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1Kept takes up where Toulouse left off

The Old Fashionista cocktail

The Old Fashionista cocktail

When I was 35 and new to Atlanta, my wife’s boss invited us to dinner at Toulouse. This South Buckhead restaurant had for years been one of his favorites. Toulouse’s unchanging but reliably executed French bistro menu coupled with a serious wine program made him a happy diner, year in and year out. Its unusual entrance — not accessible through the Peachtree Road storefront but rather up a steep rear fire escape set on a steeply pitched hill — added to its appeal. The restaurant was ensconced deeply in its residential neighborhood, there for those and only those who knew to look for it.

I liked it well enough, but I can’t remember if I ever went back. Toulouse didn’t feel like it belonged to my generation. The restaurant had aged with its clientele, and whatever excitement my wife’s boss must’ve once experienced at discovering this place had been replaced by an “I always get the chicken” kind of complacency.

Last May, restaurateur Thaddeus Keefe (a former partner in Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft) revived the dormant space as 1Kept Kitchen and Cocktails. Perhaps because of the name, I had assumed this place would be another Holeman & Finch Public House knockoff, with drinks leading the way and a meat-heavy small plates menu. In fact, the restaurant seems more like a Toulouse for a new generation.

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Warm kale salad with quinoa and chorizo

The bar is indeed front and center, with a few tables radiating around it. But on the recent and busy weekday night I visited, people were there to enjoy the nice atmosphere and dine. Liquid olive oil candles on the tables picked up the tones of amber spot lighting, brick walls sported a moody black paint job, and the open kitchen in the back sent nice smells into the dining room. The feel is more hearth than tavern. (The lighting, though nice on the eyes, makes for lousy iPhone photos. Sorry.)

The crowd? Mostly well-dressed professionals who looked like they had a couple of years before they had to consider impending forty-ness heading their way.

Schnitzel with gnocchi and caramelized onion cream

Schnitzel with gnocchi and caramelized onion cream

I point this out only to note that my dining room neighbors were there for dinner. Not drinks with small plates, or big salads, or some famous fried chicken, burgers or ramen, but dinner. They had arrived at that age where they could afford a nice weekday meal with cocktails or a bottle of wine, where they wanted to talk without screaming, and where they needed to get to bed in time to make it the gym before a big presentation the next day.

A trio of chefs share kitchen management duties, and they prepare a menu with a few sharable items (such as wood-oven-fired flatbreads) but a whole lot more traditional salads and entrees.

The list reads mostly like versions of familiar dishes you’ve eaten elsewhere, but sometimes that’s what you want from a neighborhood standby. I found the food prepared and seasoned with real care. What a happy surprise when food sounds a little boring but totally hits the spot.

I know I’m supposed to stop getting so excited about kale salad, but 1Kept makes a really, really good one! It’s warm from the wood oven and tossed with marbles of house made chorizo and quinoa — like a totally scrumptious, healthier take on yesteryear’s spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.

Pork schnitzel was more of a thick cutlet than a real Middle European schnitzel, but it was crisp and juicy, and the center of a riotous plate of sautéed apples, (too doughy) gnocchi, red cabbage confit, onions and cream. As a regular, I would know to split this dish and ask for the sauce on the side to better appreciate the good frying job.

Monkfish, served over and tomato and olive stew, was also nicely cooked and seasoned. I only needed some bread to soak up the good but thin sauce pooling in the dish.

The thin and mostly New World wine list doesn’t thrill me. The dozen beers won’t captivate geeks, and the few house cocktails all sound sweet. The “Old Fashionista” (note to self: never, ever call my wife that) made with a splash of red wine was fine, but for now I’d consider the beverage program here more in service to the menu than vice versa.

And that’s fine — really, what everyone in the dining room has discovered. I suspect these people will be having many more meals here for years to come.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

6 comments Add your comment

Mike

January 10th, 2014
2:10 pm

A review where Kessler is glad some place doesn’t have small plates? A sign of the apocalypse.

I never ate at Tolouse but I get the impression it developed the same stagnant clientele with the same stagnant tastes that went to Jim White’s in Peachtree Battle. If you’re filling the house with people who want the same old thing, why ever change?

Now can we start addressing the trend of printing menus that look like they were produced on a manual typewriter, usually at restaurants frequented only by people who are too young to have ever seen one?

Tobiaz Johansen

January 10th, 2014
2:19 pm

Native Atlantan

January 10th, 2014
2:26 pm

Glad you finally had a chance to finally review 1Kept. Visited before the holidays and was pleasantly surprised with the entire experience — the space, menu, crowd, and service. Everything was top notch and I left very impressed. I especially enjoyed being able to watch the kitchen in action.

Jere

January 10th, 2014
5:21 pm

sounds interesting but do you still have to walk up rickety steps to get in to the place?

Edward

January 14th, 2014
9:19 am

The steps aren’t “rickety” (they’re steel & concrete), and there is also an available elevator for people who need it.

I have been a fan of 1Kept since its opening. I’ve tried nearly everything on the menu and haven’t had a bad bite yet. I’m not sure why Kessler complained about the drinks “sounding sweet” without even trying them. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks and most of the drinks I’ve tried here are definitely not in that category.

Kate Abney

January 15th, 2014
6:21 pm

Now I’m starting to wonder why I had such a bad experience when I went there. Maybe I just picked the most off night possible and the chef was at home staying warm? It was about 5 degrees out.