Sunday, September 11, 2011
Empire State South
999 Peachtree St. Atlanta, GA www.empirestatesouth.com
Empire State South - why do I love thee? Let me list a few of the reasons:
1. Your convenience: You are located on the corner of 10th and Peachtree, and you have a parking deck where you validate the parking for up to 3 hours. No unnecessary valet, no metered street-side parking or expensive lots.
2. The Southern inspired menu: It's not just the once-new-but-now-ubiquitous shrimp and grits. This menu boasts really inspired combinations of local and otherwise delicious ingredients. Take one of the dinner "beginnings" for example: grilled Tybee shrimp (as in Tybee Island, just off of Savannah's coast), Wong's melon, ESS bacon, radish, and ESS yogurt. Playful and smart. The menu changes regularly. I see they now have a dish I would have jumped on had it been available when I dined here a few weeks ago: monkfish (possibly my favorite sea creature) crepinette with country ham broth, arugula, oyster mushrooms, sweet onion and dressed cucumber ($28). Be still my beating heart!
3. An in-house bakery. Sweet and tart treats like zesty lemon loaf, scones, muffins and donuts for only a couple dollars each.
4. Little cast iron skillets. My unbelievably good fish with oyster mushrooms, thick, fragrant bacon and tomato risotto cooked just right was perfectly presented in this
5. Atmosphere: NOT stuffy. It's hard to find a restaurant with the caliber and price of the food served here (meaning $20+ per entrees) with a farm house appeal. (And I generally don't find farm houses appealing, but somehow the interior designers have made it so.) Guys who hate to dress up and worry about what utensils to use with which course will love this place. Not sure why they bothered with the bocce ball court outside. When you're eating a meal this good, you don't need any other form of entertainment.
6. The wine: Wine Director Steven Grubbs was recently featured in Food & Wine as one of the best new sommeliers of the year. When we had dinner at ESS, Sabrina and I asked for wine recommendations and our sommelier found something great for each of our palettes. Lots of good choices here.
And finally -
7. The jars. The jars, the jars, the jars! Hot diggity! I know they're an $18 appetizer, but I'm telling you they're the best appetizer I've had in at least a year, and you'll get enough for 4 people to share. If there was any way I could've absconded with the jars, I would have, but there was no way they were fitting under my blouse without attracting a lot of unwanted notice (and possibly security in the parking deck). Our jars contained pork rilette, trout mousse, homemade pickled vegetables, pimento cheese with bacon marmalade, and boiled peanuts. The mousse was my favorite, the marmalade Sabrina's. And by the way - thanks to Sabrina for this awesome belated birthday dinner.
I can't wait to have another meal here!
Verdict: The best new restaurant in Atlanta.