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Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead

posted on May 26, 2008 at 9:17 pm
I could not shake The Wizard of Oz from my head during every one of my three visits to Home. The main thought being that of the omnipotent wizard who we later find out is an average man with no special powers but instead, the capability to evoke reverence with nothing more than hype. Like the wizard, chef Richard Blais has drawn oohs and ahs from crowds with his smoking vats of liquid nitrogen and charismatic personality. However, his most recent post at Tom Catherall’s Home Restaurant and Bar is slowly revealing the real man behind the curtain—a chef who is seemingly spread too thin with a new helm, consulting gigs and contractual obligations with “Top Chef.”

I applaud Blais’ attempt to do something “different” and evolve—as many high-profile chefs around the world are doing—but he is simply not delivering. While Blais’ conceptual creativity is evident on the menus, the actual execution has been a far cry from his dishes I have tasted in the past. I suppose there is some truth in that Gael Greene quote, “It’s not what a chef can do, but what he will do.”

As usual, Blais’ plating and knife skills are impeccable. However, the problems begin with the first mouthful of food. On one visit, the fried chicken was undercooked in the center and the overall dish was overpowered by the intense flavor of way too much rosemary. The accompanying truffled mac and cheese was so salty it caused my lips to pucker. A second chance during a brunch service was an improvement, but the flesh was so dry I could barely swallow it without chugging a large gulp of water. While I appreciated the earthiness of the cauliflower in the macaroni and cheese, there was not enough salt to bring the flavors to life.
Home: Buckhead

Other dishes—like pea soup—fell victim to the ongoing problem of uneven seasoning. In this instance, it was another case of over-salting. Even some of Blais’ signature dishes that have crept their way onto the menu—like his fried green tomatoes with ranch ice cream lacked the usual punch. Soggy tomatoes and ranch ice cream tasting more like cream than tangy ranch dressing. Salty short ribs, sloppy salads, bland shrimp and grits and poorly breaded oysters also failed to please. Minor issues—like forgotten bread service (on two occasions) and missing family-style sides—were other glitches that contributed to the deteriorating experience.

There were some dishes that showed promise though. The mushrooms on toast with a perfectly poached egg and crisp asparagus were comforting and well-balanced. The buttery (and, I do mean buttery) blueberry pancakes with foie gras butter was absolutely divine and showcased Blais’ killer pancake skills. But, a subsequent brunch order of the pancakes with caramel butter and maple foam yielded raw (and gummy) pancakes unworthy of a third bite and the foam lacked the proper amount of sweetness to stand out.
Home: Buckhead

The pimento cheeseburger was full of flavor but a bit too black on one side and the bread disintegrated after the first bite. A few tweaks and this might rival my favorite ground to order burger at Rathbun Steak.
Home: Buckhead
Full shot
Home: Buckhead
After being cut in two

The fries that came with the burger were a mess. Having spent many hours behind the fryer as a cook, I immediately noticed the fries had been cooked at too low of a temperature which left them soggy with almost transparent skins. I am surprised they made it out of the kitchen.
Home: Buckhead

The “BLT” made with pork belly, arugula and peach on buttered toast was a lovely combination of flavors but the pork belly could have been crisper to mimic the texture of bacon. All of the components (except the bread) were soft and the excess of mayo slathered on the butter-slick toast made it an overall pain to eat.
Home: Buckhead
All of the components fell out after the first bite (as illustrated in the photo below) but I do believe I would order it again because I dig the flavors. Just give me some crisper pork belly next time!
Home: Buckhead

I have to comment on the atmosphere of the restaurant which is just downright odd. Rap music plays in the background in an apparent effort to infuse some youthfulness into the former Posh space. Unfortunately, the vibe is that of a funeral home where one feels the need to whisper amongst the odd mix of blue hairs and “Top Chef” fanatics clamoring for an autograph or Blais sighting. I give points to the excellent servers who have been very professional, actually know the ins and outs of the dishes and appear to have tasted them too! Always a plus in my book. The bartender is also top notch so make sure you grab a cocktail if you visit.

