I know what you’re thinking: Why, if Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene are the two most prominent special occasion restaurants in Atlanta, does neither of them get our highest rating of five stars?
While both are great destinationsin their own right, neither one to me — based on the two meals I had at each — feels like they are setting the standard for fine dining in the region. I’m not looking for perfection, because that doesn’t exist. But I am looking for that recipe of thoughtfulness, delight, surprise, consistency and poetry that some restaurants can attain. I’ve seen this level of dining in past Atlanta restaurants, and I’ve seen it in travels throughout the South. The grand vision of foothills cuisine at Blackberry Farm in eastern Tennessee comes to mind, as does the astonishing invention and energy of the cuisine at McCrady’s in Charleston, and the keen attention to every last detail at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham.
Five-star dining is no money-maker for independent restaurateurs, but I cannot in good faith “grade on the curve” and ignore its existence.
And there’s a chance that I’ll find five-star dining at Quatrano’s Saturday-only Quinones at Bacchanalia (a separate dining room) or in the omakase room at MF Buckhead. Maybe Bacchanalia or Restaurant Eugene will attain that level in the next stage of their respective evolutions. I love and heartily recommend both places. For my birthday, I would probably default to Bacchanalia for its consistency and aesthetic sensibility. But that’s me. Let me find out who you are. You might like Eugene better