This article first appeared in the April/May 2023 issue of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI
Words and photos by Julian Brunt
If you are looking for an absolutely unique dining experience, Vestige in Ocean Springs just may be what you are looking for. Chef Alex Perry describes it as casual fine dining, but that only tells you that you do not have to dress up to visit. What you really need to know is that at Vestige you are going to have a culinary experience like you have never had before. That’s a promise.
I have been a food writer and fan of great restaurants for many years, and have written about the food culture in the South hundreds of times. But never have I encountered a chef like Alex Perry or a restaurant like Vestige. The menu is a preset tasting menu and it is not a place for the culinarily faint of heart. You have to be willing to take a leap of faith and pop into your mouth things that you have never dreamed of, like steel
head trout, red kuri, miso, ground cherry, white truffle, or mizuna. If you understand the level of excellence, the passion for perfection that Chef Alex is known for, then you are on your way to a true adventure. If you fit this profile, I promise you that when you leave your table at Vestige, it will be with memories you will talk about for the rest of your life.
I have known Chef Alex since Vestige opened in 2013. The menu is based on the best ingredients that can be found. Buying local and seasonal is important, buying sustainable is too, but nothing trumps quality. You will never find the same thing on this menu twice, there are no favorites, or classics. Each dining experience is unique. In the winter you may find rice from Two Brooks farm in the Mississippi Delta, just as you might find wild salmon or Pacific halibut, both highly regulated by the MSC (Marine Steward Counsel), but the preparation will be different from day to day.
It’s difficult to describe Chef Alex’s style. Attention to detail is absolute. Never rush into a meal at Vestige, take your time and discover every detail of the presentation, color, and structure. When you take the first bite, close your eyes, and examine flavor combinations and textures. I once had a fried okra salad at Vestige and I was shocked to discover that there were four textures in the okra: stim, meat, skin, and seed. What was shocking was to realize that it was done on purpose and was no accident of nature. I still marvel at the genius of that dish.
Chef Alex is fond of Japanese cuisine, and you will see that reflection on his plates, small, subtitle additions that are powerful, like house made fermentations (miso and soy), purple sweet potato vinegar, or the use of small flowers and always contrasting textures.
Chef Alex never does anything without reason, there is no flair just to show off, no “weird for weird’s sake.” Chef Alex Perry is the most brilliant chef I know. He told me once, “The food will tell you where to go.” I will never have the vision that Chef Alex has, but I am willing to follow him anywhere he goes.
Vestige is located at 715 Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.