Bacchanalia – Atlanta, GA

the view from our table

For the last three or four years, every list I’ve read relating to Atlanta’s restaurants has listed Bacchanalia as the top restaurant in the city.  About once a year, we have a “big night out”.  This year, Bacchanalia was the destination.  I started looking for reservations for this weekend and the only slot available (before 9:15) was at 6:00 on Friday.

The restaurant is through a doorway and up the stairs in the back of Star Provisions.  Dinner was a five (scheduled) course event, starting with, primarily, cold preparations. 

I say scheduled courses, because over the course of the night, we also had:

These amazing biscuits with cheese – they were light and flaky with a creamy cheese center.  After we both ate one, I was so glad to see that there were two left, because I didn’t want to feel bad when I ate my second.

A sample of root of celery soup, with hearts of celery and a couple of spicy vegetables thrown in.  This was served with a small brioche with an arugula custard on it. 

A small (2 ounces, maybe), incredibly RICH strawberry shake with cocoa nibs.  I drank mine and most of Jo’s. 

And two small finishing plates of butter madelines, chocolate bon-bons, pineapple gelatini and orange-infused marshmallows.  Mmmmmm.

To start with, Jo ordered the lone exception to the cold stuffs –  Hawaiian blue prawns with young fennel, radish leaves and a prawn consumme:She declared it “very shrimpy”.  I can’t comment because she cleaned the bowl <g>.

Sidebar: One of the things I love about technology is when you’re out in a restaurant and don’t know what something is, you can Google it quickly from your phone.  Most of the comments in parentheses are descriptions / definitions that I Googled before we placed our order. 

I decided to start with their house-cured lonzino (lonzino is is air-cured pork loin, a lean cut that cures easily) served with sour cherry mostardo (Italian, quite often fruits preserved in a mustard flavoured syrup) and rye.

The sour cherry mostardo was a most unusual taste.  It had all the tartness of a wild cherry with a touch of mustard.  The longino was sliced very thin, but a bite of the pork, coupled with the cherry, was a delicious combination.

Jo chose the wild mushroom risotto with morel mushrooms, English peas, parmesan and a black truffle vinaigrette for her second course.  It was fairly dark in the restaurant and some of the photos just didn’t turn out well and the risotto was a victim to that.   

I ordered the Veal sweetbreads with thumbelina carrot and charred scallion.

I had never tried sweetbreads before, but the waiter said that they were exceptional, so I thought it was time to give them a try.  The texture was very similar to chicken livers, and the taste was better.  Not great, not awful.

For the third course, Jo ordered the wood grilled prime NY strip with Summerland Farms carrots, harukei turnips and peanut potato.  She couldn’t decide if the potatoes actually tasted like peanuts, or if  it was just due to the size, and shape.

I ordered the Jamison Farm lamb, made in five preparations – tenderloin, loin, lamb sausage, lamb bacon and cured lamb tongue – Summerland Farm onion  in a variety of preparations.   The lamb sausage was okay, the lamb bacon was dry and salty and the lamb tongue, which was corned, was fairly nasty.  The loin was good, the tenderloin was excellent.

For the cheese course, Jo ordered the Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN) singing brook with local georgia peaches, pistachio and lemon mint. The peaches in this dish were amazing!  I have never had peaches that tasted so “peach-y”.  The flavor was intense and surprising.   When he set the plate on the table across from me, the smell of peaches was overwhelming.

I ordered the Maple Brook Farms buretta with heirloom tomatoes, sorrel, small tomatoes and olive oil.

It’s a little early in tomato season, but these were excellent.  The buretta was very much like a mozzarella, so this was like a creamy caprese.  Through four courses, we had sent back four empty plates, save for a few scallions and carrots here and there.  On to dessert.

Jo decided on the Georgia blackberry semifreddo (a class of semi-frozen desserts, typically ice-cream cakes, semi-frozen custard, and certain fruit tarts. It has the texture of frozen mousse because it is usually produced by uniting two equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream) with lime custard and granola

I ordered the Summerland Farm strawberries with yogurt panna cotta, Hibiscus and strawberry ice creamThe strawberry dessert was the better of the two.  The waiter said that the strawberries were right at the end of the season, and they had as much flavor as the peaches. 

Overall, the kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine, which allowed the waiters to appear as if choreographed in their movements around the restaurant.  We could not have asked for better service.

To top it all off, Jo had told the waiter that this big night out was for my birthday, and the waiter arrived at the table with a candle-bearing cupcake. 

It was wonderful.  A brown sugar cupcake, covered with sour cream frosting and bits of white and dark chocolate.   An excellent end to a wonderful meal.   We left, absolutely stuffed, and wondering how anyone could complain about the amount of food.

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