A few months ago Lance and I were asked to go to an event in Atlanta for a weekend in January. We decided that we should use the trip as an opportunity to try out a cool restaurant in town. What restaurant could be cooler than one with Kevin Gillespie (Top Chef Season 6) as its executive chef? Not many, that’s for sure! I made reservations for the Woodfire Grill and hoped that they’d be late enough in the day for us to have finished working. Then we waited.
Finally our trip came and we were able to keep our reservation. Oh happy day! We actually got finished with our work a bit early, called the restaurant, and they were able to seat us about a half hour early. In the reservation I had requested a table with good lighting for photography and this was commented on by our hostess who told us that we had the table with the best lighting in the house.
I didn’t take a picture of the outside of the restaurant but it looks like a small, unassuming place with solid, unadorned, wood doors. It looks tiny, like it couldn’t possibly have more than ten tables. However, when you walk in, it’s quickly apparent that the place is quite large. The restaurant opens up to a large dining area with high ceilings. The dining room was warm and cozy feeling, we were seated at a banquette that had lots of throw pillows to adjust for comfort.
The premise of the restaurant is local, seasonal dining, something that is right up our alley. The menu changes frequently with the season and has a wide range of a la carte options. However, I suggested that we just go whole hog and splurge with the 7-course tasting menu. Much to my surprise, Lance was happy to get on board with my suggestion! How awesome is that? Tasting menus are something I’d like to do more often when we dine, but sometimes it can be difficult when they require full table participation.
It’s worth noting that we did not know what the menu would be when we ordered it. We were told it would be a leap of faith. We did ask about shellfish, because neither of us care much for shellfish. Our waitress, Tiffany, let us know that scallops were the only shellfish and we decided that this would be acceptable. I got the impression that we could have gotten something instead of that course if we had been opposed to scallops.
Cauliflower aranbeet. Saffron-parsnip puree. Espelette pepper.
Our meal started with a bite size Amuse served in a spoon. The cauliflower was crunchy and the puree tasted almost like there was a creamy tomato component. Lots of flavor in a small bite – I licked every bit of my spoon clean. This was a recurring trend throughout the meal.
Local root vegetable “chopped salad.” Apple cider vinaigrette. Very old sherry vinegar.
Our first course was a “salad” of seasonal vegetables. Carrot, leaves of Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and golden beets all with a delicious vinaigrette. Perfectly seasoned and just tender.
It was at this point in the meal that I realized I’d need to take notes if I had any hope of remembering anything. Our amazing waitress saw me with my pen and paper and let me know that she could give me a copy of the menu after the meal, so I could just relax and not worry about needing to remember everything. I love when restaurants offer this, it makes my day!
Pan roasted day boat scallop. Roasted Brussels sprouts. Purple turnip puree. Banyuls-black pepper gastrique.
At this point we started to realize that Brussels sprouts were in season. Good thing we both enjoy them! This scallop was huge and perfectly seared. Scallops are one of the few types of shellfish I can tolerate and I did quite a bit more than tolerate this one. The flavor and texture were perfect and it paired wonderfully with the puree and the gastrique.
House made fennel sausage braised with local endives and roasted garlic. Parsnip cream. Pickled cauliflower.
The third course was our first hint of pork from the chef referred to by some as Bacon Jesus. It was also a reminder of the fact that there are ingredients I only think I don’t like due to the ways I’ve had them prepared. In this case, I don’t consider myself to be a fan of fennel, but the fennel component in this sausage was very well balanced and not over-powering in any way. All the flavors were grand.
Pickled red beets. Toasted pistachio pistou. Caciocavallo cheese.
Between the third and fourth courses, we had a Taste. This was a cube of pickled beet with a thin shaving of cheese and a pistou underneath. Again, I licked every bit of the spoon clean. I’m glad that I’ve come to love beets in my middle age.
Wood grilled local bobwhite quail. Skillet roasted faro and collards. Tahini sauce. Pomegranate marinated beets. Pickled onion. Parsley.
The fourth course was the first of the entrée courses. Our plates had little teeny quails served over farro, collards, and with yummy sauces. We were encouraged by our waiter to pick up the bones and nibble every bit of meat off them with our teeth. So we did!
This was the point in the meal when we started to realize how beyond fantastic the service was. Every course was brought to us by a knowledgeable server who described to us in full detail what was on the plate. Followed with a friendly “enjoy!” When Tiffany came to check on us during this course, I’d forgotten what the grain was and she was happy to tell me not only the name, but a bit of the history of farro. Most impressive!
Smoked Berkshire pork loin and belly. Roasted fennel. Jalapeno. Anson mills grits. Local apple chow chow. Caramelized pork jus.
Aaah, the pork course at last. Surprisingly, this was also the one course that failed for me, although Lance was happy to clean every bit from his plate. I think that the roasted jalapeno turned me off of the course. That said, I did eat the pork belly and it was amazing. Rich, buttery, decadent. When our waiter saw that I hadn’t cleaned my plate, she expressed concern and offered to have the chef send out something different. But, in my opinion, this is a risk you take and I was happy to accept the consequences. Not to mention, I was starting to get full…
Wood grilled strauss farm lamb loin. Roasted baby carrots and broccoli. Black truffle sweet potatoes. Virginia peanuts.
This picture is all blurry, probably because I was so eager to dig in that my hands were shaking! Again, I thought I wasn’t a fan of black truffles but I had to accept that I only feel that way because I’ve had them badly prepared in the past, since their inclusion in this dish was lovely. The lamb was perfect, the carrots and broccoli delicious. Another plate polished clean.
This dessert bite wasn’t listed on the menu, so I’m not 100% sure what it was. There’s a cube of rich chocolate brownie-like pastry, a foam, and a cherry. Yum.
Chocolate molten cake. Vanilla ice cream. Port reduction. Cherry mascarpone. Cocoa nib.
For some strange reason, I’m not a fan of fruits in desserts so I sort of ate around the cherry mascarpone. The bits I had were great, I just didn’t feel a great desire to eat all of it. The molten cake, however, was insanely good. Most molten chocolate cakes I’ve had have been heavy and dense. This one was as light and as soft as a cloud. It was amazing. The vanilla ice cream was lovely as well and the chocolate nibs provided a nice crunch. The chocolate garnish on top was the darkest chocolate I’ve ever had in a restaurant, completely bitter and perfect.
And then we got two little boxes with two dark chocolate truffles each to take home. I forgot to take pictures of those and we didn’t eat them until a few weeks later.
This was a really great meal. At the end of the meal Lance said “I don’t think I saw my water glass filled once, but it was always full.” Great ninja service. We also had bread with a compound butter at the start of the meal but I was too excited about being at Woodfire Grill at that point to remember to take a picture!
I would highly recommend this experience if you’re in Atlanta, GA. (And your waiter won’t tease you if you ask if Kevin is in the house. Sadly, he wasn’t although he had been there in the morning to plan the menu.)
Total price, no alcohol, including tip: Around $225
1782 Cheshire Bridge Road
Atlanta, GA 30324