Two months ago, on a visit to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams with some friends, I took the opportunity to walk down the stairs at Westside Provision District to see about making a reservation for dinner for my birthday. I’ve been talking about dining at Quinones at Bacchanalia for years, mostly in the terms of, “someday, we need to eat at Quinones”. Then, promptly, doing nothing about it. But, with a milestone birthday coming up, this seemed like the perfect timing. I checked for the available Saturdays nearest my birthday (they are only open on Saturday evenings from 6:00 – 10:00) and made a reservation for 6:30 tonight.
Walking in, through the doors and curtains, we were greeted by a sitting room straight from a coffee table book about Versailles. The maître ‘d appeared from an alcove at the left, greeted us, wished me Happy Birthday (I had mentioned when we made the reservation that I was looking for a reservation around my birthday – nice attention to detail!) and showed us to our table. The seating is interesting, as most of the tables for two are on the same side of a banquette, looking out into the center of the restaurant.
This photo was taken right after we sat down, before anyone else showed up. By 7:00, there were six tables in use and five open. I found it interesting, in talking with the waiter, that they don’t turn the tables over – you pick your time and the table is yours for the night. The reasoning behind that became apparent later. The table was beautiful, covered with freshly pressed Irish linen, and napkins to match.
We started off with cheese sticks, which were shaped like thin cut French fries, made of cheese instead of potatoes, and very crispy.
The first course was crudité, with a tarragon emulsion.
The carrot, radish and turnip, which were served on a bed of ice, came from Summerland Farms. Summerland, in Cartersville, is the family farm of chef-owner Anne Quatrano, where she and her husband /co-owner / chef) moved to in 1992 to help advance their love of cooking.
Course two (below) was three bites each:
The top tray “bite” was cured Georgia trout, with cured smoked egg yolk and carrot vinegar on chicarrones (fried pork skins). This bite was one of the best bites of the evening.
The lower tray had both Kalamata olives in white chocolate and a pastry, along with lonzino (a cured salumi) with mustard and mustard seeds, on a flax-seed cracker. The salumi bite was good, but the olive was very hard and difficult to chew.
The third course (above) was seafood:
Left to right: a Kumamoto olive, wrapped in a duck “ham” with fennel, served in the shell. The oyster tasted like the sea, wrapped in a salty ham. Neither of us are huge oyster fans and this didn’t convert either of us.
The middle bite was kampachi (like an amberjack), wrapped in kohlrabi (a white Asian turnip), topped with beet vinegar. The kampachi was raw and the turnip tasted like a turnip. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than as “turnip-y”.
And, on the right, a brandade. A brandade is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil, usually served as a dip with bread. Here, they chose to deep fry it, and then top it with a brown sugar and peanut powder. Biting into it, the fish juice exploded in your mouth. Interesting is the only word I can use. This was our least favorite course.
Somewhere, along in here, the bread arrived – a skewer of Silmolina, buttermilk biscuit, multigrain and Kalamata olive bread. There was also a slice of house made sourdough. The breads were all tasty and came to the table too hot to bite. It was around this course that I noticed that the couple at the table closest to us was about two courses behind us and I could watch them (while looking at my wife ) eat all of the “unique” stuff and laugh (discreetly) at them. The man in the couple kept wondering, aloud, what the “carrot” dessert course was. He said several times, “I can’t wait for the carrot.”
The fourth course a foie gras terrine, on an almond crust with strawberry topping, served with strawberry jam and a brioche.
The strawberry jam was excellent, as was the brioche. This was a near perfect flavor combination. And with enough strawberry jam, you could almost mask the rich, iron- y taste of the pate.
Course five was a bowl of mushrooms – chanterelle, porcini, shiitake and Lion’s mane, all served in a truffle oil sauce. I really don’t like mushrooms, but my beloved ate her bowl. Then we swapped (my full bowl for her empty bowl) and she ate that bowl, too. She said they were very good, but I think she enjoyed the chanterelle and porcini the most.
