and drank there more times than I have fingers..always a great experience. Their live music is incredible and they threw an awesome Mardi Gras party. The fact that I can eat great food at a warm local “bouncy neighborhood joint” and not have to drive into Atlanta is extremely appealing and actually rates the place 4 stars just on that alone. I can actually walk home if necessary. Regarding the price, hate to break it to you Baltisraul, the place has been open over a year. I too think Lilburn is a wonderful community, home of the Parkview Panthers, and consider TBM a mecca in our suburban desert of fast food and crummy “all taste the same” chain restaurants. Cheers everyone!

Pamela

May 27th, 2011
8:57 am

I live in Lilburn. Great place to live. Very nice and stable community. There are bad streets and towns in any city basically but Lilburn ” Great Place”. I live in the Indian Trail area and love it.

A TBM regular

May 27th, 2011
9:39 am

Wow, some interesting comments. Lilburn is so LUCKY to have a place like TBM!! The place is PACKED every night! The reason for that is because the food is GREAT, most the time consistent (althought the Cinco de Mayo meal left a lot to be desired), the drinks are FABULOUS, and all my friends hang out there! The owners are great and knowledgeable and in it for the long haul!! It is so great to have a true neighborhood restaurant that I am proud to call MY HANGOUT!!! Come see for yourself – it’ll become YOUR hangout too!

Fast becoming a TBM regular

May 27th, 2011
9:51 am

Absolutely agree with TBM regular! Food is great, best cosmopolitans in town, atmosphere is fabulous, servers are friendly – so glad someone finally opened an independent restaurant on the east side of town that is NOT the same old, same old chain fare -

Gigi from Lawrenceville

May 27th, 2011
10:04 am

Thanks for the review – I have not been there for a while, and am glad to read the menu was changed. I’m so glad to have a non-chain upscale restaurant close to my house. Why do we always have to drive into town to eat at a restaurant with unique style and menu? I’m so glad there are people who have the courage to invest in the suburbs. However, when I ate there before, the portions were quite small for the price of the food – also, the wine pour seemed quite small. I ate their 4 times, and each time that was my impression. But can’t wait to go back now and try them again.

Jan

May 27th, 2011
10:22 am

I just wish there were more places like it in Lilburn…so, come on restaurants!

BC

May 27th, 2011
11:05 am

Unfortunately, my party of 4 had a bad experience at TBM a few weeks ago. It was crowded, we were seated on the patio and sat there for 45 min. without even a glass of water. Server was bringing our wine as we left after 55 min. Never got to order. I live in Lilburn so we were anxious for a good new place to eat and were disappointed, maybe we’ll give it another try.

JO ANN MASON

May 27th, 2011
11:07 am

TEDDY…FOODIES DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING BUT THE FOOD. I HAVE BEEN TO MANY FINE RESTAURANTS IN NOT SO PLEASANT SURROUNDINGS, SO WHERE DO YOU LIVE HOT SHOT?

Bill R

May 27th, 2011
12:09 pm

Congrats to Matt and his TBM crew! I’ve been going there since it opened and it keeps getting better!

Three Blind Mice (Matthew)

May 27th, 2011
12:38 pm

Thanks for all the kind words and support. It makes all the hard work and effort that much easier. I have been told that there will always be nay-sayers and those who want to express “sour grapes” and likely work and operate competing restaurants in the area.

Ted has no idea where the restaurant is located. Gigi – do you call a 1/3 of a bottle of wine a small portion (our glass pours are 7 ounces)? BC? We have not had a customer not served or attended to promptly in about six months and that was one isolated incident. Most customers have finished their meal(s) in the forty-five minutes you say that you waited.

Teddy

May 27th, 2011
2:45 pm

I live in Cornelia. So what!

Teddy

May 27th, 2011
3:48 pm

Fake Teddy alert I do not live in Cornelia, but my family has been in the Lilburn area way before the war of northern aggression. Needless to say I have seen many changes and as I have said several not for the better. Many of you need to be more realistic about what is going on in your community and hold our County Commission accountable. I applaud Mr. Kessler for highlighting this restaurant I am certain it is wonderful. This is the type of development we need not more pawn shops and check cashing places – yes folks they do exist in Lilburn.

Laurie

May 27th, 2011
4:36 pm

We love TBM and are thrilled it opened in Lilburn. Good food & atmosphere so close to home is fantastic. This is our ‘go to’ place when a date night is needed. The staff and servers have always been accommodating. One time the chef steamed a few dozen clams for me – they weren’t on the menu. We’ve been there at least 8 times and have had great food and service..

george

May 27th, 2011
4:37 pm

Glad you like Bowens Island John. I liked it more before the fire and rebuilding and even more when the always cantakerous mr. and mis bowen were still presiding over the sometimes controlled chaos. please don’t review it, its too crowded already.

Michele

May 27th, 2011
9:50 pm

My fabulous friends introduced me to this local joint last year when we gathered for my birthday dinner. It was on a Sunday and the menu was limited but it was delicious! I’ve since been back 3 or 4 times and enjoyed it very much each time. I love the salads as well as the wine selections. Reviewer definitely should have given 3 stars, in my opinion. I appreciate what the owners are trying to give us in the Lilburn area: a semi-upscale yet casual place that’s consistent with good food and provides a great place to gather and mingle. Thanks TBM!

ALP

May 28th, 2011
11:49 am

The TBM Ownership group is very grateful to all of of our loyal customers and the many positive comments following Mr. Kessler’s review. We also appreciate the constructive criticism….we hear you and will continue to work on improving our weaknesses.

Lilburn and our surrounding community ROCKS!

JP

May 28th, 2011
5:14 pm

TBM is a terrific new addition to our “creepy undesirable” area. For those of us who have dined and lived in many other parts of the world we certainly appreciate what Matthew has to offer.

Gwinnett has its’ problems but I do believe most of the faster growing areas in the USA are subject to that.

What TBM has done is shown that there is a place for quality dining and socializing in the Lilburn area.

We certainly appreciate that we are close by and don’t have to drive into other areas to enjoy quality service and dining.

It has become a favorite gathering spot for us and our friends. Let’s continue to support TBM and make constructive suggestions if necessary.

Anne

June 1st, 2011
3:45 pm

It is so delightful to have an “elegantly casual” gathering place just down the street. We can stay in the neighborhood and enjoy the amenities of fine dining and a lovely atmosphere. The food and service at TBM have always been superb and I congratulate Matthew for all of his hard work and effort to bring this wonderful cuisine to Lilburn. We attended the Wine Tasting a few months ago and were very pleasantly surprised at the quality/price of the wines which were offered. We bought several bottles and have not ben disappointed. His wine selection in the restaurant is varied and inclusive. Although I am not a beer drinker, my husband and friends are very pleased with the selections on tap. In closing, I will add one more comment…fabulous appetizers..you go Matthew! TBM Rocks!