Verdict:
To those of you who have enjoyed your meals at Home (and there seem to be many of you), feel free to cast me as the wicked witch in this tale. In all honesty, it saddens me to be so critical of an obviously talented and likable chef whose cuisine I have enjoyed and praised in the past. But, blind chef worship does nothing for you, my discerning readers. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received about reviewing restaurants was to measure my experiences against what the restaurant is trying to achieve and go from there. Using this method in reference to Home brings me to the conclusion that it is not delivering on its promise. Maybe it has something to do with Tom Catherall’s influence. Maybe not. Whatever the case may be, let’s hope Blais gets it together soon because the boy has talent, “Top Chef” win or not.

RESTAURANT INFORMATION:
Address: 111 W Paces Ferry Rd NW, 30305
Phone: 404-869-0777
Website

Home Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon


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20 comments

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Jordan · May 28, 2008  6:08 AM

    Ugh, what a tough run of luck with your food at Home. Our dinner sang on opening night, and was still doing quite well for the 2nd brunch service. But then I remember being completely let down by Element, which I visited not too long before it closed. Guess consistency is a tough one for Chef Blais? Oh well, I’m still pretty excited about Flip, his new burger joint coming to Howell Mill Rd, and hopefully they’ll get the consistency at Home straightened out once Top Chef is done.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Laura · May 28, 2008  8:10 AM

    Thanks for the tip. I’m supposed to be eating there Friday night. Hope I’m not disappointed! Will be sure to avoid the chicken.

    Debating whether I should try Cakes and Ale instead…

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 28, 2008  8:25 AM

    Unless you are susceptible to the cult of celebrity, I’d spend my money at Cakes & Ale, with a dessert or two at Chocolate Bar.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 28, 2008  10:04 AM

    That BLT has another issue. The way the peaches are sliced makes it impossible to eat within the two slices of the bread. Imagine trying to eat a real BLT with the tomatoes quartered intead of sliced flat.

    Cut it like this:

    http://gothamist.com/food/archives/peach.jpg

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · May 28, 2008  10:58 AM

    Jordan,

    I was there on opening night as well (I think I saw you and your wife (?) taking the pictures you posted on AC at a neighboring table).

    My meal was drastically different from yours. Just plain bland and boring. Consistency is definitely an issue.I hope he gets it together.

    And the burger spot is another consulting gig, I believe.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Frankie · May 28, 2008  4:40 PM

    Great review. I’ve been wondering about this place for a while. Agree that the atmosphere and interior is quite confusing.

    Reading your past reviews and such have really made my trust your opinion. Thanks!

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Michael · May 28, 2008  5:16 PM

    BG; I had a similar experience as you did, so did the table next to me. Lot of the dishes were inconsistent and oversalted. I do love Blais’ work and wish him the best; enough to plan another meal soon. We’ll see…

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Jeremy M · May 29, 2008  3:21 PM

    That sucks that you guys have had such bad experiences at Home. I went with a party of 6, and all but 2 dishes were absolutely top notch. The oysters were a bit underwhelming, and the brisket pot roast was a little overcooked. Overall though the whole table was raving – the strip steak and the lamb were everyone’s two favorite dishes.

    I also have had reports from several other foodies in the area, and they’ve also been happy with their visits. A couple I know called ahead and arranged to have a tasting menu prepared, and they had a blast. Their favorite dish was a tuna carpaccio sprinkled with tiny fried squares of chicken skin, which looked almost like scales on the fish.

