I don’t remember the last time I was as excited to eat at a new restaurant in Atlanta as I was the night that I set foot in Abattoir Chophouse.
Nor do I recall being so sure I would be let down. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be as good as I have built this up to be, can it? Besides carrying the pedigree of the genius minds of the James Beard Award winning team of Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, who blessed Atlanta with Star Provisions/Bacchanalia/Floataway Café, every indication I had gotten from Atlanta’s finest foodies told me that this should be a unique and wonderful experience. That is a high bar to set. Honestly….who could really expect a restaurant that has been open less than a month to live up to the kid-on-Christmas-eve giddiness I had been feeling since making my reservation?
Oh, me of little faith.
Not only has the Star Provisions crew come through again, they out-did themselves. Abattoir, French for “slaughterhouse”, combines the cooking philosophies of farm-to-table, contemporary southern cuisine, and “tip-to-tail” cooking. This means that they do not overlook some of the less glamorous cuts of meat, such as the stomach lining, thymus glands, and liver.
And sweet Jesus, can these people cook some stomach lining.
Hopefully, the weaker-stomached of you have not already stopped reading, because the “Offal” portion of the menu, which pertains to the dishes based on entrails/innards, only constitutes roughly 15% of the entire menu. If you count yourself among the less adventurous of eaters, rest assured, there are more than enough “safe” choices on this menu for you.
The menu is basically half small plates/tapas and half entrée portions, so it is a great spot for both a group outing or a date. Given that I was on a date with my better half, we made sure to order more than our fair share so that we could sample as much as possible. So, after ordering a pair of Moscow Mules (Vodka + lemon juice + Ginger beer), we got three starters to get things rolling.
The Pickled Georgia White Shrimp, served in a jar filled with a light brine of dill, fennel, and onion, was more refreshing than I had expected. I expected more acidity and tartness but the freshness of the shrimp was only enhanced, rather than overshadowed, by the brine. Strongly recommended.
The Chicharrones, which is fancy-talk for “pork rinds”, were a shocker. I didn’t have high expectations for this one, but these ain’t no gas station pork rinds. The minute they touch your tongue they simply dissolve into a mouthful of fatty goodness. Be warned, they are rich, so you won’t want to take down an order by yourself. We couldn’t finish ours, but DAMN, they are tasty.
Finally, the one dish I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would order, the Potted Chicken Liver & Foie Gras with Armagnac. If you put the words “Foie Gras” on a menu, even if it is “4 day old Road kill topped with Foie Gras”, I’m ordering it. This dish was brilliant, which worked out great for me because my date doesn’t really do the whole “fatty liver” thing, so I had this one almost completely to myself. Served in a small jelly jar, this pate style spread came with extra-charred pieces of French bread. It was lighter than most pates I have had, and the sweetness of the Armagnac brought this together well. No BS, when the bread ran out, I just ate it off of the spoon. Whoa.
For my entrée I had the Tripe Stew, Pork Belly, Fresh Beans, and Tomatoes. While I am what many would classify as an adventurous eater, this would be my first time dining on stomach (AKA Tripe), but simply knowing there was pork belly in the dish somehow made it that much less intimidating. Thank GOD I worked up the balls to order this. The tripe was perfectly cooked, without a hint of the toughness you might expect, and paired beautifully with the pork belly, beans, and succulent butter sauce. I call it a sauce, though technically it is a broth, because it is so thick, rich, and buttery-amazing that I considered stashing some in a flask and pouring it over everything I ate for the next week. Word to the wise for those of you that can’t handle weird textures: if you order this, make sure you get some beans/belly on your fork with the tripe. As a tripe newbie it felt noticeably odd on my tongue by itself. Fortunately, I am not one of those texture-sensitive people, and my date had to actually grab my wrist to keep me from tipping the bowl back and rudely slurping the remnants of my stew in the middle of the restaurant.
And even though we were both borderline bursting at the seems, I was not going to leave without trying some of the desserts, specifically, the Maple Bacon Beignets. I don’t want to say that this was a disappointment, because it was still amazing, but I felt a little like Bruce Dickinson eating this dish. I had a fever, and the only cure would have been more bacon. Still, Maple soaked homemade donuts with bacon chunks? How the hell can that not be great?
Given that this is easily the most affordable of the Star Provisions spots, and that there are about 15 things on the menu I wanted but didn’t get to try (homemade Slim Jims, Lamb Liver Fritters, Slow Roasted Rabbit, etc.) I will, without a doubt, be making a repeat appearance here. I beg you…give this place a shot. Atlanta needs more restaurants like this one, and I think it might break my heart if it doesn’t last.
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