Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Restaurant Preview: Buckhead Bottle Bar

The Atlanta Hawks' Georgian (the country not the state) basketball player, Zaza Pachulia, is becoming quite the prolific restaurant investor. First Eno, and now Buckhead Bottle Bar. A.D. Allushi and Ian Winslade, no restaurant slouches themselves, have teamed up with Zaza to open what they are calling "an all day cocktail house featuring bar food favorites." Before visiting, I was predisposed to have low expectations.  First strike, it's owned by a basketball player. I'm dubious. Secondly by the sound of it, it's a bar with some food. So I was envisioning mozzarella sticks and maybe some sliders.

Mr. AT and I headed over recently to check it out, and we were very pleasantly surprised. Despite the name, and even the press release description, Buckhead Bottle Bar is very much a restaurant, too. The menu is totally legit - with creative and varied options, and nary a mozzarella stick in site. Even better, the food is actually really, shockingly good. This ain't no Taco Mac food.

The setting of course is also nothing like the dingy Buckhead bars of my youth (I'm looking at your Buckhead Saloon!) It's a large, swanky space, with very distinctive lighting and lit from below marble cocktail tables. Definite date territory.

We of course had to start with a signature cocktail. It is an all day cocktail house, right? I chose a Ginger Fig - made with orange vodka, fig jam, muddled ginger and oj, and Mr. AT chose the Scottish Mule - made with gin, ginger beer and English cucumbers. Both were enjoyable, but my honey clearly won that one. His was reminiscent of a Pimms Cup which is infinitely more refreshing and gulpable than a pretty sweet Ginger Fig.

We started with the cornmeal dusted oysters with a citrus shooter. Our gregarious Albanian waiter poured the citrus shooter over the oysters, a nice flourish. I love me some fried oysters, and these hit the spot. Yum, and a nice contrast to my sweet drink.

We then split pasta with veal ragu and parmesan, and a lamb burger with goat cheese and chow chow. The pasta was hearty and comforting, albeit probably not ideal hot weather food. Interesting enough, it had a heavy smattering of mushrooms, which weren't actually on the menu description but were still welcome. This dish didn't knock our socks off, but it was still good eating and certainly not something you see at many bars.

The burger was yet again a very pleasant surprise. All too often burgers at places that don't specialize in them are pretty blah, but this meat was chock full of flavor. It was seasoned with a pretty heavy hand, but I way prefer that to the bland burgers I've had elsewhere. I especially loved the chow chow, a nice change from the norm. But the real shock was how darn good the onion rings are. Lately we seem to be ordering a lot of these suckers, and they're usually too soggy, too dry or falling apart. But these were crispy, perfect rings, and the soft oniony insides stayed put with every bite. Now that's some good soak-up-the-booze food!

We were already stuffed to the gills, but how could we turn down the adorable A.D. when he offered to bring us milkshake samples? The chocolate hazelnut is like creamy Nuttela in a glass, which is obviously a very good thing. And the white chocolate peach is a combination I've never experienced before. The white chocolate flavor is subtle, so it almost tastes like a smoothie more than a milkshake. Either way, we indulged in way too much of those given we still had our dessert coming!

I don't know who's Great Grandma invented "Great Grandma Hatti's Sticky Toffee Pudding", but I hope he visited her all the time and indulged her endless listing of her ailments, because this thing is the bomb. It's got a helluva booze kick (Grandma liked the sauce don'tcha know?!), and is one delectable, ooey gooey treat. We seriously shouldn't have been able to move by this point, let alone eat, and yet, we ate THE ENTIRE THING. That's gross (not the cake, us), but so worth it.

We really enjoyed our meal, and were only disappointed that the dining room was so empty the night we visited. It's new, so I hope the word gets out that Buckhead Bottle Bar is far more than just cocktails, and is totally worth heading to for dinner and drinks.

An interesting side bar - Zaza is Georgian, and A.D. and many of the staff are Albanian. A very unusual combination of nationalities for Atlanta but a great excuse to learn more about a country most of us know nothing about (if you don't count Adil Hoxha the Simpson's nefarious Albanian exchange student). I visited Zaza's old hood, Tblisi, when I was 12, and I'm glad to see the pig testicles they served up were not on offer at Buckhead Bottle Bar!

Buckhead Bottle Bar
268 East Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
(free valet)

Buckhead Bottle Bar on Urbanspoon



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