Monday, December 13, 2010


1441 Dresden Dr., Atlanta, GA

On Friday night Kyle and I had dinner at Valenza. Well, actually my office hosted their annual holiday party at the restaurant, which meant that we had a limited selection of the menu with which to work.

We began with the calamari, in this case grilled with pine nuts, roasted tomatoes and a hint of lemoncello. A nice combination that's a little off the beaten path. The salumi e forgmaggi, an artisan cheese and cured meat plate, is very good, but pricey at $16. Loved the thin-sliced prosciutto.

My friend Erin tried the merluzzo, a pan roasted silver hake with Brussels sprouts, chanterelles, pancetta and brown butter ($26). In my mind, you can't go wrong with a good fish and brown butter. The pancetta wasn't overpowering, rather it offset the lovely, woodsy chanterelle mushrooms and absolutely delicious fresh, sauteed Brussels sprouts. You won't find bitter sprouts here, folks.

I had the ravioli with butternut squash filling ($16). This was exactly what homemade pasta should be - beautiful, soft, super-absorbent. The squash filling was very good, and the dish was topped with chopped pecans brown butter and sage. The last place where I ordered butternut squash ravioli was Figo, and I can tell you that this may be more expensive, but it was far superior.

Kyle had the C.A.B. ribeye with arugula, nickel filet beans and lemon ($28). He's not a fan of arugula, but other than that he felt the meat was cooked exactly as he ordered and that it was a very good cut.

I was less impressed with the desserts. The crostata di mele, or apple crostada with caramel gelato and sauce, was a little lackluster. The cesto d'espresso (espresso custard with mascarpone cream) was a slightly better, but didn't give me that completely satisfied feeling I expect from dessert. If I return to Valenza I'll probably try the warm chocolate tart, a selection that always makes me happy. All desserts at Valenza are $7.

The service was impressive. Each server was on top of his/her game, keeping the wine flowing and the tables cleared as soon as anyone was finished with a course. The manager, Michel Arnette, personally checked on us several times to insure our satisfaction. He was funny and very approachable.

I used to live within walking distance of Valenza's location, and over the past decade I've noticed this area morphing into a charming place with substance, developing character and culture. The addition of Valenza as a high quality, neighborhood restaurant is definitely a great thing for Brookhaven residents.

Verdict: A neighborhood find.

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