Back in the studio
A return visit to the Food Studio, plus a first trip to Rolling Bones
I have had very good meals at the Food Studio (887 W. Marietta St., 404-815-6677) in the past. I love the restaurant's site, the King Plow Arts Center. That is, I love it when I can find it. I have never driven there without getting lost. That's a warning: Leave early when you go.
King Plow, formerly a mill, is full of arty spaces, like Actor's Express where I saw Spain before my late dinner last Saturday night. The Food Studio itself is beginning to look a bit like it needs a redo. I used to regard this as one of the most erotic — OK, kinkiest — rooms in town. Nobody ever writes about it without mentioning the bar and using words like "hipster" and "neckline" to describe the clientele.
But "hipster" is a word from the last decade and so, I'm afraid, is the look here. The furniture is cushy. High-design lighting bounces off big loft windows and causes the brick walls to glow. Banks of candles climb up the walls. It's still cool enough. Who wouldn't want to make weird love in an upholstered room of a former farm equipment factory? But it's time for some new effects. It's certainly true that the owner, Fifth Group Restaurants, which also owns Sala, South City Kitchen and La Tavola, can do style like few in town.
The menu of New American cuisine is as tantalizing as ever but unevenly prepared. I had no complaints about the appetizers. My friend Joe ordered the infamous foie gras prepared as a take on a drugstore counter BLT. Joe, who had never eaten foie gras before, didn't care for the dish — announcing that it tasted like hot fat — so I happily exchanged my braised rabbit turnover for it. The BLT is decadent perfection to me. Thick liver was sandwiched between challa toast with tomato jelly and baby greens. There were bits of candied bacon on the plate with a balsamic reduction.
The rabbit turnover, rather like a crusty empanada with caramelized fennel, was afloat on a fondue made with the renowned cheddar of Grafton, Vt. Order it but don't expect it to come close to the BLT.
Entrees faltered. My braised veal cheeks were true to their expected form — so gelatinously soft from long cooking they could be eaten with a spoon. But their flavor, usually rich, was mysteriously shallow. And why serve them with mascarpone dumplings? A starker contrast — like a pureed root vegetable — would be better. Braised baby greens were not adequate to counter the lugubrious textures.
Joe ordered roasted vegetables served on a cedar plank with aioli and toasted bread slathered with lividly green avocado puree. The vegetables — including beets, asparagus, cippolini onions, potatoes, carrots and mushrooms — were beautiful and cooked nicely al dente. But, my God, someone in the kitchen has a heavy hand with salt.
The standout dessert was a lemon-basil parfait, although the molten chocolate cake will better satisfy your inner child's tendency to become obese.
The service at every level is flawless at the Food Studio. Our server, Matt Ruppert, is herewith declared Waitron of the Week and for the second time.
Q for Techies
I don't think I've ever eaten high-tech barbecue before but that's a good description for the new Rolling Bones Premium Pit BBQ (377 Edgewood Ave., 404-222-2324) in the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District. The owners have renovated a 1940s gas station that gleams like a new toy in a neighborhood that might be a problem for people who can't deal with panhandlers. But you're not like that, are you? OK, there's a drive-thru for you.
The restaurant is cooking in a gleaming custom-built smoker that will make your eyes pop out. The gimmick here is recipes for Texas-style barbecue developed in the Virgin Islands by a man named Bill Collins. Dana Armour and Paul Feuerzeig, two Georgia State University graduates who grew up in St. Thomas, used to dine at Collins' restaurant there and decided to bring his concept to Atlanta.
How's it taste? The first thing you will notice is the relatively light use of sauces, which is totally intentional. And the meat, especially the beef brisket, is juicy and succulent. Ribs are tender. But, oddly, something is missing. It's almost as if the meat is cooked too perfectly. There are no crisp, burned spots where the sugar of a sauce caramelizes on the meat. The exception is the chicken, which gets grilled as well as smoked. For my money, it's the best choice.
Pinto beans lack fat and salt. Coleslaw is weirdly full of raisins and you keep expecting to taste your mama's carrot salad.
A little less perfection would go a long way in improving the nonetheless quite acceptable meats. And, in any case, the place is a fun hangout with a great staff.
Here and there
Winter's on its way and if you're not a coffee drinker, I've got the perfect alternative for you: hot chocolate from Two Chicks and a Chocolate Bar. Hope Mirilis and Kate Yeager Wiley are manufacturing one of the richest instant products I've ever tasted. You can order it by calling them, 404-223-3149, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ...
I'm sorry to report that Bang has closed in Little Five Points. The 'hood can't handle real food. ... Grant Central continues to surprise me with specials. My recent favorite was a mushroom ravioli with pesto cream and sun-dried tomatoes topped with grilled shrimp. ...
I paid a return visit to Eno, reviewed here two weeks ago, and had another very good meal — this time the Provencal-style fish stew. ...
I have found the best sandwich bargain in town. The Italian sub at the Bread Garden on Amsterdam is loaded with cured meats on a crusty baguette and costs under $6. Check out the seasonal specialties the bakery will be offering this year.
Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at email@example.com.