**Editor’s note- This review was written before I knew I was going to start a website. Hence the complete lack of photographs.**
I begin this review with a somewhat shameful confession. I have been living and dining beyond my means in Atlanta for the majority of my life, and it took last weeks’ premier of Season 6 of Top Chef for Woodfire Grill to make it onto my radar. (The Executive Chef and owner of Woodfire is Kevin Gillespie, a current contestant on TC Season 6). If I were a foodie-hipster, I would relish being able to turn my nose up at all of the TC fan boys that are just now catching on to how great this place is and how lucky Atlanta is to have such a young and talented chef in our midst. I wish I could say “Oh, you just heard of Woodfire? Dude, where have YOU been?” Unfortunately, I missed a memo somewhere.
The first thing that I noticed, and still one of my favorite parts of the restaurant, was the SMELL. Holy GOD it smells good in there. As the name indicates, the kitchen centers around a wood-burning grill that gives the entire building the mouth watering aroma of a backyard bonfire. It was INTOXICATING. I caught myself, more than once, taking deep breaths, eyes closed, savoring the heady smells pouring out of the open-air kitchen.
The entire menu centers on fresh, local ingredients, and is considered (a la Gourmet/Bon Appétit) one of the top farm-to-table restaurants in the country. While there was plenty on the menu that I would have loved to order, I would highly recommend that you opt for either the 3-course or 5-course chef’s tasting. It pained me to forego ordering the grilled pork belly to try the tasting, but it definitely worked out in the end.
I know that a chef’s tasting is a leap of faith for many, but I assure you, these are VERY capable hands preparing your meal. Fortunately for me, our waiter had the kitchen print me up a chef’s tasting menu before we left, so I could remember what was served. And it was autographed by Kevin. I’d like to pretend I didn’t think that was awesome, but I did, and it was.
Here is the breakdown:
AMUSE: Local beets w/ beet-horseradish puree. Fresh, tasty, and a good way to start the meal. I don’t usually get down with the beets all that much, and I was surprised at how much I liked this.
FIRST: Pan seared diver scallop, wilted lettuce, filet beans, chicken consommé w/ herb oil. I got my first “bad boyfriend” strike for the night on this one. Not only did I barely look up from my plate or speak to my date during this dish, it wasn’t until I was spooning the last of the consommé from the bowl that I realized I hadn’t even offered her a taste. I pretended like I was sorry. I wasn’t.
NEXT: Roasted eggplant w/ feta on tomato flatbread Simple, well-seasoned, and a great transition into….
MAIN: Smoked pork belly, skillet cabbage, fig-coffee jam, pickled vine peaches. HALLELUJAH! Not only was I beside myself because now I didn’t have to order the grilled pork belly to go and eat it in the car so as to not look like a total glutton, this was some of the best pork belly I have had in a long time. The smoking process took the inherently indulgent pork belly to a new level. This meat tasted like the restaurant smelled and it was perfect. The pickled vine peaches, which are naturally more acidic than regular peaches, paired perfectly with the pork. Though the serving sizes were just right, I can’t help but wish I had just gotten 5 courses of this dish instead.
DESSERT: Fried banana balls, chocolate mousse, and candied bacon. CANDIED BACON!!!! This dessert was not just as good as it sounds; it was light years better. Rich, beautifully presented, and it featured bacon. Take one bite of this and tell me you don’t like it, and I’ll tell you that you’re a liar.
The only negative to the night, which wasn’t really a negative at all for us, was that the food was a little slow. The kitchen is very small compared to the number of tables here, so it was understandable to me that they could get a little behind. I got the feeling this was out of the ordinary, and the wait staff more than made up for it. Even though I had been enjoying the meal and hadn’t really noticed the food being behind, our waiter treated us to a few cocktails on the house, as well as our desserts.
Though there are numerous other things I could discuss about our evening at Woodfire Grill, such as their exceptional specialty cocktails or their knowledgeable and attentive wait staff, I believe I have made my point. Go. Eat here. Celebrate one of Atlanta’s great young chefs, support local farmers in the process, and treat yourself to one hell of a satisfying meal.
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