Friday, March 23, 2007

One Midtown Kitchen

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Opening Notes...
Thank you for your well-wishes, prayers, attendance, etc. re: the concert this past Tuesday. I think it went well for being my first solo gig since college. I'll try to keep you in the loop about future events.

The following is the restaurant review alluded to in my last post. It was originally written March 7th.
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Foreword:
I had one of those moments last night that you replay later (like..now) and think of all the cooler, more appropriate things you could have said and done.
It came to be so in this way...
Jeff and I celebrated 3 years of marriage yesterday. 3 years since our wedding celebration. This moment, 3 years ago I would have been having a room-service breakfast at the Georgian Terrace, lookingacross the small table at the greatest guy in the world. Three years later, I still think he's the greatest guy in the world.

We opted to commemorate this year's anniversary, like we like to commemorate just about anything, with a tasty meal out at one of Atlanta's array of interesting restaurants. (Remember my Rathbun's restaurant review from last year was also on the occasion of our anniversary). This year we decided to sample an establishment that has seen it's days of buzz and chatter die down, but by all accounts, still serves inventive, fresh cuisine at reasonable prices: One Midtown Kitchen. One, as I will affectionately name it, is the first child in a family of townie restaurants here. The second to open was Two Urban Licks (you'll find my Tworeview in the blog archives). And most recently Bob Amick has brought us Trois...a more, you guessed it, French interpretation on the hip concept. We've tried all three, and I most prefer One.


ONE MIDTOWN KITCHEN REVIEW:

One exudes the same sleek, trendy flair as it's siblings, and even Rathbun's (now our dining benchmark). It's first impressions, a neon-lighted purple facade and huge hammered steel door, can be intimidating. (The entry lacks only a velvet rope and it could pass for an see-and-be-seen LA Club.) But once inside the, er, velvet curtain, the place warms up and the open kitchen's pleasing aromas leave no doubt why you've come. We were immediately greeted by a friendly host, more local-theatre charisma than to-cool-for-school pretension often found at similar establishments. To further bolster my confidence that this would be a positive experience, joining us in front of the host pulpit also waiting for a table was one of my music icons. Casually clad in a striped button-up, worn jeans and Chuck-T sneakers, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls fame was shown to a booth with two friends and I knew that One must be a good spot. Honestly, it's not unsurprising to see Emily out and about in Atlanta, and she is a restaurant proprietor /foodie herself. But to me, she is the musician who so often spoke to my soul when I was a teenager, and even now. And here she was, seated one table over, eating through a platter full of raw oysters. But enough stargazing, this evening was about Jeff and me, and the food. Neither of which disappointed.

The service was good, not memorable. Our waiter was efficient and friendly. As we deliberated a wine selection, he brought samples of 2 for us to try: a good move on his part as we ended up with the pricier French pinot over the also-tasty Chilean version. We're just suckers for the taste of French wine. The Roncier du Bourgogne was a good pairing for our selected dishes. Oaky with that old-world tingly character that was good to sip, but showed its life with the various foods we had.

The pre-meal bread selection rivalled Rathbun's in presentation and tastiness. Flavorful, thin breadsticks anchored the bread bouquet which also included delicately fried lavash (or something like that) and a gummy-crusted sourdough - all excellent, and embellished by the house condiment: chickpea spread, sans tahini (so it was not hummus), but with garlic, thyme, oil and a creamy texture. I like the inventive spreads touch, as Trois offered also. We split a house salad as we prepared our palates for the main event.

The dishes came beautifully presented, each with their own sized plate. Again, I must rave about any restaurant which takes care on its menu to think outside the "meat-and-3" box that caters to our American starch cravings by dully pairing (insert fancy-named protein here) with heaping mounds of rice or overly garlicked "smashed" potatoes. By contrast, One's menu items took account of tastes and textures, savory and sweet, and presented them in appropriate portions. Thus the foods' convergence on the plate was less like a well-balanced business meeting, and more like a dance.

The dance that Jeff (and I) enjoyed was a beautiful medium rare cut of salmon, bright, naturally pink and fleshy inside, milky pale pink on its seared exterior. It was topped with deep green swiss chard, plentifully buttered and flavorful. The attractive stack was then crowned with a crispy pancetta round and 2 deep-fried apple rings (think onion rings, but apple! Brilliant..and artery clogging). A cote, an apple-leek turnover that was to die for. Unbelievably rich, not overly sweet and a clever compliment to the other partners in the ensemble.

The group number that transpired on my long rectangle plate would make many a gourmande shudder, but I think it worked. The downbeat was a spicy melange of tender Tuscan white beans and chorizo sausage. I wondered whether the Spanish chorizo's flamenco kick would overpower the elegant seared scallops which sat innocently atop the mix. Sometimes, it did, and then I would alternate between bites of pure, melt-in-your mouth scallops, then fill the end of my fork with white beans and sausage. Once I'd scooped up the last bits of spicy sauce with that gummy bread, I wondered if I had room for dessert. In fact, I probably don't have room here in this post to describe our dessert, but I will try, ever so briefly because it was yet another movement in the symphony where the parts played so well together.

Again I was refreshed by the not-so-standard-fare dessert offerings. Each choice was simple in name, but complex in ingredients. We chose "Kit Kat Bar" which arrived on one of those same long plates, the eponymous Bar in the center atop an artful paintbrush stroke of dark chocolate. On either end of the presentation sat small scoops of house-made goodness: peanut sorbet and curry ice cream. The sorbet was light, not overly sweet, yet full of roasty peanut flavor that played wonderfully with the dense, layered Kit Kat-tasting stack in the center. But I think the dessert's highlight was the curry ice cream. As a fan most any curry-infused cuisine, I was anxious to try the tiny scoop and it didn't disappoint. "It tastes like soap!" I mused to Jeff, wide-eyed. "You mean, it tastes like soap smells" he clarified. Yes, it had a sweet, flowery taste and I wished there'd been more. But, by that point, I was so full the small scoop was just enough.

So, in all, I would mark One Midtown Kitchen among my favorite Atlanta restaurants. Maybe it's not quite Rathbun's but it was a delightful experience.

Oh, and about that moment I'm replaying, wishing I'd said something cooler....
I approached Ms. Saliers' table, apologized for interrupting and said "I just wanted to say 'Thank You.' I probably wouldn't be a musician today if it weren't for you." Which is entirely true. She then asked if I play around town, (insert a few more lines of banter here). She asked for my name, shook my hand, and introduced her sisters with whom she was dining. I then said something stupid like..."wow, you guys are a real talent pool...". Whaa? Anyway, my brush with local fame. Probably could've said everythng better, but I'm glad I at least got to say thanks.

..and Thank YOU for sticking it out through this review and story! Keep your thoughts, recommendations, etc. coming. I like them.

5 comments:

Higher Ground Expeditions said...

What a refreshing and tantalizing way to describe an anniversary meal - dance style!

the g'man

Marci said...

My mouth is watering and I'm jealous of your brush with fame! I greatly enjoyed this latest post. Tell my pal Jeff I said hello.

Goar said...

Congrats on the anniversary. I am so glad I was a part of the BUBBA date! I am even more glad that the two of you are together.

Annie said...

I missed you today as I was driving in to work, futilely attempting to blow the pollen out of my ever-shrinking nostrils. It was good to get a slice of your life today!

Do call when you can do lunch, Fu's ain't Fusion, but it's still good fu!

Elizabeth said...

Enjoyed your review - especially the musical metaphors for describing the food combinations.

and re: your encounter with Ms. Saliers. Words can fail us at the most key moments, can't they? I'm just impressed that you were brave enough to talk to her! I would have just sat and stared, thinking of a million things to say but saying nothing at all. :-)