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Seed Kitchen & Bar restaurant review, East Cobb

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If you score one of the tables or booths that cluster around the kitchen pass at Seed Kitchen & Bar, you get a front-row seat to observe owner/chef Doug Turbush as he tends to all the dishes that leave the kitchen. He works by a gleaming expanse of counter under domed pendant lights with a cloth in his hand, buffing every plate to a high gloss.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

You will also welcome the olfactory benefits afforded by this vantage point: blasts of grilled rib-eye steak, pan-roasted flounder fillets, breaded chicken fresh from hot oil and — pow! — a heady melange of garlic, chili and fish sauce and suddenly you’re in a Thai restaurant.

These smells herald the arrival of an intriguing restaurant.

Seed figures among the cohort of exciting new spots that have goosed the northern perimeter food scene. Like Marietta’s Chicken and the Egg and Roswell’s Table & Main, Seed offers a contemporary dining experience for a neighborhood — here, East Cobb — that has long needed better options.

Flounder over roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (all photos by Becky Stein)

Flounder over roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (all photos by Becky Stein)

With all due respect, I find Seed the best of the bunch because it comes across as the most forward-thinking in terms of its design, its wine program and its global larder. Turbush, who previously helmed the kitchen at Buckhead’s fusion-minded Bluepointe, has a particular fondness for Asian flavors, sharp edges and all. He shifts confidently from these to Mediterranean and then to Southern without losing the unifying tone and finesse that defines his style. While I have yet to fall in love with any dish on the menu, I have developed a serious case of the likes for most everything I’ve tried. Considering the reasonable prices (nothing but the steak exceeds $20), this menu begs exploration.

I also appreciate the easy-on-the-eyes Scandinavian-style design, which makes this strip-mall restaurant an oasis of taste. Blond wood flooring and tables drive the neutral color scheme, floor-to-ceiling drapes divide the space, and industrial materials such as textured rubber flooring and brushed steel integrate themselves effortlessly. The area by the kitchen, with its L-shaped chef’s table and shelving filled with cookbooks, makes you feel like you’re in your friend’s too-cool-for-school loft apartment. However, I might avoid the high bar-area banquettes unless you like having your feet dangle like a 5-year-old’s.

Bartender Chris Bates mixes a cocktail with fresh juice

Bartender Chris Bates mixes a cocktail with fresh juice

This restaurant’s global outlook informs its tightly edited but broad wine list, which makes that moment when you settle into your seat and decide what to drink a real pleasure. Among the two dozen wines offered by the glass are an Oregon pinot blanc, a Vouvray, a Petite Sirah, a Super Tuscan and a very nice champagne (Nicolas Feuillette, $14). The list offers another two dozen wines by the bottle, all with 90+ ratings from trusted wine publications.

Meanwhile, the beer selections encompass an Allagash Tripel on tap ($9) and bottles of Hitachino Nest White Ale from Japan ($9) and Belgian Delirium Tremens ($9). A short cocktail list shows real edge — try the Pimm’s Cup infused with saffron ($9). Even teetotalers get uncommon care from this bar, with house-spiced cider and other options. One of my favorite tastes here has been the house limeade ($4), perched right on the teetering edge of sweet and sour.

The appetizers arrive so quickly and with so little fuss that you go, “Oh, look, something to nosh with my cocktail!”

Pimento croutons with Benton's ham and apples

Pimento croutons with Benton's ham and apples

I thought I was over pimento cheese until I got the version here — creamy soft and spread over sheer, brittle crostini ($6), with smoky Benton’s ham and slivers of apple on top. Pair it with some Gulf shrimp sambal ($8) — springy curls glowing red with the spicy Asian chili sauce and sided only by a few slips of cooling pickled cucumber. Add in a cast-iron skillet of garlic-and-thyme roasted mushrooms ($7) over good Anson Mills polenta, and you’ve got some zippy flavors to pass around the table. Turbush is the kind of cook who builds flavor from the ingredients themselves rather than excessive seasoning and fat.

And he doesn’t seem to have a “me, too” bone in his body. Let other chefs make another beet and goat cheese salad. Turbush outfits his yellow and red roasted beets ($7) with grapefruit segments, pistachios, arugula and a tuft of aerated Parmesan cheese whip. What an electric pile-up for your taste buds to sort through.

A spicy Asian fish sandwich at lunch ($12) also defies expectations. This is not the chef’s version of banh mi (the popular Vietnamese sub) but something entirely novel, with fried flounder tucked into a tender roll with spicy Sriracha sauce, tangy ginger-onion marmalade and copious tufts of cilantro and dill. Yes, dill, which is not unheard of in Southeast Asian cooking. If the overcooked slip of fish offered up just a little juicy gush, this sandwich would be one for the ages.

