Weekend Eats ATL

…because calories don't count on the weekends

Gypsy kitchen atlanta


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Buckhead Atlanta: Gypsy Kitchen

Gypsy Kitchen was one of the first restaurants to open in the new (and long awaited) Buckhead Atlanta development.  The restaurant parallels Peachtree, and is right next to its sister (or brother, rather) restaurant, The Southern Gentleman. On the inside, you’ll find lots of dark wood paneling, unique lighting, and a kitchen that partially opens up into the restaurant.  The open kitchen was neat for about fifteen seconds, until I started sweltering from the overheated restaurant.

The menu features an assortment of Spanish style tapas – cured meats & cheeses, snacks, appetizers, plates, etc.  It’s definitely an “order and share” kind of place, so that’s exactly what we did…

The meat & cheese board was pretty minimal, and by minimal I mean that the portions were pretty unproportional to the prices.  The manchego, chorizo, and san simon were all tasty, but I could have skipped the bresaola.

Gypsy kitchen atlanta

For $28, they could have at least thrown in a marcona almond or two.

Most of the other dishes we tried were some combination of greasy and under-seasoned, to put it simply.  The roasted mushroom caps were [under]cooked in a parsley-hazelnut sauce that was just a little bit way too oily for my liking.  The result?

Gypsy kitchen menu

Soggy ‘shrooms.

The chicken croquetas tasted like deep-fried balls of…nothing.

Buckhead Atlanta Gypsy Kitchen

Fritter fail.

The patatas bravas were undersalted and served with the same visually unappealing aioli as the croquetas.

Buckhead Atlanta restaurants

Really though, why is that aioli so yellow?

The octopus dish was doused in oil, and then smothered in an unnecessarily rich (yet bland) potato puree.

Gypsy kitchen Atlanta

Oily octo

The Spanish cigars were deep fried (surprise) and stuffed with blue cheese, dates, and jamón serrano.  They were crispy, but it was difficult to taste anything other than fried.

Gypsy kitchen menu

Buckhead restaurant or carnival fare?

The “paella” fried rice was the only really tasty and flavorful dish of the evening.  The crispy rice was tossed with shrimp, chorizo, and peas, and topped with a perfectly-cooked fried egg.

Gypsy kitchen atlanta

Wish we had skipped the others and ordered three of these.

At the end of the meal, I sort of felt like I had just eaten seven of the same dishes, with varying degrees of greasiness and tastelessness.  They even served a few of the dishes over a piece of paper, presumably to mop up some of the extra grease (refer to Spanish cigars above).  Gypsy Kitchen was disappointing, to say the least.  Stick to the Iberian Pig or Cooks & Soldiers if you want twice the flavor and half the grease (okay, grease rant over).

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Barcelona Wine Bar: Wine, Tapas, & Atmosphere?

Based on everything I’ve heard and read, Barcelona Wine Bar is all about three things: the wine, the tapas, and the atmosphere.  The atmosphere certainly lived up to its reputation.  The Inman Park hot spot boasts a large, wrap-around patio, a cool bar, and a swanky, wine-filled interior.  Speaking of wine, the wine list is not too shabby (or short, for that matter).  Barcelona offers a wide-array of wines from all over, with an emphasis on Spanish wines.  They also have several wine flights on the menu, providing the opportunity to taste a trio of wines.

Barcelona Wine Bar

A good option for the unknowledgeable wine-drinker

The “Garnacha Flight” taught me what I already knew about my unsophisticated wine palate – I like California whites and Oregon reds.  The wine service at Barcelona was also painfully slow.  Even on a busy Friday night, 20 minutes is too long to wait for a glass in a place that calls itself a wine bar.

Barcelona Wine Bar menu

Pretending to enjoy the wine…

As for the tapas, they were my least favorite aspect of the Barcelona experience.  We started by ordering four plates, and our server assured us that the kitchen would not bring them all out at once (I cannot stand it when they do that).  Three minutes later, all four dishes arrived together.

