Tag Archives: scallops

Breaking Bread at Watershed

30 Oct

Watershed is a restaurant that’s been on my list for quite some time now, but for some reason, it’s never quite made it to the top.  I haven’t heard a ton about it (good or bad), so I decided to finally check it out for myself.  The restaurant was previously located in Decatur, but re-opened in the Brookwood area in May 2012.  It’s right next door to Saltyard, which I tried and loved a few weeks ago (perhaps that inspired me to make another visit to the gorgeous Brookwood building on Peachtree).  The décor at Watershed was absolutely stunning.  The space was crisp, clean, and refined, with a warm and welcoming ambiance.

Prior to dinner, we enjoyed drinks at the bar while quizzing the bartender for menu recommendations (multitasking at its best).  Watershed’s dirty martini was one of the smoothest I’ve tasted, and the blue cheese olives didn’t hurt either.  I hadn’t previously tried (or heard of) Hammer + Sickle vodka, but the bartender raved about it, and for good reasons.  In retrospect, I’d say his suggestions were spot-on.

Post-cocktails, we moved a couple feet away to our table in the bar area.  The bar dining room was on the livelier side compared to the main dining area, but quiet enough that it wasn’t difficult to carry on a conversation.  I enjoyed the fact that the tables weren’t crammed next to one another like they are in some other restaurants, so our neighbors didn’t become our dining companions by default.

We started with the kale and mustard green salad.  It took a little bit of convincing to get Chad on board with the kale, but after one bite, he got over his kale apprehension.  The salad was essentially a Caesar without the romaine, but the fried eggplant croutons added a fun, Southern twist.

Watershed on Peachtree

I’m convinced that kale is slowly taking over the world, one plate at a time

The crispy pork belly was an obvious choice, as I rarely overlook a pork belly dish on any menu.  Watershed’s pork belly was flavorful and juicy, and I wish there had been more of it.  The outside of the meat was perfectly caramelized with a sweet and spicy glaze.  The pork was served over a bed of spicy slaw with some roasted Georgia apples that really played up the sweet and spicy combination of the dish.  A sprinkle of spiced, toasted peanuts complemented the texture of the slaw and brought the flavor full-circle.  Just one more bite of pork belly would have done the trick (or maybe two, for sharing purposes, of course).

Watershed Atlanta

Pork belly + apples + peanuts, a surprisingly delicious combination

I knew even prior to tasting them that the seared sea scallops were the right choice.  This dish came highly recommended by the bartender, although it doesn’t take much (or any) arm twisting to get me on board with scallops.  The scallops themselves were honestly massive.  Even after sharing a few bites with Chad, I still couldn’t finish the entire dish, and it wasn’t because it wasn’t delicious.

The dish was relatively mild in comparison to the bold flavor of the pork belly.  However, the simple preparation over sautéed spinach and green rice really accentuated the fresh and buttery scallop flavor.  The addition of the pumpkin seeds brought a unique and toasty fall element to the dish.   All I have to say is that the chef at Watershed has certainly mastered the art of the perfect sear.

Watershed on Peachtree

The “leftover” scallops didn’t last past 10 pm later that evening…

Chad stuck to tradition and ordered the pork chop.  On occasion, we do stray from our scallop-pork chop combo, but I’m certainly glad we didn’t at Watershed.  Why fix something that isn’t broken, after all?  The pork chop was served bone-in, with a side of bacon jam and collard greens.  Once again, the chef did not disappoint us with his technique of extra crispy on the outside, extra juicy on the inside.  The bacon jam had the sweet and savory combination going on, but the pork had such a delicious flavor on its own that I actually preferred it sans jam.  It’s not every day that a dish is so flavorful that it tastes better without bacon.  The greens brought a nice earthiness to the dish that really worked with the pork.  The pork chop was very close to being equally as delicious as the scallops, but also true to tradition, I preferred the scallops.

Watershed  on Peachtree

Can’t get much more Southern classic than a pork chop & greens

The bartender also recommended the hand-cut French fries, aka music to my ears.  They were thicker cut, salty, and crispy – nothing spectacular, but we managed not to waste any.

Watershed menu Atlanta

We had to compensate for the healthiness of the kale somehow

We skipped dessert in favor of enjoying another cocktail at the bar, which by that time, was in full swing.   Although we didn’t order a ton of food, I wouldn’t have traded in any of the dishes we tasted.  I did, however, rack up a list of “dishes to try in the future” as I watched them emerge from the kitchen all night.  All in all, the food at Watershed was delicious and perfectly executed, and I was thoroughly impressed with the excellent service from start to finish.  Even on a busy Friday night, our server was attentive without rushing us through the meal, which earns major points in my book.  I’d certainly return to Watershed for a cocktail (or three) and some more farm-to-table freshness, with a Southern twist.

