French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)

posted on April 2, 2008 at 2:56 pm
I’ve been called “unforgiving” and “harsh” when it comes to reviewing restaurants–especially pricey ones. When I am paying top dollar for a meal, I want it to be superb. My previous meals at F.A.B. were anything but. The food lacked soul and I felt like I was getting a raw deal. I went back out of sheer convenience the other night for dinner and I have to say it wasn’t bad at all. Moon and I sat outside on the patio because the weather was nice (the roof deck is not open yet). We started with some cocktails, oysters and the endive salad. The salad was a bit overdressed but I still like the flavor combinations. I was feeling incredibly boring and ordered the roast chicken with mashed potatoes. Moon got the coq au vin which I was curious to try since it had been less than stellar on my previous visits. My chicken had a crisp skin and the mashed potatoes were delightful. An overall good version of a restaurant standard. The coq au vin was actually good this time. So good I kept picking at it when Moon would look away. It was a dark red and the flavors had actually had time to meld. A great version I would go back for. An overall pleasant experience and I might actually go back for that coq au vin or chicken sometime. I can’t speak to the rest of the menu.

Atlanta Francophiles have been eagerly awaiting the opening of French American Brasserie since Brasserie Le Coze fell victim to Neiman Marcus’ expansion. B.L.C. was a permanent fixture on our restaurant rotation for a long while, but the quality quickly went downhill a few years back and we stopped going. When I heard the owners were reopening on Ivan Allen, I was optimistic that the new location might have better food.

The first thing you notice when you enter the French American Brasserie is its gigantic interior. While the decor, is a bit over the top, it does do a nice job of interpreting the feel of a French brasserie. This is especially true at night when the dim lighting creates that quintessential warm brasserie glow. I have to say that lighting element was the nicest thing about dining there. Then, you notice the plasma televisions around the bar and you realize you are certainly not in Paris.

The menu is massive (it feels like The Atlanta Fish Market’s menu) and the choices are endless if not a bit overwhelming. I was slightly put off by the Asian dishes, but there was still a good mix of classics and plenty of seafood to appease me. There is also a nice selection of steaks if you are craving meat.

During one visit during lunch, I opted to have the salad nicoise and an assortment of oysters. My friend ordered the croque monsieur and some sort of artichoke “dip” that I steered clear of after one salty and canned-tasting bite.

French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta
Our oysters were good and I had no complaints. They were fresh and the sauces were well prepared. I also liked the use of the seaweed in the presentation-I wish more places did that instead of boring old ice.

French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta
My friend’s croque was very good-the perfect balance of earthiness and decadence. I would order it again. The fries, which everyone raves about, tasted frozen (even though the waiter said they were fresh) and were saturated with oil that had seen better days.

French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta
My salad arrived and it was an overdressed mess. I could not pry the ingredients apart. I asked the waiter to replace it with something else. I chose the coq au vin despite my reservations about eating something so heavy at lunch.

French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta
The alcohol had not been cooked out of the sauce and the noodles were dry and bathed in tarragon, which gave them a strange and off-putting flavor. The chicken was very tender, but the sauce really missed the mark and if they sauce is not there, there is no coq au vin. It was pale and lacked the depth I would expect from a dish that takes so much time to prepare-nothing like the version I had at Allard in Paris a couple of weeks ago.

French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta
I used to have to make profiteroles at my first job out of culinary school (not to mention 1000 times in school) and these tasted old. Not only was that fresh flavor not there, but they were dry and hard to cut through. No amount of sinful chocolate sauce could help the poor guys. I did appreciate the pistachio ice cream though. It gave it another dimension of nuttiness, which I found tasty and would order again in hopes of fresher pastry.

When I got back from Paris I asked a friend to join me for dinner at F.A.B. You think I would have had my fill with French food. Nope. Maybe I missed Paris. Maybe I thought my palate would be more in check from my recent time in France. Maybe I was crazy given my previous experience a few weeks prior.

I ordered the endive salad with Roquefort and the skate wing. My dinner date ordered the foie gras and the monkfish. My salad was not half bad, but there was an odd taste to the cheese. It was dry and a bit too bitter for my taste-I think it was pre-crumbled. The quality of the produce was impressive though-the tomatoes were sweet and the endive had the right snap and was not too bitter. I would order it again. According to my friend, her torchon was quite good, but the cherries reminded her of gummy bears-I distinctly remember her saying, “Haribo” while eating them. She did say that the quality of the foie gras was good and the sauce was nice. It was just those cherries that threw her off.

My skate wing was another story. A pile of garlicky dark green spinach was avoided at all costs (it looked like it had been pried out of a frozen box and slapped on the plate) and the skate was over-salted and bit dry in certain places. My potatoes were undercooked and the dish was disappointing overall. My friend’s monkfish was not that great either. The fresh fish was overpowered by a carelessly prepared piperade. Lets just say, I did not ask for a second bite. We chose the Meyer lemon crepe for dessert, which sounded interesting and looked beautiful from what we saw being delivered to other tables. We found the crepe underdone (my date kept searching for crispy bits of crepe to no avail), but the tapioca pearls and lemon cream were an interesting addition.