The whipped sheep’s cheese was the first bite I tried.  The cheese was fluffy, creamy, and rich.  It was topped with a layer of pistachios and smoked paprika.  The strong flavor of the paprika worked perfectly with the otherwise mild flavor of the cheese, and I loved the crunchy addition of the pistachios.  However, once you got past the top layer, the flavor of the dish became blah and mundane.  Perhaps there was just too much cheese altogether.

Barcelona Wine Bar Atlanta

Wishing for more smoked paprika

Next came the bacon-wrapped dates, which were by far the most delicious thing we tasted all evening.  The juicy and flavorful dates were wrapped inside a layer of thick-cut bacon, creating the perfect sweet and savory combination.  The textural contrast of the crispy bacon shell with the date was nice as well.  We were disappointed by the fact that this dish only came with two dates, and almost ordered another pair for dessert.

Barcelona Wine Bar

Good things come in small packages (of bacon)

We ordered the patatas bravas per our server’s recommendation.  This style of potatoes is pretty standard fare when it comes to Americanized-Spanish tapas – diced, fried, and smothered in garlic aioli.  The potato chunks were a tad larger than they needed to be, which resulted in a plateful of oversized, not-so-crispy potato wedges.  They aioli had a really nice flavor, but they went a little overboard with it – less aioli, more paprika, and crispier potatoes would have done the trick.

Barcelona Wine Bar tapas

Globs. of. aioli.

The heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad was a nice, light contrast to the first three dishes.  During the summertime, few things taste better than vine-ripened tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of dill.  Some red onion and pickle slices complemented the tomatoes nicely.  The dish was slightly under-seasoned, but otherwise very refreshing.

Barcelona Wine Bar tapas

More mozzarella, please!

Barcelona’s menu offered several seafood dishes “a la plancha”, which is right up my alley.  We opted for the salmon a la plancha, served atop a bed of roasted beets.  I typically love roasted beets, but the salmon-beet combination was missing something.  The dish needed an extra boost of zest to tie the two components together.  It didn’t help either that salmon was overcooked and quite dry.

Barcelona Wine Bar Atlanta

Perhaps they should rethink the “a la plancha” concept on the salmon

I had high hopes for the mussels al Diablo, as I noticed several other patrons around the restaurant who appeared to be enjoying them.  The mussels wound up being my least favorite dish of the evening.  They were served in a spicy tomato broth, with a slice of grilled sourdough bread.  Normally, my favorite part of a dish like this is using the grilled bread to sop up every last drop of broth.  That was not the case with this broth, as it tasted eerily similar to a can of Campbell’s tomato soup.  At least it did an okay job of masking the less-than-fresh taste of the mussels themselves.

Barcelona Wine Bar

Mussels al canned-tomato soup

Of the six dishes we tasted, one was delicious, two were disappointing, and the other three were mediocre.  I really wanted to like Barcelona, but one tasty dish in six isn’t a pass rate that’s going to bring me back for more.    For many, Barcelona’s extensive wine list and cool atmosphere likely make up for the fact that the food isn’t that great.  For me, not so much.


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Saltyard: Tasty Small Plates in Buckhead’s Backyard

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I’m much more of the “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” mentality.  Newly-opened Saltyard passed the first impression test with flying colors.  The restaurant opened several weeks ago right next to Watershed in Brookwood Hills (aka the no man’s land on Peachtree between Buckhead and Midtown).

Conceptually, the restaurant focused on small plates, with an assortment of Italian, Spanish, and Mediterranean influences.  Saltyard’s atmosphere was casual, upbeat, and slightly edgy.  The kitchen opened up right into the front of the restaurant, which resulted in being hit with a mouthwatering aroma upon entering the restaurant.

Even better, was the fact that we were seated at the chef’s table, which sits right at the entrance and looks directly into the kitchen.  I actually loved the fact that the table was somewhat isolated from the rest of the restaurant, because it can get pretty loud in there on a Friday or Saturday evening.  It was certainly more conducive to carrying on a conversation in a large group.

Saltyard Atlanta

Can’t complain about the chef’s table

When you’re dining at a small plates-style restaurant, the best only way to tackle the menu is to order as much as possible.  My favorite thing about dining with a large group is the opportunity to taste lots of dishes.  I guess the company would be a close second…

Saltyard’s menu was strategically broken down into a handful of sub-sections:

Bar Snacks

The “cheddar bay” biscuits with garlic and parsley were far superior to your average bread basket.  They were served hot out of the skillet, and nicely browned on top.  Inside, they were the perfect combination of flaky and cheesy.

Saltyard Atlanta

I’m not even normally a biscuit lover…

Saltyard Atlanta

…but I was after this bite

Deviled eggs are one of those dishes that I’m just never going to love, so I didn’t bother to try a bite of these.  I thought I’d include the photo in case there are any deviled-egg lovers out there…

Saltyard menu

I didn’t really see the need for a skillet-presentation on this one, seeing as how they were served chilled

Raw/Cured

The house-cured salmon chips were probably my second favorite plate of the night.  This dish was a sophisticated twist on a bagel with lox.  The thinly sliced potato crisps were smeared with lemon-dill marscapone and topped with layers of smoked salmon.  The salmon was dusted with a sprinkle of roe, fried capers, and a sprig of fresh dill.  The salty salmon and capers were nicely balanced by the mild acidity and creamy texture of the lemon marscopone.  No complaints about the size either; perfect for sharing.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Smoked salmon never gets old

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Yum.

The beef carpaccio, on the other hand, did not quite live up to my expectations, although I didn’t actually taste the dish…

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Someone at the table perfectly described this as “very inappropriately cooked carpaccio”

I initially thought our server had brought us the incorrect dish, given that anything carpaccio is traditionally (or always as far as I’m concerned) served raw.  After consulting with the kitchen, our server informed us that they actually serve their carpaccio medium-rare.  Hmm, they should probably specify that on the menu…

Saltyard menu

This is beef carpaccio, really??

Interestingly enough, they’ve now updated their menu to call this dish “seared rare beef.”  I’m not sure I would classify the beef I received as rare, but at least it’s a more accurate description than carpaccio.  I’m not big on sending dishes back, but this one went straight back to the kitchen.

Cheese/Charcuterie

I love a good cheese plate.  This sampling did not disappoint.  The Greendale Farm aged tomme (similar in texture and flavor to brie) was by far my favorite.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

Loved the cutting board presentation on this one

Bruschettas

The “tuna tonatto” was absolutely the most delicious bruschetta I have ever tasted.  The olive oil grilled baguette was topped with diced ahi tuna, chives, and a melt in your mouth truffle spread.  There was so much tuna piled onto this dish that it was falling off left and right.  No complaints from me about that.  The flavor combination of the tuna and truffle spread was outstanding – you can’t really go wrong when combining two of my favorite ingredients.  Favorite dish of the night, no question.

Saltyard Atlanta menu

This was pretty difficult to share

Veggies/Salads

While grabbing a pre-dinner drink at the bar, I spotted a server walking by with a plate of brussels sprouts.  I was sold right then and there.  The sprouts were simply prepared – roasted with lemon and capers.  Ironically, they were slightly under-seasoned in the salt department, but nothing that a sprinkle from the salt shaker couldn’t fix.  Definitely a good addition if you’re looking to get some greens in.

Saltyard Atlanta

If only I could learn to cook veggies this well, I might actually eat them

Aside from the carpaccio incident, our entire experience at Saltyard was flawless.  Our server was great, and I enjoyed every single dish I tasted.  For the most part, the dishes were pretty traditional, with a few unique and interesting twists (can’t say I’ve ever had tuna bruschetta before this meal).  I would return to Saltyard for the bruschetta alone, but would love to branch out and try the roasted mushrooms and pan-seared scallops, among others.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that my first impression of Saltyard is going to be a lasting one.

Saltyard menu

A complimentary birthday dessert was the cherry on top of a delicious meal