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Still Optimistic About The Optimist

4 Sep

Sometimes, you don’t really realize just how good a restaurant is until you return for a second visit, and it’s even better than the first time around. Six months ago, I finally got around to trying out The Optimist, and I’ve been dying to return ever since. I was happy to see that since my initial visit, most things haven’t changed. The atmosphere was just as warehouse-chic as I remembered it to be, and there was not an empty seat in the restaurant. Menu-wise, there were a handful of new additions, but most of the staples were just the same:

The bread was still buttery and salty as ever.

The Optimist Atlanta

Buttery.

The Optimist Atlanta

Sea salty.

The shrimp a la plancha & “sopping [with flavor] toast” didn’t miss a beat.

The Optimist menu

You can bet the extra bread didn’t go to waste on this broth

The shoestring fries were just as crispy as I remembered.

The Optimist Atlanta

Triple threat: golden, crispy, & salty

Of course, I had to branch out and try a few new dishes as well…

I ordered the sea scallops, which, un-coincidentally, were my favorite dish by a long shot. The scallops were pan-seared and topped with the most flavorful short rib I’ve ever tasted. A brown butter chicken jus and a garnish of blackberries completed the dish. The blackberries provided a light and slightly bitter flavor to contrast the richness of the short rib. This play on “surf and turf” was definitely one of the most creative scallop presentations I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot). After reluctantly sharing bites around the table, it was a pretty clear consensus that this dish came out on top.

The Optimist scallops

Winner, winner, scallop dinner

The seared yellowfin tuna won the silver medal. The tuna was crusted and seared (perfectly) rare over a bed of crispy potato salad, olives, and grilled octopus. A touch of Harissa (chili sauce) completed the dish with just the right amount of heat. The flavor profile on this dish was definitely on the salty side, which paired perfectly with a cool glass of bubbly.

The Optimist Atlanta

On second thought, doesn’t everything pair well with a glass of bubbly?

The Alaskan halibut was simple, in a fresh-out-of-the-Pacific kind of way. The fish was pan-seared in lemon and olive oil, and dusted with sea salt. The best part of the dish was the golden-brown, extra crispy outer-sear.

The Optimist fish

They couldn’t get a more perfect sear if they tried

The golden tilefish was also simply prepared, but it lacked the crispy exterior that made the halibut so satisfying. The firm, flaky texture and clean flavor of the tilefish was nice, but I wish the chef had done a bit more with it.

The Optimist fish

This one needed an extra kick of something

The mahi mahi was a nice and flavorful contrast to the simplicity of the halibut and the tilefish. The mahi was blackened and topped with roasted sea beans, pickled peppers, and herbs. The salty sea beans provided an extra boost of flavor to the savory fish.

The Optimist fish

First experience tasting sea beans; won’t be my last

I didn’t think it was possible, but it turns out that the crispy fingerling potatoes won out over the shoestring fries in the crispy contest.

The Optimist Atlanta menu

These were pretty phenomenal

In addition to being beautifully colorful, the beet salad was crisp and fresh. The lightness of the dish was quite nice compared to the rest of our potato-heavy side dishes.

The Optimist menu

Perfect summer salad

My only complaint about the meal (there has to be at least one, right?) is that my parents are now completely hooked on The Optimist. I will certainly have a hard time convincing them to try someplace new on their next visit to Atlanta. I think it’s safe to say after round two that I’m still optimistic about The Optimist.

The Optimist Atlanta

Optimistic diners

Six Feet Under…The Sea

5 Mar

I’ve always heard good things about the cool atmosphere and extensive beer list at Six Feet Under, but it’s never been at the top of my list of places to try.  When brainstorming for a good “meatless” option for a recent Friday dinner (Lent has made weekend eating slightly more challenging), Six Feet Under’s seafood-heavy menu suddenly made it a much more attractive possibility.

The restaurant and bar area were both packed when we arrived around 8 pm.  Luckily, we thought to call ahead and were seated within 15 minutes (which is about how long it took Chad to find a parking space while I waited inside at the bar – valet anyone??).

I was excited to see a few of my local favorites like Monday Night and Wild Heaven featured on the draft beer list (which was definitely not small). In more of a cocktail-kinda mood, I instead went for a refreshing vodka-cucumber-jalapeño concoction.

Six Feet Under drinks

The only part I wasn’t crazy about was the name – meaning I was less than thrilled to ask the bartender for a “Titty Titty Bang Bang”

I was oddly intrigued by the selection of oyster shooters and feeling a little adventurous.  I succeeded in convincing Chad that we had to at least try a shooter in order to fully experience everything Six Feet Under had to offer.  We kept it classic with a round of Six Feet Unders – Absolut Pepper, Zing Zang, and of course, a raw oyster.

