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Archive for the ‘Recent dining reviews’ Category

The Butcher The Baker restaurant review, Marietta

pork belly appetizer (credit: Becky Stein)

pork belly appetizer (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of The Butcher The Baker, a newish restaurant in Marietta. I gave it a grade of 3 stars.

The husband and wife team of Micah and Katie Pfister opened this restaurant last spring. The two originally met while working at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago — Bachelor Gulch in Colorado. After relocating to Atlanta, they spent time in the kitchen of Empire State South, Micah (our butcher) as sous chef and Katie (our baker) in pastry.

What they created was a fresh space with broad appeal. The Butcher the Baker asserts its unique voice on the square. Everyone is here by choice, not by default.

The rather large menu is built around local produce, much of which comes from four of the local farmers selling their harvest at the Marietta Square Farmers Market. Small plates dominate offerings, but a solid six entrees level the scale. And those entrees are what you’ll find the most composed and creative.

I can also get …

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Atlanta revisit: Cafe at Pharr, Buckhead

Chicken salad plate (credit: Becky Stein)

Chicken salad plate (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Cafe at Pharr, an Atlanta staple.

Cafe at Pharr opened in 1993 as a bakery, selling an array of cakes and pastries. The Pharr Road location proved to be a bit of a gaffe given that it was located next door to a Pepperidge Farm retail outlet. The heavy competition forced owners Mike and Shirley Liu to quickly modify the bakery concept, adding lunch options, like its signature chicken salad.

Even though they resisted transitioning to a cafe, the Lius watched their business grow over the next few years as Buckhead embraced the model. While still baking breads in-house, the restaurant, now run by son Johnny Liu, has increased its lunch offerings and reduced its baked goods to a few quick-grab items like cookies and Rice Krispy treats.

Today Cafe at Pharr has five locations throughout the metro area, with a sixth opening in Dunwoody later this fall. Its success no doubt stems from its streamlined …

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Gunshow restaurant review, Atlanta

Chef Kevin Gillespie shows off some of his creations (credit: Becky Stein)

Chef Kevin Gillespie shows off some of his creations (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Gunshow, Kevin Gillespie’s new restaurant. I gave it a grade of 3 stars.

Gunshow’s format, inspired by dim sum and Brazilian churrascarias, not only combats the pretense of fine dining, it also makes it accessible to more cost-conscious diners. Granted, some plates seem a bit light for a $12-$18 price tag, but the model makes it easy to track and manage costs.

And while the food may ring true for fine dining, logistics can be a bit of a bugger. Dishes will begin flying in for you to refuse or accept at a rapid pace once you sit. You might feel a little rankled when you’ve had three courses before ordering a beverage because servers won’t give your group more than one menu despite requests for another.

Maybe you’ll feel put out by the constant tally marking of your menu to track the dishes you’ve accepted from the chefs. You might long for a fresh plate …

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Boccalupo restaurant review, Inman Park

20-yolk tagliatelle (credit: Becky Stein)

20-yolk tagliatelle (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC, I have a review of Boccalupo, the new restaurant from Bruce Logue. I gave it a grade of four stars.

Logue, an Atlanta native, introduced our town to his brand of Italian-American cooking at La Pietra Cucina. Before that, he honed his skills at Mario Batali’s Babbo in New York City and spent eight months cooking his way through Italy with the country’s top chefs.

While training and sourcing contribute to Logue’s success and reputation as prince of pasta, his cooking resonates on a deeper level than can be reached by technical skill and ingredients alone. This chef cooks with an honesty like few others. You’ll taste it in the soul-settling depths of his dishes.

Subscribers can read the full review on myajc.com.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

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Atlanta revisit: Woodfire Grill restaurant review

Woodfire Grill's cage-roasted quail (credit: Becky Stein)

Woodfire Grill's cage-roasted quail (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC, I have a review of Woodfire Grill, now under the direction of chef Tyler Williams. I gave it four stars.

Woodfire Grill, which opened in 2002, quickly became one of Atlanta’s foremost farm-to-table restaurants, known for use of locally harvested produce and humanely raised meats. It also was known for distinguished service and a value-friendly, approachable wine program. Overall, one of Atlanta’s premier fine-dining restaurants.

