In tomorrow’s AJC, you’ll find my review of King + Duke, the latest restaurant in Ford Fry’s growing empire. I assigned it 3 stars, but there’s still room for improvement.
The restaurant, built around a 24-foot fire-fueled open hearth, makes quite a show of its cooking techniques. The open-hearth cooking imparts deep wood flavors into the majority of the dishes, many with savory success. But here’s the catch: As much as this cooking style distinguishes King + Duke from most other Atlanta eateries, it also can limit both creativity and execution.
Fry was at the top of his game when he opened the Optimist. The restaurant received an initial fanfare of praise and continues to improve. With each success Fry raises the bar for himself, making it a risky proposition to follow that success with yet another new concept.
When you go, try the dish that best expresses the cooking style — the candied lamb belly ($11). It’s a create-your-own-flatbread dish with feta, marinated cucumber and grilled triangles of housemade curry naan. Load them up with the slick orange-pepper cured lamb brushed with a sherry gastrique. Sweet, smoky and tender.
I expected dessert to be best in show with pastry chef Chrysta Poulos (formerly of Woodfire Grill and 4th & Swift) at the piping bag. Yet, I long for the more composed Poulos-style desserts from the days of yore. Many are overwrought with multiple components.
You can read the full review on myajc.com.
3 more things you should know:
Often there are tidbits that we would like to include in a review and can’t for lack of space. Here are three extras for those of you on the Food & More blog.
1. Chicken = Cat
If you’re considering the shareable whole roasted chicken, your server may tell you (as did ours) that to gauge the size of a three-pound chicken, you should imagine a medium-size cat. That’s the mental image you want to conjure when salivating over the menu, right?
2. Service is slow when Fry’s in house
One of my three-course dinners at King + Duke took almost three hours. Why? Fry was hosting a dinner in the private room off the main dining room. From our table we could see no less than four waiters standing outside the door at the ready at all times. Our waiter confessed his long absences were spent serving the party.
3. Baked goods made over an open hearth come charred, too
Some of the items, like the pre-meal popovers are made in the smoke boxes above the open hearth. These items were consistently overcooked with an exterior char that overtook the intended flavors. The cornbread, which was extremely unusual and tasted like corn tortillas, also bore the same blackening.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog