Thursday, July 29, 2010

Atlanta's Downtown Restaurant Week - Legal Sea Food

Downtown Restaurant Week is going on this week through August 8. For $25 or $35/pp you can enjoy 3-courses at a variety of restaurants, from Pittypats Porch to BLT Steak. Mr. AT and I checked out Legal Sea Foods for dinner recently and found it to be a great deal!
I suspect Legal Sea Foods is a popular choice for Atlanta visitors given its location close to downtown hotels and sites like the aquarium. It's two stories, with a stylish hotelesque bar downstairs with a high ceilinged restaurant upstairs. It turns out that it's definitely worth a visit from locals, too!

With a huge marlin overhead and an impressive wine racks lining the walls, Legal Sea Foods creates a more stylish environment than I was expecting. For some reason I'd pictured casual seafood shack, but what I got was an upscale evening out.

In the past, I've complained that some restaurants see Restaurant Week menu as a chance to trot out their b-game. Fortunately that's not the case at all at Legal Sea Foods.
We chose from a menu composed of their most popular items:

Choice of Appetizer:

New England Clam Chowder
Wedge Salad- Ice berg lettuce, blue cheese, fresh bacon, tomatoes with blue cheese vinaigrette Chilled Gazpacho- chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers

Choice of Entree
Legal’s Signature Crab Cake Combo- jumbo lump crab, grilled shrimp and scallops, mustard sauce and seasonal salad (contains nuts)
Red Onion Jam Swordfish- center prime cut, rice pilaf, sautéed sherry mushrooms and spinach Cioppino- lobster, scallop, shrimp, calamari, shellfish, scrod, tomato broth, side of jasmine rice

Choice of Dessert
Key Lime Pie
Boston Crème Pie

Legal Sea Food is known for its New England Clam Chowder, so despite the heat, I split it and the wedge salad with Mr. AT. The soup was chunky and rich, but given the weather, I actually found the salad just as compelling. It's huge and packed with flavor. It's pretty heavy on the dressing, bacon and cheese, so it's not diet food, but it certainly was delicious!

Ever since the July issue of Bon Appetit, at which cioppino was prepared as part of a July 4th feast, I've had a hankering to try it. Not only did it sound chock full of seafoody goodness, but this family and party sounded so delightful (Bobby and Sarah Akin, if you're looking for new friends to invite to your fab Montauk summer home, call me!) that it cast a warm glow on the dish. So I opted for that, while Mr. AT chose the crab cake combo.

The cioppino has a veritable cornucopia of seafood. Literally every bite is packed with at least one and often two types of seafood. For a $35 prix fixe, they are not kidding around. Having never had cioppino before, I'm not sure how exactly it should taste. That said, I could have done with a slightly more flavorful broth, especially to dip a crunchy buttery slice of bread in. But the seafood was well prepared and left pretty natural - definitely a good chance to appreciate the true flavors of mussels, lobster, shrimp, etc. Even with Mr. AT and I both tackling this dish, we couldn't finish - it's just that much food, which makes this a very, very good deal.

The crab cakes were perhaps even better. Unlike the bready blobs that often pass for crabcakes, these were packed with sweet crab meat, and the mustard sauce was a delectable enhancement.

Stuffed to the gills (terrible I know!), we still found room for dessert. Mr. AT was thrilled to get a chance to have key lime pie. I'm a citrus dessert hater, so when we're splitting, he never gets to have it, but here we each had our own included in the prix fixe. I tried a bite at least, and although it hasn't converted me to a citrus dessert lover, I did like the crust, which in this case played double duty as a shell holding the dessert together. My Boston Cream Pie was less creamy than you might expect, but from a textural standpoint, that worked for me.

The service at Legal Sea Foods was friendly and efficient, which helped make the evening a success. For the price, restaurant week is an amazing chance to get mountains of fresh, tasty, and actually healthy (read: not fried) seafood, which in this landlocked city, isn't always easy!
The only bad point of the night came when we left. Through no fault of Legal Sea Foods, the parking attendant - Michael - in the attached parking deck was rude to the max, and our otherwise lovely evening was marred by an argument and the feeling of being scammed. Therein lies the challenge for downtown restaurants. In a city with ample parking, it's a drag to pay for parking at all, let alone deal with oh so unpleasant parking attendants.

Fortunately with such a good deal going on and pleasant service inside it's worth it to suck it up and just high tail it as quickly as possible from car to restaurant!

Make your reservation here.

Legal Sea Foods
275 Baker Street Northwest
Atlanta, GA 30313-1801

Legal Sea Foods - Downtown Atlanta on Urbanspoon

*Full disclosure: Although my meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion of the experience!



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