Six Feet Under Oyster Shooters

Good in theory, NOT in actuality

I can confidently say this was the first and last oyster shooter I will ever consume.  I love raw oysters and a good Bloody Mary, but I now know that I do NOT love them together.  After I finally got the entire thing down in no fewer than three sips, I decided that oysters are best left on the half shell.

The dinner menu was pretty all-encompassing – plenty of seafood and a lot of different ways to enjoy it.  Despite all the variety, Chad and I were both immediately enticed by the shrimp & scallop dish.  The shellfish were baked and served in parchment paper, which did wonders in terms of keeping the everything drenched in the delicious lemon-butter sauté.  Cracked black pepper, fresh basil, and lemon wedges added an extra boost of flavor to the seafood, which was quite plentiful.

Six Feet Under shrimp & scallops

Clearly I won’t be winning any culinary photography awards anytime soon

The dishes also came with hush puppies and two sides apiece, so for a combined total of $30, we had a LOT of food on our table…and a LOT of it was fried.

Six Feet Under hush puppies

The hush puppies were my favorite of the sides, stuffed with jalapeño slices for a little extra kick.  We also shared a garden salad, fried okra, home style potato chips, and zucchini fries.  Good thing calories don’t count on the weekends.

I didn’t have high hopes for the salad, but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived looking bright and fresh as can be.  The cucumber wasabi dressing was very different, in a zesty-tangy kinda way.

Six Feet Under salad

Best to go dressing on the side here – too much wasabi might be overwhelming

As for the remaining fried trio, I really enjoyed the potato chips, which were served hot out of the frier.

Six Feet Under potato chips

Far better than Lay’s

I probably (definitely) could have done without the okra and the zucchini. Real vegetables (even when fried) just don’t taste quite as good as fried potatoes & bread do.

Six Feet Under Okra

MediOKRA

Six Feet Under zucchini fries

Slightly soggy

All in all – I enjoyed the meal and definitely consider Six Feet Under a good option for casual, reasonably-priced seafood & more.

Among others, here’s what I’d like to try upon returning:

  • The Spicy Rat Toes and/or Extra Spicy Dragon Toes – with names like that (plus seafood wrapped in bacon), who can resist?
  • The rooftop patio on a sunny, spring Saturday
  • One (or several) new beers from the list.  Draft beers + patio weather = my favorite combination

As far as I’m concerned, I’m over winter and patio season can’t come soon enough.  The groundhog didn’t see his shadow, right???

Lady of the Hour: The Lady Lawrence

28 Feb

I’ve been meaning to check out The Lawrence since it opened in Midtown last March, but for some reason, procrastination got the best of me.  Chad and I had initially intended to dine at KR Steakbar this past Saturday, but after reading two mediocre reviews about Kevin Rathbun’s latest concept, we made a last minute change of plans.  I couldn’t have been happier with our decision after the fact.

The Lawrence sits at the corner of 8th and Juniper and boasts a beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass facade.  The exterior is actually quite deceiving, and I was surprised at just how small the space was once you stepped inside.  Not small in a bad way – more of a cozy, intimate way (meaning you could easily scope out your neighbor’s dish to find out what or what not to order).  The cuisine is more or less modern American, something that I just can’t seem to get enough of (although I try to branch out for variety’s sake every now and then).

The cocktails are as unique and adventurous as their names, an aspect that always tacks on a few bonus points in my book.  Recently I’ve been into grapefruit (cocktails, not the actual fruit), so I started with the Venus Fly Trap, which proved to be a refreshing choice.  I forgot to ask how this balanced blend of gin, bitters, grapefruit, St. Germaine, and chartreuse liqueur got its name, but it certainly didn’t bite.

The Lawrence Cocktails

Venus Fly Trap & The Old Fashioned

For a shared appetizer, the pork belly was a no-brainer.  This dish alone would have convinced me to return to the Lawrence (hint, hint – please don’t drop this one from the menu any time soon).  The preparation of the dish was simple – the sliced pork was served with pickled strawberries, glazed turnips, and roasted potatoes.  To be honest, I would have been content with a plate full of the deliciously crispy pork belly on its own, but the strawberries added a nice tangy twist.

The Lawrence Pork Belly

This left us fighting for the last bite

Returning to my predictable ways, my next dish was the pan seared scallops.  The trio was served over a salad of roasted brussels sprouts and citrusy clementines. When scallops are good (and these were really good), they’re one of those things that you just don’t want to share, or maybe I’m just food-selfish?  I reluctantly spared a sliver for Chad, minimizing the loss by keeping the bite to a 75-to-25 brussels sprout-to-scallop ratio.

The Lawrence Scallops

A sear doesn’t get much better than this

Chad had the Norwegian Steelhead Salmon, which was only slightly less than equally as delicious as the scallops were.  The salmon had a crispy, blackened skin, and was served over a creamy English pea risotto.

