Saturday, January 30, 2010

CLT Food Ghost Hits Atlanta: South City Kitchen and Woodfire Grill

Well... I made a trip to Atlanta for work and will highlight two restaurants: South City Kitchen and Woodfire Grill. Since Atlanta is not too far away, I figured it was time to do a 'highlight' special... South City Kitchen. This restaurant was recommended by a friend due to reviews that was heard. I was there with a group of ~10 people and we decided to head out and give it a try.

Tucked away in a historic home in Midtown, it appeared to be a nice, homey place plucked out of our own Elizabeth district. We were seated promptly (we had reservations) and were greeted by a friendly waiter. He told us about the restaurant and specials (Pork Chop Stuffed with Pimento Cheese) and suggested some wine. First glance of the menu was of course - southern food and a similar twist to our own New South Kitchen (see review). I settled for the She-Crab Soup for the starter and the Special. Mostly everyone ordered something different and another patron ordered the Special as well.

Our courses surprisingly came quickly - even with our party of 10. She-Crab Soup arrived and at first glance was a pale white with a thin consistency. I did not see much she-crab as I do in my Charleston area soups... but hey - I gave it a try. My first bite was warm and the taste confirmed my first look at the soup... pale, thin and lacking flavor. There was two pieces of she-crab that I could tell but not much else. I could not taste sherry or spices or even salt - clearly, a disappointment. Other patrons at the table ordered fried green tomatoes and fried okra. Again - they confirmed that it was pretty good but could have used some seasoning (I concurred).

The main courses arrived. I was pumped about the Special - who doesn't love a homemade pimento cheese....stuffed in pork?! Actually - it was two hammered out pork chops with pimento cheese spread in the middle. I took a bite and it was subwarm temp. The pimento cheese tasted store bought and not nearly as good as the Penguin's pimento cheese (yes - I compared a burger joint with an 'upscale' restaurant). The pork was so thin, you basically got a mouth full of the cheese. The 'stuffed pork' was served with brussel sprouts (the only redeeming item of the meal) and mashed potatoes (again - room temp). I did not order dessert.
Some patrons said that their meals were good but not rememberable. Ouch.
The service was good and prompt and I can't complain - but with the bland, sub-warm food with no adventure -
I give South City Kitchen 2 ghosts.

Woodfire Grill

Woodfire Grill is Top Chef Kevin's restaurant near Buckhead (Top Chef Vegas). I had the impression that since it was a 'Top Chef' restaurant that it would be over popularized based on that alone and Kevin would not even be cooking... I will be proved wrong. I went with a group of 4 and reservations are heavily recommended. We could only get a 5:30 PM reservation made a week before. Once entering the dining area (there is a lounge in the entry), there is a small grill area opened to the dining room.... and guess who was there actually working - Top Chef Kevin! Amazing. I will also noted that the decor is hip and music is the alternative/coffee house flair.

Our waitress arrived and was laid back and was knowledgeable about the menu. The menu is always changing and based upon what products are available at that time. Also, they have a 3-course and 5-course 'blind tasting' which I would have loved to do but the entire table has to select that option.

Before our appetizer and meal, we were served an Amuse-Bouche. An Amuse-Bouche is a French term for ‘outside of work’ and is a one-bite appetizer that the chef makes to highlight different flavors. Our Amuse-Bouche was grapefruit, fennel and yogurt - a simple tarty/sweet bite.

I ordered the risotto for my appetizer (or formally called creamy sunchoke carnaroli risotto). The risotto was layered with roasted apples and celery salsa, risotto and topped with toasted walnuts and fried sunchokes. This was presented very nicely and smoking hot. My first taste was spectacular... the three layers of flavor was a tap dance on my taste buds. The apples and celery provided a nice plate for the creamy risotto and the crunchiness of the walnuts and sunchokes complemented the others perfectly. I enjoyed every bite.

For my meal I ordered the Duck Breast. This was served with black eye peas (smashed) and sautéed endives. duck cracklins. pickled squash. spicy duck vinaigrette. The duck was ordered medium and was perfect. A nice balance of flavor and salt - added with the crunchy duck cracklins and endives gave made this dish unforgettable. Every bite of this dish was remarkable.

Lastly, for dessert, I ordered the cocoa nib doughnuts (served with passion fruit caramel and coconut ice cream). The serving was a good size with 3 small crispy doughnuts drizzled with the caramel. The coconut ice cream was a cool break to the sweet serving.

For a "Top Chef" restaurant I was impressed.... very impressed. All portions was great and full of flavor. I will definitely go back and I wished it was closer. This is the second restaurant in CLT Food Ghost history that will have 5 ghosts. Kevin - you cook one hell of a meal.