    I guess what I’m saying is, this place is still finding its niche; give it time and I’m sure it will be more consistent.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Broderick · May 29, 2008  4:06 PM

    Wow I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such poor experiences there. I was with a party of 3 and we all had a great meal there. Surprisingly the only thing I wasn’t too thrilled with were the biscuits. I had the oysters, some amazing vegetables, the shrimp & grits (divine) and the moon pie w/ cardamom ice cream. I had a taste of my dinner partner’s grouper & strawberry tart — both which were very nice.
    I wouldn’t cast you as a wicked witch at all though, love your photos and blog 🙂

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 30, 2008  6:18 AM

    I went on opening night… I had the beet, arugula, and goat cheese salad and it was not good. It’s hard to mess up something so simple. The salad was over dressed and soggy and it sat on a slice of goat cheese (they gave me the end of the log so it was all rind). I also had the fried green tomatoes, which were ok. Then I had the shrimp and grits. Also, a disappointment. The grits tasted off and the shrimp was blah. Honestly, nothing was very good. The biscuit was my favorite part of the whole meal.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Leah · May 30, 2008  9:37 AM

    i too had a fantastic experience last weekend at Home. i was with a party of 8, and honestly the only reason we went was to meet chef blais and try his food. we had the little private party room off of the bar, which was great because most of the people in my party were from out of town and we were able to enjoy each others company without the distractions of a large open seating area. our server was top notch, he knew when to refill our wine glasses whithout us noticing but also knew when interject with witty comments. richard came out to our table and chatted with us for 20 mins or so, it was like he was an old friend of the family. he was so friendly and not pretentious at all. we were also invited to tour the kitchen, take pictures with him and he signed a few menus, yes we are all a little blais obsessed. our food was close to perfectly prepared, the only complaint was the shrimp and grits were a little over seasoned. overall it was such a fantastic experience. maybe im a little star-struck, but im excited to try his tasting menu and i have already planned a lunch date for next week.

    my parents who were with me and who live in sacramento, will be dining at Jennifer’s (also from topchef) restaurant, COCO500 in SF tonight…i cant wait to get their review.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 30, 2008  10:50 AM

    Leah, who was preparing the food during those 20 odd minutes at your table, I wonder? And what about all the other visits to other tables?

    Wake up people!

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · May 30, 2008  4:55 PM

    Why did you ruin the ending to Top Chef? Many of us casual diners didnt know the outcome. Thanks for nothing!

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · May 30, 2008  6:18 PM

    I have no idea who won Top Chef. I am in the dark like the rest of you guys and enjoying watching it without spoilers (which is why I don’t post them here unlike other sites).

    My implication with the “Top Chef win or not” comment (I assume that is what you are referring to) was that his appearance on the show should not influence the diner’s opinion of his food. And, I feel some diners have been “seduced” by the cult of celebrity and his showmanship. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    However, I feel the need to be objective (obviously) since I am publishing this for people to read.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: biskuit · May 31, 2008  3:41 AM

    Hey BG, nicely written. Just want to give my 2 cents – having been to Home 3 times, we’ve had very good meals each time. I had the BLT, and agree it was impossible to eat in its form as served, but the flavors and textures were so good that I was OK with that. Yes, I guess some people would be totally turned off by that, but it’s fine by me. Just like a messy BBQ sandwich that is falling all over the place, it’s worth it if it tastes good.

    We did the tasting menu one night, and I absolutely loved the sweetbreads with gravy (and I am not typically a sweetbreads fan), and the kona kanpachi (I think that’s what it was) was a truly superb dish. There was not a dud among the many dishes we had.

    Sounds like consistency is indeed a problem given everyone’s comments – but based on my experiences, I definitely think it’s worth a shot. If you’ve got a legitimate problem with a dish (oversalting for example), let the staff know.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Leslie · May 31, 2008  6:04 AM

    There’s no doubt that I made a reservation at Home because I wanted to try Richard Blais’ food, however I too was very disappointed. After the review I wrote in my blog, I was encouraged to go back… however there are so many other good restaurants I’d like to try, I doubt I’ll cough up the money again at Home.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: BBLogan · June 8, 2008  7:16 AM

    Wow. My husband and I had the exact opposite experience. Granted, we aren’t professional food critics, but we spend tons of time eating in restaurants and have a tendency to be very particular about our choices.

