Monday, January 18, 2010
1782 Cheshire Bridge Rd., Atlanta, GA 30324 www.woodfiregrill.com
Saturday night was a major foodie event for me: my sister, brother-in-law, Kyle and I had dinner at Woodfire Grill, home of Chef Kevin Gillespie of recent Top Chef fame. I made our reservation over six weeks ago, and in the meantime my gym-buddy David (a lawyer who can afford a greater number of extravagant meals) kept giving me mouth-watering details about Gillespie's creations while I struggled on the elliptical machine. As you can imagine, I was chomping at the bit by the time Saturday morning dawned. No amount of rain could keep us away from our table on Cheshire Bridge Rd.
After perusing the menu for a few minutes we decided to take the plunge and go for the 5-course tasting menu, which is $65 per person. Woodfire also offers a lighter, 3-course tasting menu, but since we didn't know when we'd have the pleasure of dining at Woodfire again we wanted the full monty.
We began with a truly wonderful amuse-bouche which played on the theme of the Southern New Year: heirloom tomato fritters in a mix of creamed collard greens and black eyed peas. The aftertaste had a little kick reminiscent of hot sauce. This may have been my absolute favorite part of the meal and was definitely successful in whetting my appetite.
Over the next two hours we were served scallops and shrimp with satsuma oranges and paper-thin slices of fresh beets, miniature beets in a carrot puree with creamy, tangy chevre, quail with mushrooms (the wine was so good, at this point the details are a little hazy but I think they may have been porcini), and a combination of pork tenderloin and pork belly with slightly bitter endive.
For dessert, my sister and I were served chocolate crepe-like pockets filled with mocha sauce and the men were served little vanilla cake, crunching on the outside and soft inside, with a side of slices of Pink Lady apples. Everyone was pleased.
Each time a course appeared it was delivered by a different member of the waitstaff, who gave us lots of cool details about the food. We were informed that the shrimp was Laughing Bird, from a sustainable farm in Belize, showing the chef's commitment to organic, sustainable foods. Mid-way through our courses we were given an interesting treat - a single Kusshi oyster, a Japanese variety by way of Seattle. It was so fresh that for a moment I closed my eyes and forgot I was in a restaurant in Atlanta instead of the beach. the delivery of each course was perfectly timed. We never felt rushed and we never sat around anxiously awaiting the next component. It was a sublime dining experience.
Also, there's a long and interesting wine list which ranges from half-bottles at $30 to some high-end full-sized selections at around $300. There's something for everyone. Kyle and I selected the Seven Terraces pinot noir, which hails from New Zealand, and found that it complemented every dish.
My best comparison? Restaurant Eugene. Their 5-course tasting menu is exactly the same price and offers different but equally delicious and innovative dishes. If you are having a hard time choosing, here are two things to consider: the atmosphere is much better at Woodfire. We were fortunate enough to be seated in one of several small private dining rooms, but all of the tables in the main dining room also have ample space, whereas you're always going to be one foot away from your fellow diners at Eugene. The second consideration is that Woodfire heavily utilizes pork, so if you're not big on the pig you should probably select Eugene. (Note: Woodfire does offer vegetarian selections, including a vegetarian tasting menu.)
Verdict: Fantastic. My highest rating. A shining star in Atlanta dining.