Saturday, August 13, 2011
Re-review: Restaurant Eugene
2277 Peachtree Rd., Atlanta, GA www.restauranteugene.com
To my blog followers - you're in for a treat today, my first re-review ever posted on Southern Foodie. The last time I reviewed Restaurant Eugene was just over 2 years ago, and I haven't been back since. Last week my friend Kelly and I made a return visit to decide it we still thought it was the best restaurant in Atlanta.
We ordered the 5 course tasting menu ($70), with the optional foie gras dish, an additional $15. Here's a basic idea of what we were served:
First course - fresh field peas, heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, chunks of thick bacon, a high quality olive oil and small, delicate pillows of pasta filled with a light lemon zest. This was my favorite course of the meal - I thought the combination was perfect, the presentation beautiful, with each unique flavor simultaneously standing out and complementing the others. Amazing.
Second course - a light, mild white fish (I don't know why I can't seem to remember the exact names of any fish lately - forgive me), with micro greens and other goodies. Sublime.
Third course - This was the "mixed course", which on that night consisted of about 5 slices of nearly rare pork tenderloin, and baked eggplant, red bell peppers, onions, etc. This was my least favorite course, primarily because I like my pork more on the done side. A positive note was a slice of baked polenta, which was heavenly alongside the eggplant and peppers. I'd love to see this combination more often in Atlanta's restaurants.
Next we got the foie gras. Fans of this guilty pleasure know that when done correctly, it's the most succulent thing on Earth. It was done correctly at Restaurant Eugene. It lay, cool as a meaty cucumber, on one end of a long white plate, while the other end held a small scoop of bellini sorbet. Yes, bellini sorbet. This is something I loved so much I'm now determined to make it for myself at home in my ice cream maker (I'll let you know if my attempts are successful.) How did I ever live 33 years without foie gras topped with diced roasted peaches and bellini sorbet? It probably shortened my life to eat it, but I enjoyed every second of it.
Fourth course - the cheese plate. A semi-hard, light golden goat cheese with honey and roasted peanuts. I could've done without the peanuts, because I thought they were a little overpowering, but the cheese and honey were wonderful. The food of kings.
Fifth course - dessert, and an unusual one at that. About 3 tablespoons of corn ice cream atop grains of cocoa and espresso with a sweet tomato jam smeared along the side. Not an overly sweet dessert to say the least, but interesting, in a good way. The espresso granules gave me a little jolt, but they were tempered by the tomato jam. Tomato appeared in 3 of our 5 courses in this meal, and every time it was in a completely different and lovely way.
An outstanding job.
Restaurant Eugene is an experience, but an understated one. When it's crowded it's a little loud for my taste, but I still have a feeling of tranquility as I sit awaiting my next dish or amuse bouche. (Speaking of those, there was one with compressed watermelon and nearly liquified mascarpone cheese and another, much better one with raw trout, etc.) The staff is excellent, refilling drinks at appropriate times, sliding a small breadbasket onto the table almost unnoticed, explaining each course of the meal with as much detail as you desire. The hosts/hostesses are all eager to accommodate any special needs and all have smiles on their faces, just as you will as soon as you taste even one bite of Restaurant Eugene's incredible food.
And if you didn't already know, Chef Linton Hopkins has been nominated Best Chef: Southeast for the James Beard Awards, 2011. I believe the last Atlanta chef to win this was Scott Peacock from Watershed. While I think Chef Hopkins is certainly deserving of the title, it's my fervent hope that if he wins he won't move on to larger scale, national projects and semi-fame and finally disappear from the city the way Peacock has. It would be a great shame if Atlanta lost such a superior talent.
Review: Still the best.