If you want to chase down the most interesting cooking in Atlanta today, you may need to give up your preconceptions about what makes a dining experience. At Gunshow, where the hyper-creative kitchen performs a nightly data dump, they’ve done away with menus and ordering, if not waiters, plates and wine. Wait until you try Eat Me.
This semi-permanent pop up at the Candler Park Market is probably not the restaurant to take your wife to for your anniversary. Or maybe it is, depending on your wife.
On Monday through Friday evening, a young upscale-dining refugee named Jarrett Stieber cooks his brains out from behind the deli counter. He plates the food inside cardboard sandwich baskets with all the Zen sauce swooshes, organic produce and frilly microgreens you’d expect from a five-star kitchen. You collect a disposable plastic fork and a Dixie cup of water whilst looking longingly at the chilled beer that you can’t drink on the premises.
A veteran of the kitchens at Empire State South and Abattoir, Stieber says he chose this path to get away from the pressures of a big kitchen and remember why he went into cooking. “It’s nice for a change not to get yelled at,” he jokes.
Usually he prepares a half dozen or so dishes each night. If two of you get it all, you’ve spent about $60 total for an intriguing tasting menu.
Our party of two reached a split decision on the heirloom tomato salad topped with crunchy, three-alarm spicy serrano chile hard candy and doused in a vinaigrette flecked with ground coffee. It took me a couple of bites, but I was convinced; it’s a pretty cool dish.
Clams steamed open with edamame, lion’s mane mushrooms and peanuts was a delicious yet confusing business I wanted to pour from its cardboard basket into a waiting bowl of steamed rice. Cubes of fried eggplant presented in a tangle of picked pak choy leaf with a scattering of almonds would have been a lot better had the eggplant not been so dry and spongy. (I’ve noticed that local farmers market eggplants this season need a lot of cooking to soften.)
A better choice is tofu, marinated and burnished on the griddle, then set with zipper peas, okra and a sweet-tart muscadine sauce. If you ask nicely, Stieber will tell you about his secret menu of “Fun Things.”
“The meat farmers I’ve worked with will sling me some organs,” he says by way of explanation. Our serving of blood sausage picked up that sweet spiciness that coms with aging, cannily echoed in the garnish of pickled blueberries. Fun!
By the way, on Thursdays there may even a speakeasy somewhere in the neighborhood to take your booty and go drink. Just sayin…
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog