CALLING ALL FOODIES
By Liz Gunn || I have just returned from a long weekend in Atlanta, and I have so many things I could share. First and foremost though, I have to tell you about the most amazing dining experience I’ve had a in a very long time. Atlanta has many good restaurants to choose from, but in the last ten years of making this same trip – I have finally found the best.
I rate restaurants on food, ambiance and service – although not necessarily in that order. Food is obviously the most important, but impeccable service can occasionally make up for a lack of ambiance and vice versa. Luckily, at Bacchanalia in Atlanta you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Everything about this place is incredible.
At first glance of the actual restaurant, it reminded me of ABC Kitchen in New York. It’s in the back of a gourmet food and wine store (Star Provisions) which may seem odd, but it gives the place an interesting quirkiness, in my opinion. The space has an almost industrial feel to it, with brick walls and enormous untrimmed windows, but it has been made cozy with candlelight on every table and carefully selected art on the walls. It feels very open and rustic, but at the same time very modern with sleek, silver accents and large, intriguing light fixtures.
The menu is a prix fixe style, with five courses for you to select. In addition to the five courses, they also bring you a complementary starter dish – a tiny, warm pastry stuffed with gooey cheese, bread and butter, pineapple cider (prior to dessert – to cleanse the palate I suppose) and an assortment of fresh pastries after dessert – which they will bag for you to take home. The portions are smaller and not necessarily meant for sharing, but definitely bring your appetite. I’ll tell you what we tried and then touch on what really stood out.
We started with the Kumamoto Oysters and the Chilled Main Lobster. For the second course, we had the Gulf Crab Fritter and the Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras. For the entree course we selected the Margret Duck and the Berkshire Pork Loin + Belly. For the cheese course we told our server to surprise us, and she brought us the CapraGia Fresh Goat Cheese and the Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill. By the time we had dessert I was uncomfortably full, but managed to have a bite of both the Orange Soufflé and the Warm Valrhona Chocolate.
The seasonal menu relies on all organic ingredients, many of which come from Summerland Farms – about 45 minutes northwest of Atlanta. The presentation of the food is truly the work of an artist – some of it borders on too pretty to eat. The flavor combinations and preparation of each dish were nearly perfect.
My favorites: The oysters and lobster were superb, especially for a city nowhere near the coast. The foie gras was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. The duck and pork loin were great, but the pork belly was the real star of the entree course.
I love cheese. Period. But I wasn’t crazy about the broccoli served with the Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill. The cheese was similar to Brie and just didn’t pair well with broccoli, in my opinion. The desserts were both very good, but to be honest – I would have enjoyed them more if I could have waited an hour to eat them.
The service gets a ten, maybe an eleven. It was the perfect balance of attentive and informative without being overbearing or pushy. They also seemed very down to earth, which may seem like a strange observation, but too many times I’ve been turned off by a waiter or waitress who has tried to wow me with his or her vast knowledge of wine or cuts of meat.
Having worked in the service industry myself, I know I’m more critical of others in this profession. I can’t say enough good things about the service at Bacchanalia. My glass was never less than half full, the dishes were timed appropriately so that we never waited between courses but we were also never rushed. We were brought new silverware with each dish. It was exquisite.
If you go, definitely make a reservation well in advance. Even after nearly 20 years in Atlanta, and with so many other restaurants opening since then, Bacchanalia still manages to be booked solid almost every night of the week. Three weeks out and our only options were 5:45 and 8:45.
Bacchanalia is the perfect place for a special occasion or to take a client you’re trying to impress. Sister restaurant, Quinones at Baccchinalia, is located just steps around the corner – and is said to be even more lavish than the original with a prix fixe menu that changes nightly. I look forward to trying it out on our next visit!
LIZ GUNN is a wife, mom, travel enthusiast, food snob, daydreamer and lifelong Gamecock fan. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.