Course six was a Summerland Farms potato, served with shoyu (one of the five major varieties of soy sauce), horseradish skyr (skyr is an Icelandic strained yogurt) and trout roe. The combo sounds odd, but it was a very good mix of flavors. It was along about this time, that I realized that we had gotten “cycled” in with the table of five to our left – this was a couple in their late fifties and their three adult children. By “cycled” I mean that our food (all seven of us) came out of the kitchen at about the same time. Which would have been fine if a) we were drinking like them, b) one of them had not left the table during almost every single course and c) they didn’t eat so stinking slow. The gap between courses seemed to get progressively longer as the evening progressed. There was a surprise from the kitchen before the next course, peach, goat cheese and thyme macaroons.
They were wonderful. The next course was loup de mer, served with Summerland Farms cabbage. The loup de mer (pronouced “lou de mare”, not “loop d’ murr” according to guy next to us), is sea bass, and was cooked sous-vide,
something we had seen a couple of weeks back on the Food network, and involves cooking food in airtight, sealed plastic bags in a water bath, at a temperature around 140° for up to 72 hours. It was fine tasting fish. The next course was the one that I was looking forward to most, because it included pork belly.
I’m a sucker for pork belly. The pork belly was served with pickled butter beans and the first summer squash, along with a corn pudding. The corn pudding was amazing and we couldn’t figure out why it was so sweet, so we asked. The answer was heavy cream. The pork belly appeared to be pan-seared, and when run through the corn pudding had a combination of sweet and savory that makes for a wonderful dish. Even better, Jo dislikes pork belly as much as I dislike mushrooms, so I got her piece, too.
The next course was close to the seafood course, in contending for our least favorite.
It was a sweetbread, buttermilk-brined, then battered with cornmeal with ramps, on a biscuit with breakfast sausage. In listening to the waiters talk, the sweetbread was the pig thymus gland, and even though they were shooting for the feel of a chicken and biscuit, the texture and taste of the sweetbread were too much. Next came the first of the “entrees”, course ten:
a Long Island duck, with a Summerland Farms torpedo onion and ham consomme’. Even though I’m not the world’s greatest duck fan (I rarely order it, but will eat it when it is prepared in a dish), this was okay.
The second entree course, arrived, a dry-aged New York strip, with fava beans and Yorkshire pudding. The steak was good, although it was all served on the rare side, which was fine with me. The Yorkshire pudding (a simple batter of eggs, flower and milk) was tasty as well. Somewhere around this time, my phone died – we had crossed the 210 minute mark (yep – that’s three and a half hours), so we collectively played 2048 on Jo’s phone while we waited….
The next course was the cheese course – feta with Summerland Farm radish, mint and olive oil.
The feta cheese was very good and we waited for the “the carrot”. My beloved had taken on the role of saying “I can’t wait for the carrot.” It had become comical. It arrived
a candied carrot, carrot gelato and carrot brittle. The carrot gelato tasted enough not like a carrot to make it almost okay. Carrots are on that list of things that I don’t really like. This was followed by an egg roll of chamomile, peach and nasturtium, served with chopsticks and designed to be eaten in one bite.
The picture above is as it was being served. It was good. And it was followed by the final course,
a buttermilk gelato with strawberry and sorrel “ice”. This was really good. We thought we were done, then they showed up with a birthday surprise,
cupcakes with sour cream icing, topped with little beads of chocolate. The cupcakes and the sour cream icing were very good, but I was approaching the level of exploding – both gastronomically and patience-wise. And we had hit a new peak in dining – four hours and 25 minutes (that’s 245 minutes). Absolutely insane. But as we walked out the door, they sent us home with a small box of dessert petit fours and a couple of coffee cake muffins for breakfast.
It is a dinner “experience” – there aren’t many restaurants in Atlanta that get five $ signs in the price rating category on Urbanspoon. It is fine dining, but it does not feel overly stuffy. They suggest jackets for men, but I went jacket-less in a dress shirt and did not feel out of place;
The food was good and we came to an understanding with our waiter about certain foods. We decided, collectively, if you don’t like something (sweetbreads, sea urchin, whatever) when it is done exceptionally well, as it is at Quinones, you probably won’t ever like it; and
Go with someone you love. And I do mean “love”. “Like” doesn’t cover four and a half hours of conversation at a table for two. I’m glad I went with who I went with. Here’s to the next fifty years.