Sunday, November 23, 2008

Woodfire Grill

When Michael Tuohy left Woodfire Grill recently the food blogs were all a chatter. As he headed westward, the reigns were handed over to Nicolas Quinones and Bernard Moussa of Five Senses Restaurants. The kitchen team remained the same, so I wouldn't have expected a major change in quality, but just to be sure, the boyfriend and I tested out the newly managed restaurant for ourselves and came away very pleased.

The space is surprisingly lovely given it's innocuous outside appearance on a blech stretch of Cheshire Bridge. A bit more texture on the walls or richer fabrics could up the comfy quotient, but still, it's a great place for a date or impress the in-laws evening out.

To get the full effect of how the kitchen is running these days, we tried out the 3-course tasting menu. The kitchen is so attentive to seasonal and local cuisine that the list of farms they work with is on the menu, and the menu itself is printed daily. I admired the kitchen's use of ingredients like turnips that I'd normall shy away from.

Before our food arrived, we started with some of their fall cocktails. The boyfriend enjoyed his Whisky Fix, a mix of maker's lemon juice, lemon bitters and sugar. My drink, the peach blossom, was admittedly not fall-like at all, but it did have the subtly sweet quality promised by the waiter.
First up was an amuse bouche of radish, butter and fleur de sel eaten in one bit on a little spoon. Each ingredient was clearly distinguishable to the tastebuds, but what was great about it was the butter really mellowed the kick of the radish making the whole thing pretty darn tasty. The bread basket was also a winner. I hate when great restaurants have crap bread, but Woodfire's raisin bread was worth stuffing ourselves with even before the other food came out.
The first course was GA white shrimp, remoulade and turnip greens. The shrimp was perfectly crispy on the outside an succulent and sweet on the inside. I could have easily eaten a larger serving of this! You can't really go too wrong with remoulade, and this one was certainly just spicy enough and well-worth slathering all over the shrimp.
Next came a fried green tomato with turnip salsa. I didn't know what to expect from turnip salsa, but was actually a good combination with the tomato. The tomato was a bit firmer and less juicy than I would have preferred, but still the overall effect was good.
Best of all was the next course, a wood-grilled Sonoma duck breast, squash puree and root vegetables. I'm often not a huge duck fan because it can be so fatty or bland. At first bite, I wasn't sure this was going to be better than pretty good. But by bite two, I realized the skin was ultra-crispy, the meat tender, and all of it so flavorful that it changed the way I think about duck. The sweet squash, in particular, was an accompaniment that elevated the overall dish even more.Last came two different desserts - a valhronna cake with banana cream and chocolate chip and peanut ice cream and an apple tart with a candied apple. Usually chocolate is an easy winner for me over fruit, but these desserts were pretty even, although neither blew me away. Not to say they weren't good, they were delicious, and we ate every last bite, they were just exactly as delicious as you'd guess from the descriptions. I did really love the candied apple because it was such a cute touch on the plate, and it was so much sweeter than I'd have expected given how tiny the apple was.

Overall, it's clear to me that whatever challenges come with handing over management to new people, it hasn't effected the quality. Our meal was fantastic, and the atmosphere made it into an exceptional date night. As if that wasn't enough, the service was attentive and warm, and we left feeling that everyone there from waiter, to host, to kitchen staff were all in it together and aiming to make each diner feel special.

Pros: Top notch seasonal/local cuisine, gracious service
Cons: Some dishes excel more than others, but there were no big losers here

Woodfire Grill
1782 Cheshire Bridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30324

Woodfire Grill on Urbanspoon



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