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 shrimp a la plancha & “sopping [with flavor] toast” didn’t miss a beat.
The shoestring fries were just as crispy as I remembered.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.