Gulf Shrimp sambal

Gulf Shrimp sambal

Overcooking also mars a chicken schnitzel ($16) that looks like a million deep-fried bucks presented between a pool of glossy mustard-miso sauce and a mountain of arugula-tomato salad. But I found it so parching and heavily breaded that I didn’t want to eat much. (My 14-year-old, who polished it off, said I didn’t let the sauce soak through.)

The pan-roasted flounder entree ($19) is nearly overcooked, but its odd and wonderful bed of roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in garlic-chili fish sauce keeps things appealing. Even better is Moroccan-spiced salmon ($17) nestled in a bed of pebbly Israeli couscous creamed with goat cheese. A sweet onion sauce and a sprinkling of pine nuts and sultanas conspire for a big, rounded mouthful of flavor. The salmon’s natural unctuousness holds up well to both these assertive ingredients and the kitchen’s tendencies.

Some of the food gets a little too weird, even for me. Plump seared scallops and crisp tiles of pork belly ($18) arrive lined up over a butternut squash mash with fennel and apple. Instead of underlying the scallops’ natural sweetness, the garnishes just make them taste fishy.

I’d say the one consistent weakness is the dessert (all $5) lineup. The staff chats up the knobby individual pineapple upside-down cake, but it has too much muffin-like cake and not enough caramel goo. The apple “pie” (really a pot of chewy cooked apple slices with a disc of pastry) only makes you want to go find a version without quotation marks. The citrus tart is but a soggy lemon bar despite its foo-foo swirls of sauce and meringue.

But that’s a small complaint for a restaurant that doesn’t just recycle crowd-approved dishes and current trends. Seed Kitchen & Bar could have been another safe, familiar restaurant — a little American bistro, a little farm-to-table, a little beets and goat cheese — but it decided to be something more.

SEED KITCHEN & BAR
1311 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta. 678-214-6888
3stars5Food: Modern American, with more than a few Asian accents
Service: Very good, very knowledgeable about the menu and drinks list
Best dishes: Pimento crostini, flounder with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower and Moroccan-spiced salmon
Vegetarian selections: Yes
Credit cards: All major
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily; dinner 3-10 p.m., Sundays-Thursdays, 3-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Children: Not a great spot for younger kids; get a babysitter.
Parking: Self-parking in a sea of cars
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Full
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderately high
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes

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22 comments Add your comment

Craig

January 12th, 2012
10:10 am

Thanks a lot John ! Love your reviews but now I won’t be able to get in my new fave restaurant .

sc

January 12th, 2012
10:49 am

We went here for Christmas Eve and we were not disappointed. As a vegetarian, I find most fine dining restaurants overlook the need for a well-crafted meatless dish, but the ravioli I had was flavorful and filling. The wine was excellent as well. I have to agree about the desserts, though, they were hardly worth the calories.

TLCC

January 12th, 2012
10:52 am

Another great review about this restaurant! Now we’ll never get in.
I love it here and we go frequently. It’s such a fantastic addition to East Cobb.

N-GA

January 12th, 2012
10:55 am

John – The photo is labeled Benton’s ham, but the text describes the dish with Benton’s bacon. Actually I suspect it is Benton’s prosciutto.

Cobber

January 12th, 2012
11:06 am

Craig, after that review you don’t have to worry about me blocking your way! “Parching” and “fishy” tasting don’t impress me.

Digger

January 12th, 2012
11:19 am

I can’t understand why so many people treat a dining review based on one experience as representative of the norm for that restaurant. We have all experienced varying levels of service and culiary expertise at our favorite eateries I’m sure, but we still go there.

Reviewers should do the same – try the same place three times at least and vary your menu each time and then give us your opinion. “One off” reviews don’t impress me, particularly when your 14 year old seems to know better about what it takes to make a dish work with the sauces.

RK

January 12th, 2012
11:36 am

Digger, they do, and he does.

John Kessler

January 12th, 2012
11:43 am

N-GA – Thanks. I’ll fix it.
Digger – I always visit at least twice, usually three times.

Ima Glutton

January 12th, 2012
1:23 pm

What was this place before it became Seed? Was this where the little asian place was?

Freddie B

January 12th, 2012
2:18 pm

Been going there since day 1(which btw felt like they had been opened for a year already with how amazing the service was) and I must say it’s an incredible addition not only to East Cobb but to Atlanta as a whole. I finally have somewhere to take my Buckhead friends to show off. Great job Seed keep it up!

