Before there were four, all three of Kevin Rathbun’s Atlanta restaurants were competing for the top spot on my ATL Faves list. His fourth and latest concept, KR Steakbar, opened in Peachtree Hills back in February.
I’m often skeptical about the service component at brand new restaurants, so I decided to give it a three month grace period before paying the establishment a visit on a recent Saturday night. Despite reading mixed and some less than raving reviews, I still had high hopes for the Italian-inspired small plate & steak concept.
We started the evening at the bar, which was large with lots of seating. The restaurant also had a nice patio area, which appeared as though it would be very pleasant, weather permitting. The bartenders were friendly, attentive, and efficient. My off the menu vodka-cucumber-mint cocktail was delivered quickly and tasted quite refreshing.
We were seated right on time for our 8:45 pm reservation. Although the atmosphere had a nice, fun, and upbeat vibe going on, the restaurant was very loud. Our 4-top table was also excessively long, to the extent that it was difficult to make conversation across the table. The hostess attempted to reseat us, but every other table was full – not the end of the world, but worth noting.
Our server gave a brief overview of the restaurant concept and menu – Italian fare, smaller portion sizes, multi-course dining encouraged, steaks highly recommended. We took her advice.
Course One: a meat & cheese assortment from the a la carte “salumi & cheese” menu. We opted for the Parmesan, Harbison, and Rogue River Blue, accompanied by some Cacciatorini and Finocchiona slices.
The Parmesan and the Rogue River Blue were both sharp and delicious. I didn’t care for the soft, almost liquid texture of the Harbison. The salami slices were pretty standard as far as cured meats go, although I always love the fennel flavor of Finocchiona.
Course Two: kale from the “garden” menu. The kale was sautéed with cremini mushrooms in a smoked olive oil, and topped with just a tad too much Parmesan. Although the Parmesan was quite good, it overpowered the dish and masked the earthy flavor of the kale and mushrooms. The cheese plate would have been sufficient.
Course Three: ribeye from the “meat” menu. I was tempted to try a fish or pasta dish, but our server’s description of the ribeye ultimately won me over. She explained that the ribeye was actually just the center cut piece, so really more like a filet. She had me at filet, extra rare.
Presentation-wise, I was confused by the dish. The steak was “garnished” with arugula and radishes, which turned out to mean smothered in giant, wilted lettuce leaves. I quickly brushed the wilty salad off of my steak and cut it open to reveal the important part – the cool, red center. They were spot on with the extra rare.
The flavor of the ribeye was phenomenal. The outside was seared and perfectly salty. The six ounce portion was smaller than I’m typically used to seeing, meaning I still had room for dessert and no one had to wheel me out of the restaurant.
Course Four (not pictured): olive oil cake. Disappointingly, the olive oil cake tasted no different than a pound cake. It was moist, but lacked any sort of flavor. The pistachio gelato that accompanied the cake was a nice touch, but there wasn’t much of it to go around.
Bonus Course: After-dinner drinks. We finished the meal with a round of their house-made “Bailey’s” on the rocks. This satisfied my sweet tooth in place of the olive oil cake.
Overall, I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and the service at KR Steakbar, but I definitely was not blown away. Although the concept was interesting, I’m not sure “Italian fare with an emphasis on Prime steaks” is a cuisine I need to eat again. Comparatively speaking, I would much rather dine at Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun Steak, or Krog Bar over KR Steakbar. I guess that’s the downside to owning three successful (and delicious) restaurants in one city – when you decide to open a fourth, everyone is going to compare it to the first three…#successfulchefproblems