Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cakes & Ale

254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, GA www.cakesandalerestaurant.com

On Friday night Kyle and I had dinner at Cakes & Ale in Decatur, and boy are we glad we did!

We began our meal with an order of the gougeres ($5 for 4). If you've never had these wonderful things, they are very soft, eggy round rolls. We liked the little light hollow treats here, but not as much as at some other places, one example being the ones they serve at Fogo de Chao in Buckhead. They were too brown for me, maybe a trifle overbaked, and benefited from the application of butter. Good, just not the best.

Our entrees, though, were a total hit. Kyle ordered the tri-tip steak, fried artichokes & onion rings, little gem lettuce, horseradish sauce ($24). Kyle hates horseradish, so although the chef usually spreads a small amount underneath the steak (which comes in about 5 thin slices, maybe 4" long each), he put it in a small container on the side for Kyle. Kyle tasted it and actually liked it, which says a lot for the sauce. Our waitress didn't ask how he wanted his steak cooked, but it came out medium rare and was excellent. Kyle ate every bite.

We also ordered a side of the turnips and turnip greens ($4). The portion isn't huge, but it's enough to share, and it is incredible! Seriously, these may have been the best greens I've ever eaten. The chunks of turnips were soft (but not too soft), the greens divine. Our other side options were cardamon whipped sweet potatoes or braised cabbage and polenta, both of which sound awesome too. I'd love to go back and try them, but I probably won't get to do so before the menu changes. This officially happens every season, but it's really altered daily to some degree, depending on which ingredients the chef can get super fresh that morning.

I ordered the clams, smoked tomato, red peas, chorizo ($19). I received a decent sized bowl of clams in this wonderful red, smoky broth, full of robust, diced chorizo, dark red peas, and finely sliced onion. I can't tell you how awesome this broth tasted. When I finished off all the clams, they brought me some of their thick, farm-style bread to dip into the broth. I ate all the bread and considered turning up the bowl and drinking the rest of the broth. It's that good.

I only have two complaints about Cakes & Ale. The first is on our dessert, the Phatty Cakes. For $6, you get 3 cakes, which can also be enjoyed at the bar. Each cake is made of two gingerbread or spice cookies connected by mascarpone cheese. The problem wasn't the taste - the sweet-ish cookies are offset by the nice, neutral mascarpone, and make a good combination. Our issue was that the cookies are way too hard. We expected soft cookies, but these are difficult to bite through. They require too much work to eat in my opinion, and they aren't very big, maybe about 2" across at most.

My second issue is with the wait time. Our waitress, who looked like a young Ally Sheedy, was very nice and helpful when we asked questions about wine pairings and needed clarification on some of the entrees. We received our appetizer quickly after ordering, but then we waited a full half hour for our entrees, and the restaurant wasn't terribly crowded. During that time our waitress never reappeared at our table, either to top off our water or to apologize/explain the delay. I'm not sure what was going on with this. While we were thrilled when we finally got our entrees, I don't like feeling that I'm starving to death waiting for them.

Verdict: Excellent food, with a few small issues on the dessert and wait time.

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