PaulKaren

January 12th, 2012
5:14 pm

We visited family in the area last month and SEED was recommended to us by the locals and I must say it was spot on suggestion. From the moment we set foot inside the restaurant the experience was well worth the trip. The friendly hostess and knowledgeable bartenders made the wait time fly by. Being wine drinkers we enjoyed the variety of wines by the glass recommended by the in house sommelier/General Manager who stopped by to say hello. When we did sit down the food was so diversified and fresh we wished we were staying for another week. The open kitchen makes you feel a part of the action on one side of the restaurant. We will definitely be making this a stop every time we visit Marietta. I could agree more with the prior comments, reviewers are just one small segmented demographic to a world of hungry visitors. Great job SEED! Good luck in the future.

Teafortwo

January 12th, 2012
8:41 pm

@Ima Glutton: The space used to the be the Merchants Walk branch of the public library before the shopping center was expanded. It is a new restaurant in a new location.

Rick Bishop

January 12th, 2012
9:29 pm

My wife absolutely love the scallops. She has had them twice and will order them again. I have had great luck with my fish, with overcooking not a problem. If we do not have reservations, we eat at the bar around 5:30 or so and really enjoy the experience.

Mafe

January 12th, 2012
10:23 pm

We absolutely love this restaurant! Highly recommended it.

Karen M

January 12th, 2012
10:47 pm

We have been to Seed a few times already and we love it! We always try something different and everything has been cooked to perfection and delicious. I have to say that we loved the desserts. They were just right for a little something sweet after dinner. I especially enjoyed the apple “pie”. The service and ambiance combined with the wonderful food make Seed a first class experience. Keep up the great work!

Alan

January 13th, 2012
10:40 am

Food and service are great, but it is very open with nothing to surpress sound, so it is filled with loud diner like background noise. Not a place for a quiet relaxing meal.

East Cobb Restaurant Reviews

January 14th, 2012
3:25 pm

[...] what’s the food really like? AJC critic John Kessler is generally impressed, except for the desserts. Of similarly themed places in Marietta and Roswell — a [...]

Susan M

January 15th, 2012
7:25 am

Our server was great, we got to sit at the table overlooking the kitchen and we enjoyed the experience. However, my kids burgers were ordered medium well and they came out barely cooked. Yes, of course they put them back on the grill, but they should have been taken off the check. My 8 year old took a bite and pink ran down his face. Really unsafe. My food was over salted and my husbands was great. We might give it another try another time, but no it’s not the “best” in East Cobb. Ritters has always consistently delivered great food as well as Paper Mill Grill. Red Sky is great as well.. and certainly has better ambiance for socializing. Seed can keep trying and maybe one day.

FoodLover

January 15th, 2012
1:02 pm

Went to Celebrate our 17th Anniversary. Doug (Chef) and Jason (GM) are perfect hosts. Restuarant approx Half Full (Tuesday Night). Restaurant has views into the Cooking area from the waiting (Bar) and hostess area.The restaurant area is a mixture of Booths and open tables. We had a booth.
After eating we retired to the bar (Where some amazing wine is available by the glass) and sampled some of SEED’s own chocolates, with coffee, and a few malt whiskey’s.The restaurant is well presented and the Bathrooms are exceptional.From the warm welcome when we entered to the final goodbyes, this was a perfect experience. The food was fresh and cooked to perfection, the room warm and inviting, and by the time we left we felt we had known the proprietors all our lives.
Both of us considered this one of our best meals out of 2011 and will be back in 2012.
Side Bar to above: Undercooked is always better than overcooked and looking for free handouts with an experience that was not bad is being cheap. We have been to all those other establishments you mentioned and could not disagree more. SEED is the best BUT that is why everyone has an opinion and are not experts. Keep up the great work!

Burger Police

January 15th, 2012
1:05 pm

Last time I checked a pink burger was not UNSAFE! I love when jealous owners of rival restaurants post comments on reviews. It can only mean one thing, they are nervous. If an undercooked burger is the only complaint, I think they did well. Next time post a legitmate review. Keep doing what your doing SEED. East Cobb needed you guys!

SEED fan

January 16th, 2012
5:16 pm

We stopped by for lunch this weekend and the pimento cheese crostini with Benton’s country ham and celery hearts ($6),Thai beef salad with local organic arugula ($8), and end with the likes of pineapple upside down cake with coconut mousse ($5) were amazing. The “mixologist” as he is called, Chris McNeil’s bar menu has vintage and modern cocktails include a pisco sour and the Seed 75 with Hayman’s Old Tom gin, lemon and homemade pomegranate grenadine which we all experimented with and were pleasently impressed by. The extensive wine list is curated by general manager and sommelier Jason Raymond was suprisingly low priced for the amazing values. Congrats you guys!! When are you opening another?

ormewood

January 18th, 2012
10:59 am

We were in the area Friday afternoon, and based on this review decided to check it out. My wife and I were impressed. I don’t really think there is anything in East Cobb. Loved the atmosphere. The beer/wine list was varied and extensive. We had the fish sandwich, and though not huge, it was quite good. We’ll be back for dinner soon.