The Lawrence Salmon

Quite frankly, nothing can compete with seared-to-perfection scallops

The only bite I wasn’t totally crazy about was the side of spaghetti squash that we opted to share.  I love a good spaghetti squash, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper.  Unfortunately, this squash was roasted well beyond al dente and was literally drowning in butter.  Upon returning, I’d probably replace this one with the king trumpet mushrooms or the roasted beet salad.

The Lawrence Spaghetti Squash

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE butter, just not to this extent

Because I was forced to forgo the chocolate truffle cake (only 31 more days until I can return to my chocoholic ways!!), I ended the meal with a liquid indulgence, a la the Lady Lawrence.  The lady of the house was just as tasty as she was beautiful, a perfect little (on second thought, not so little) nightcap.

The Lady Lawrence

The Lady herself

Everything about our dining experience at The Lawrence made me realize what I’ve been missing out on all these months.  I certainly do not intend to procrastinate in planning my return visit.

Pardon My French

23 Jan

This past weekend brought about an impromptu late night dinner at Bistro Niko.  Traditional French cuisine isn’t necessarily my favorite (excluding French fries, of course), but I was excited to finally cross Bistro Niko off my “list.”  We arrived after 9 and the hostess informed us it would be a 45-minute wait for a table.  We decided to grab a drink at the bar and wait it out.  Not even five minutes later, the hostess reappeared to inform us that our table was ready.  I understand the concept of “under-promising and over-delivering”, but perhaps they could have ball-parked it a little closer.  It’s almost as if they were begging us not to stay…Glad they didn’t.

We were escorted to a table in the front dining room, which seemed a bit more formal and was definitely quieter than the main dining area.  Bistro Niko’s menu screams classic-French with a modern twist.  For the benefit of those less-sophisticated, non-French speaking Americans like myself, they graciously provided English “subtitles” for translating the French-written menu.

After enviously eyeing several flatbreads emerging from the kitchen, we decided to share the tarte au champignons.  The flatbread crust was paper thin and crispy, just how I like it.  The sauce-less tarte was topped with seasonal mushrooms and a gruyere-fontina cheese blend.  The nutty, earthy flavor of the gruyere and mushrooms contrasted perfectly with the sharpness of the fontina.  I think I can safely say that the dish beat out Del Frisco’s mushroom flatbread that I enjoyed several months ago.  I would certainly order this again, but I’m dying to try out the smoked salmon and prosciutto tartes next time as well.

Bistro Niko Mushroom Flatbread

A nice size for sharing – or not, depending on how hungry you are

My dining companions started with the poitrine de porc roti (pork belly) and the salade de betteraves (beet salad).  Naturally, I had to test out both of them just to make sure they weren’t poisonous.  The pork belly was absolutely mouthwatering, by far my favorite taste of the evening.  The pork was juicy and succulent on the inside and crisped to perfection on the outside.  The salty jus that engulfed the dish only enhanced the flavor and tenderness of the pork.

Bistro Niko Pork Belly

Nope, definitely not poisonous

The beet salad was pretty standard as far as beet salads go, but it did not disappoint either.  The pickled beets were a light and refreshing contrast to the heaviness of the pork belly and flatbread we had enjoyed thus far.

Bistro Niko Beet Salad

I was immediately intrigued when the server mentioned a seared scallop appetizer special, and decided to go with that as my entrée.  Whenever I hear the words “seared scallops”, I’m expecting a trio (or maybe a quartet if I’m being greedy) of perfectly bronzed U-10 sea scallops.

Bistro Niko Scallops

Apparently I have high standards when it comes to scallops

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when my plate arrived with a handful of tiny bay scallops.  The scallops were served over a bed of sautéed asparagus and endive, garnished with a citrus-olive oil reduction.  Although I enjoyed the citrusy flavor of the dish, you just don’t get the same hard-sear-tender-center effect from biting into a bay scallop as you do from the real thing.

Dessert-wise we shared not one (because one is never enough when it comes to sharing desserts), but two orders of the profiteroles.  The cream puffs were filled to the brim with vanilla ice cream, overflowing with a bitter chocolate sauce, and topped with a sprinkle of chopped almonds.  My only complaint was that they weren’t served in a bowl, which would have made it easier to (politely) scrape up every last drop of chocolate sauce.

Bistro Niko Dessert

I guess they decided to save the “trio” for dessert

We enjoyed top-notch service throughout the meal, but I found the atmosphere of the front room to be a tad stuffy.  I would love to return and enjoy a flatbread at the bar, or in warmer weather, a meal on the outdoor patio.  Either way, Bistro Niko has officially moved from my bucket list to my “places I’ll try again” list, but I’ll be sure to go sans scallops next time.

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