Having a “Top Chef” finalist didn’t hurt. When Chef Kevin Gillespie took the helm, he raised the bar and elevated the cuisine at Woodfire. After he departed, chef Tyler Williams put his own stamp on the menu.

“Playful” and “personality” are the two words Williams used to describe his cooking. I’d have to agree. I’d also add analytical and edgy as descriptors for his approach, a play in temperature, flavor and textural contrasts.

Williams said he tries …

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Hugo’s Oyster Bar restaurant review, Roswell

Chargrilled oysters at Hugo's (credit: Becky Stein)

Chargrilled oysters at Hugo's (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell. I gave it a grade of two stars.

Is Hugo’s a casual oyster bar or upscale-ish seafood restaurant or both? The question is how successfully the two concepts can be integrated under one roof. Does the guy who wants to hang at the bar and scarf Gulf oysters by the dozen want a valet to park his car? Do the ladies meeting for a quiet dinner want to watch big-screen TVs while paying $24 for entrees?

Chef Jonathan Schwenk, who is co-owner with Rich Clark, said they weren’t trying to make Hugo’s into the Optimist, Miller Union or Empire State South. “We aren’t trying to be fancy.”

If Hugo’s stuck to that vision, it would do just fine. The restaurant succeeds as an oyster bar with a mixture of Gulf and boutique oysters, making it a destination. The waters are muddied by attempts to simultaneously go upscale — with untrained waiters and comparatively …

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Saltyard restaurant review, Buckhead

Grilled lamb loin, credit: Becky Stein

Grilled lamb loin, credit: Becky Stein

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of Saltyard, the new small plates restaurant in Buckhead. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

At first glance, Saltyard seems to have all the pieces for a great restaurant: shareable small plates, 20 wines (mostly domestic) by the glass for perfect course pairings, a commitment to honest cooking, local sourcing. Yet, Saltyard remains a puzzle. All those pieces don’t assemble the perfect picture. The logistics of coursing muddle the experience, and the food is perhaps a little too unpretentious, a little too straightforward — the two dangers of small plates.

As we trend more toward small-plate dining and wine-by-the-glass sampling, the corollary in beverages, Saltyard has timed its market entry just right. Now with a few adjustments and a little more attention to detail, it could become an Atlanta destination for a more social, shareable dining experience.

Subscribers can read the review on myajc.com.

–by …

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Atlanta Classic: Swan Coach House Restaurant, Buckhead

Swan's Favorite: timbales with chicken salad, cheese straws and frozen fruit salad (credit: Becky Stein)

Swan's Favorite: timbales with chicken salad, cheese straws and frozen fruit salad (credit: Becky Stein)

Have you been to the Swan Coach House? If so, you’re familiar with the frozen fruit salad. That dish and others caused much controversy on the Bravo TV reality show, “Chef Roblé & Co.”

Chef Roblé ate at the Swan Coach House as a guest of “Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Phaedra Parks, who had hired him to re-create a Southern tea for an event she held in New York.

With a leer on his face, Chef Roblé Ali tentatively poked at the cream-colored disc with a fork. “What is that? I’m afraid of that!”

His thoughts on the “ambrosia” served with a piped swirl of mayonnaise? “Grody to the max.”

You don’t have to be Atlanta-born and raised to enjoy the Swan Coach House experience (although it doesn’t hurt). What you need is an understanding of context and a knowledge that food is more than the assembled ingredients set before you. Let’s honor this piece …

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King + Duke restaurant review, plus 3 more things you should know

Candied lamb belly (credit: Becky Stein)

Candied lamb belly (credit: Becky Stein)

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 …

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Del Frisco’s Grille restaurant review, Buckhead

Tomato flatbread pizza (credit: Becky Stein)

Tomato flatbread pizza (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC, you’ll find my review of Del Frisco’s Grille. This restaurant, one of six locations across the country, is an offshoot of the company’s original concept Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House.

Each location’s menu includes regional favorites using locally sourced ingredients. In Atlanta, executive chef A.J. Buchanio brings in ice cream from Atlanta-based High Road, grits from Anson Mills and Allan Benton’s country ham. Unfortunately, the recipes don’t always do these ingredients justice.

I gave it a grade of 1 star. Order carefully, choosing items like the tomato flatbread, a cheesy grown-up pizza or the buffalo-style grit cakes. Avoid items like the globby powdered-soup-like french onion dip.

Subscribers can read the full review on myajc.com.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

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