Verdict: After 3 visits, I can certainly say there are more misses than hits. You’d think I would steer you away from the restaurant given my experiences with the food, but we need French places in this town and beggars can’t be choosers. If you don’t expect much, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s hope the kitchen will hit a stride, because this is a place that all of Atlanta wants to succeed. It is also pretty darn close to my house, so a good “neighborhood” spot would be welcomed.

Address: 30 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd.
Phone: (404) 266-1440

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  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Anonymous · May 28, 2007  5:43 PM

    another case of someone not in the industry writing about food they don’t get. everything taste frozen huh? right…..i think i’ll trust the AJC’s review that’s coming this week a little more.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Anonymous · May 29, 2007  11:20 AM

    my experience has been excellant at FAB. The food couldn’t be fresher, this is my new favorite restaurant. I couldn’t disagree with your comments more!

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Sudhir · May 29, 2007  7:39 PM

    I didn’t realize one had to be in the industry to “get” food.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · June 3, 2007  7:50 AM

    I have no problem with employees from FAB posting responses to my reviews. Just identify yourself in all fairness to the exisiting/future patrons that read this board.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Anonymous · June 4, 2007  4:52 AM

    Your reviewing style is refreshing, full of observation as opposed to flowery fluff. Mentioning your culinary school experience and recent adventures in Paris may be blatantly hitting us over the head with “authority,” but I’d take your advice before another local newspaper critic’s.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: jkm231 · June 5, 2007  2:23 PM

    I am a little confused….I have seen nothing but wonderful reviews of this restaurant in numerous local publications. There have been some comments on the size, but other than that the French American Brasserie has received 3 and 4 stars across the board from some very tough food critics….some of whom I totally trust…so I guess the question I posit is who do we trust here? I think I plan to find out for myself and I will touch base about my experience. But, I do agree that Atl is in dire need of a french brasserie.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Sudhir · June 5, 2007  3:52 PM

    The Croque Monsieur I had was decidely average. The fries were tasty, but is there really such thing as a bad fry?

    As far as downtown goes, for me, Les Fleurs de Lis is still the best French around.

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Anonymous · September 16, 2007  9:20 AM

    It goes to show you, dealing with the PUBLIC, you can not please everyone.
    It’s ashame,but it seems this person obviously has some personal issues. Take a deep breathe and relax, the FOOD IS GREAT!!! Loved the atmosphere, and the wines.
    Everyone has an opinion, yours just happens to be WAY OFF BASE…..

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Jeremy · September 16, 2007  1:59 PM

    Unless you were there with her, and tasted the dishes that were served to her, how do you know that her opinion is off base? Just because a restaurant is well regarded doesn’t mean they can’t put out crappy food from time to time. I would say that having a culinary degree, years in the restaurant industry, and decades of personal experience with food gives her some credentials when it comes to tasting food. Just because someone has a different opinion than you do does not mean she “obviously has some personal issues.” By the way, what are your culinary credentials, to make such a bold statement?

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · September 17, 2007  4:32 PM

    Dear Anon,

    I am quite confident in my assessment of FAB and it appears many of my readers feel the same way (from these comments and emails). No, I don’t write for the AJC or The Loaf who seemed to like the spot who have editors, advertisers, and a larger reader base to worry about. I write for foodies so I can keep it real.

    Do I have (lol) personal issues with FAB? Nah. The only issues I have with FAB are the sloppy and dumbed-down food. I am not saying everything is bad–oysters and steak frites are okay when I am in a pinch and dining alone at the bar.

    Now, I don’t normally get this salty with my readers, but I have a BIG problem with people who don’t have the balls to post their real name. Could it be (gasp) that you work for FAB or have a personal connection? Maybe you need to get to Paris (assuming you’ve ever been outside of Georgia) and actually eat some REAL French food. Then come back and let’s have a real chat about French cuisine.

    I’ll be waiting.

    Happy eating and

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Anonymous · December 11, 2007  11:39 AM

    I just want to find a restaurant or bakery that makes lemon profiteroles. I doubt they will be as good as the ones I get in Positano every year, but I am willing to try……

  • Re: French American Brasserie: Downtown Atlanta (update)
    posted by: Morticia Addams · April 2, 2008  9:35 PM

    Bliss, I lived in New Orleans for 18 years before Katrina blew this “ATL” native back.

    I find most Atlanta restaurants -whether French, Mexican, Chinese or Vietnamese- offer mediocre food compared to what we had in pre-Kat NOLA. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of hours. You write very well and tour tastes are a bit similar to mine. I appreciate that you resent paying high prices for indifferent food and service.

    Regarding F.A.B., your photos tell the story. The salad was the worst mess I’ve seen presented on a plate and anybody could tell the chicken in the coq au vin hadn’t been sufficiently browned and the sauce looked greasy and undercooked.

    Hate to say it but I’m glad you eat (some) of that stuff so I don’t have to try it. ~LOL~

    Thank you, Bliss, for your endless restaurant expeditions!

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