Monday, December 8, 2008

Restaurant Review: The Bureau

I've checked out The Bureau twice now, with somewhat mixed results. The space itself offers a little bit of charm on an otherwise charmless stretch of Edgewood. I applaud Noni's and The Bureau for being early settlers on a still gentrifying stretch, and I am sure it's an uphill battle to get people to come to dinner on a street where you are legitimately concerned about your car being broken into. So let me lead off by saying that I hope people support both of these restaurants.

The Bureau has an interesting set up. The upstairs reads as a funky bar and grill with exposed brick walls, deep wooden booths and interesting large-scale pieces of art. The downstairs, though, is much more bar-feeling with a larger bar, a pool table and even a giant bean bag chair. On my first visit, on a weekday, the place was virtually empty, but on a recent Friday night, it was at least fairly crowded with loud spillover from the gallery next door. I was happy to see more of a crowd, but I was dismayed that there was a lot of smoke coming from that crowd. Not exactly sure of the breakdown of the Bureau's profits, but my understanding is that to allow smoking, you have to be primarily a bar, and that's not what The Bureau strikes me as. I strongly prefer to eat in a smoke-free area, so definitely wasn't a bit fan of all the smoking.

The menu changes daily, so a much-loved dish might not be there the next time you go. On my first visit, I tried a veal appetizer, which was so unbelievably good that I could have dispensed entirely with my entree and just had another of those. It wasn't the pounded flat veal people are used to, and it was so intensely full of flavor that I was floored. It's breading was light and crisp, and the meat was almost creamy. The accompanying mushrooms added a wonderful earthiness, and a creamy sauce made it all the more decadent. Seriously the best veal dish I may have ever had. My friend's heirloom apple salad was quite tasty, too, but it certainly didn't hold a candle to the veal!
The burger, alas, was not nearly as exciting. Although not a bad burger, it certainly wasn't anything to write home about. Although the boyfriend proclaimed it delicious as he ate my leftovers later that evening, I didn't get anything from it that was any better or different than most places. I'd take one of my brother-in-law's gourmet cookout burgers any day over it. The fries were pretty "eh", too. Not bad, but not snatch them off your friend's plate delicious either.
When we returned, I was looking forward to having the veal again, but alas it was nowhere to be found on the menu. Instead we started with the chicken liver bruschetta, one of the few constants. I often hate the aftertaste of chicken liver, but this take on it, was a spread on crisp bread with a few onions and it managed to be sweet and rich enough to keep that taste at bay.

My entree that night, Georgia shrimp with shoestring squash and prosciutto, was a total disappointment. Nothing on the plate tasted bad, but there was nothing whatsoever that made it memorable or even very compelling. The squash was tasty enough but it was the kind of flavor that got very old after a while and the shrimp didn't have any seasoning or sauce to make it very interesting. Prosciutto always sounds like a good thing to add, but in this case, it didn't really seem to fit.

The boyfriend's short rib with purple mash, was as rich and tasty as you'd expect but definitely wasn't a standout compared the zillion other short rib dishes out there. Neither his entree nor mine were cheap, so I thought my bill at the end of the meal was a bit high considering nothing knocked our socks off.

I suspect that with an ever-changing menu, it's hard to make every dish be a winner. Perhaps it would be nice if they could keep some things on the menu longer if they are big winners so that. I'd be far more likely to go back for that veal dish than for anything else I've tried there.

All of that said, the wait staff is friendly, the atmosphere nice, and if nothing else the menu offers lots of interesting options. If they could manage to avoid some of the losers and keep the winners on the menu longer, it would be a great little place. My fingers are crossed that Noni's and The Bureau succeed because it's a tough neighborhood and they're the pioneers, so let's hope they get some love from the locals.

The Bureau
327 Edgewood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Phone: (678) 732-0067
Cross Street: Hilliard Street

The Bureau on Urbanspoon



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