    Here’s a link to a blog post about our spectacular dinner at Home.

    For me, our visit to Home was, hands down, one of the best restaurant dinners I’ve ever had.

    My steak was cooked perfectly, my husband’s chicken was ultra crispy, the Carolina fluke was over-the-top amazing.

    And, I think there is something to be said about the Top Chef part of this equation. We did go there because we’d heard of Chef Blais. And, meeting him was a bonus in that equation. But, that wouldn’t mean a thing to us if the food sucked. It just didn’t.

    I can only hope that your experiences are more related to visiting a new restaurant in the process of catching a groove than representative of the restaurant moving forward.

    We loved every minute and every bite at Home… and encourage people who want to give it at try to go for it.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Sally Parrott Ashbrook · June 9, 2008  5:24 AM

    Went to Home last week because a Top Chef fanatic friend was in town with her Top Chef fanatic parents. I was hesitant to go because of your review, but we had a solidly good experience. My salad was very tasty but no more remarkable than most salads I eat at good, locally-sourcing restaurants in Atlanta. My pork belly with coffee and peach topping was incredible, I thought; my husband found it a bit too rich. (The richness was sorta the point for me.) My husband’s lamb was too sweet, we both thought, and not terribly flavorful . . . but it was good enough to eat. The family style veggie sides were good but not very memorable. (I remember we had brussels sprouts, turnip greens, tomato salad, and potatoes, but I don’t remember how any of them were treated.) My friend’s dad didn’t love the pork belly, and even though my friend’s mom requested medium rare steak, her steak came out medium to medium well. She enjoyed it, though. My friend loved her shrimp and grits. Everyone seemed to love the biscuits. (I can’t eat gluten, so I didn’t try them.) Our waitress served us well, and she picked a nice wine for me to go with the pork. Soooo … would I go back? Yes. Am I dying to go back? No, I’d be just as happy or happier at half a dozen other, similar restaurants in Atlanta that have similar or lower prices.

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · July 17, 2008  8:34 AM

    “Maybe you’re P.T. Barnum. He put a panther and a lamb in a cage together and there was never any trouble. The public went lollypops! Look at that! A panther and a lamb, and they don’t argue. They don’t even discuss! But what the public never knew was that it was never the same lamb. That (expletive deleted) panther ate a lamb every single day at intermission and then they shot him for asking for mint sauce…”

    –The Ninth Configuration

  • Re: Home Restaurant and Bar: Buckhead
    posted by: Anonymous · July 25, 2008  11:22 AM

    I went to home with my parents, and found the food to be fun and playful but very hit or miss. to begin with the menu is extremely misleading in the sense that what you are served is not what you ordered, but a playful interpretation of a classic dish. I started out with the oysters, and they were good, but not spectacular, but I truly enjoyed the frozen tabasco dip and dots on top, as I normally love my oysters with a dab of hot sauce. The mushroom toast was good, but again nothing exceptional, I have defiantly had better, probably the best being one I had at floataway about a year ago, but i have not seen it on the menu since. Then the highlight of the evening, the Tuna steak prime rib, a big hunk of seared tuna served with a red wine sauce over smoked mash potatoes. Blais had taken the traditional dish served at hotel convention dinners (prime rib) and made it into something that was truly enjoyable. the crust on the tuna was fantastic, a blend of spices i did not recognize, but it was perfect. Finally I special ordered the foie gras milkshake, because I had been hoping to try this odd combination that Blais is so famous (or infamous) for. Had the portion not been as large as what i was served, i would have enjoyed it. The only thing foie gras esque about this desert was the faint after taste left when the thousand calorie milkshake is gone, other than that it tasted like amareto. All in all i would recommend trying Home, it brings to atlanta a style of innovative cooking that does not really exist at any other restaurant here, but it defiantly does not deserve a spot at the top with the atlanta greats.

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