Just when Atlanta fine dining seemed gone for good, Atlas opened and hope was restored. The restaurant has done something remarkable: created an elegant restaurant with relaxed service and excellent food. It also manages to feel like it’s been around for ages. Atlas is reintroducing Atlanta to an exciting new style of fine dining built upon the ashes of its former self.
Taking over the space formerly occupied by Paces 88 in the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead, Atlas is grand and comfortable. A towering wooden door with an oversized brass handle leads diners into the stunning space, which the Johnson Studio reinvented drawing inspiration from around the world. There’s China in the trellises that frame the open kitchen set against shiny emerald tiles and a touch of Great Britain in the mix of rich green fabrics. Illuminated glass shelves lined with a menagerie of twinkling liquor bottles and glassware separate the bar from the main dining room. A pricey art collection featuring works from Picasso to Léger hangs amid the tables. The art belongs to Joe Lewis, a self-made British billionaire and the main investor in Tavistock Group, the company that owns the St. Regis Atlanta and Atlas among many other entities
Have you ever met someone who oozes creativity; a person who, if not creating, wouldn’t be living a full life? That’s how chef Kevin Ouzts comes across when you talk to him and eat his food. Asking him to explain how he prepares one dish yields a lengthy response with a seemingly endless list of ingredients and techniques. He has the kind of wide-eyed optimism, intense desire to serve, and endless imagination a chef needs to succeed. But he needs to learn to achieve more balance at his new restaurant, the Cockentrice, to become the great chef he aspires to be.
The Cockentrice is like a meat-themed amusement park. Everything is big and bold, as fun diversions from everyday life are meant to be. You come to the Cockentrice for spectacular rides through landscapes made almost entirely of meat. Whether it’s a spin around the charcuterie menu or a brush with intrigue like the blue cheese-cured rib-eye and edible “rocks,” dining here is all about thrills.
Ouzts has one foot firmly planted in modernist technique and the other in medieval meat cookery, hence the restaurant’s name. A cockentrice is a dish of spliced animals such as the front end of a pig sewn to the bottom half of a capon or turkey. Ouzts says he found inspiration in the spirit used to create such an oddity, which was a response to the nobility of the day asking cooks to entertain them.
Korean BBQ is a gateway drug for most Americans. Tabletop grills, hunks of meat, kimchi, and lots of cheap booze translate into super happy fun times. KBBQ used to be a Buford Highway thing, but the concentration in restaurants has shifted North to Duluth where the choices seem endless. It depends on your mood. You can opt for cheap all you can eat barbecue at or something more upscale like Breakers Korean BBQ (3505 Gwinnett Place Dr NW #101, Duluth. 770-946-1000. www.breakersbbq.com), which opened in January.
The strip mall setting isn’t fancy, but don’t be deceived: Breakers isn’t your average Korean barbecue place. There is a full glittery bar near the entrance that serves liquor, wine, and beer. No more watery beer and barbecue. However, if you happen to like watery Korean beer like me, there is plenty of ice cold Hite to go around. The restaurant has veered from the polished traditional look many restaurants adopted in recent years. If it weren’t for the grills in the center of the tables, the white leather banquets, antique minimalist Korean pottery showcased on a long white illuminated partition could pass for any suburban restaurant. It feels more polished and Americanized. It’s the kind of place you go if you want a more buttoned up experience. Breakers almost seems to be marketed towards well heeled Koreans and Americans – both experienced and inexperienced with Korean BBQ. One of the members of our party was new to this type of cuisine and the servers were incredibly friendly and patient explaining the ins and outs of this style of eating.