AJC Access Atlanta : by John Kessler : View article on http://blogs.ajc.com
If you follow the progress of Atlanta’s ever-changing restaurant landscape, then you may noticed that things have started to get really fun again this year.
For starters, we’ve got a spate of high-profile newcomers to check out, from the reborn Watershed on Peachtree to Richard Blais’ big return to the thick of things with The Spence.
The Optimist, Ford Fry’s canny seafood restaurant and oyster bar, opened on the westside and was quickly followed by another big fish, Fifth Group’s Lure in Midtown. Intriguing newcomers include two cocktail-focused restaurants (Proof and Provision in Midtown and the Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur), and Kevin Rathbun is waiting in the wings with his first new restaurant in years — KR SteakBar.
With so much activity, now’s the time to take stock of current dining trends. Here are five for your consideration:
- The word of the season is … schnitzel! Yes, the Middle European fried cutlet has become an inspiration for chefs all over town. There’s a more or less familiar chicken schnitzel at Local Three and a turkey schnitzel at Leon’s Full Service. But who stops there? Optimist chef Adam Evans serves a skate wing schnitzel, while Watershed chef Joe Truex has the most unusual schnitzel on the block: a scallop schnitzel. (Who knew that scallops could schnitz?) There’s even a full-fledged schnitzel restaurant that has opened in Decatur called Seven Hens.
- The word that has completely lost its mojo is … entree! A number of restaurants no longer actually own up to main courses even as they continue to serve them. Lure has rolled out “sizable servings,” while The Lawrence in Midtown divides its menu into small, medium and large plates. Why is this happening? I’m guessing that entrees are pretty much on their way out. Small and shareable plates aren’t just an option, they’ve become the norm.
- What do you think the vegetable of the season is? Corn? Tomatoes? No, we’ve got an interloper from autumn hogging the spotlight. Chefs today love kale. Blais makes a killer kale Caesar salad, while the crew at Yeah Burger serves theirs with balsamic vinaigrette and pine nuts. Craig Richards at Ecco tosses it in pasta. No one is trying to cook it to death anymore. Kale takes some chewing, but it tastes good and is good for you.
- Southern farm to table is starting to become Southern farm to Buford Highway to table. Chefs are a little less orthodox about traditional Southern foodways, and they increasingly look to Asian cuisines for ideas and ingredients. Ryan Smith at Empire State South in Midtown mixes grits with kimchi, Heirloom Market BBQ serves killer Korean pork barbecue, and Watershed’s Truex serves fried catfish fingers in the style of Vietnamese wraps.
- Restaurants can’t open without good cocktail programs, but good wine lists are coming back. Manager Justin Amick at The Spence loves to turn guests on to lesser known grapes such as Spanish mencia and viticultural regions like France’s Jura. The staff at the Optimist readily turn guests on to Greek white wines that match the seafood menu brilliantly.
See what I mean? This is a good time to be eating and drinking in Atlanta.