Review: Miller-Union

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          It’s always a gamble to go to a restaurant in the first few days of being open. In fact, for years, I refused to go anywhere that had not been open for at least a month. Usually, that is at least as long as it takes for the wait staff and kitchen to get in sync and to really start hitting on all cylinders.  It also gives them time to weed out the dishes that sounded great in theory, but probably never deserved a spot on the menu. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer than that for a new restaurant to get their shit together.

             But sometimes my impatience gets the best of me, especially when the team behind a new eatery already knows what they are doing. So I took comfort in the fact that Steven Satterfield, former executive sous chef at Decatur’s Watershed, has partnered with Sotto Sotto’s General Manager Neal McCarthy to run Miller-Union and they have further bolstered West Midtown’s already impressive dining line-up. So, despite the fact that Miller-Union, Atlanta’s newest farm-to-table restaurant, was on only their 4th day open, I just had to go check it out. 

             *Side-note* – Is it just me, or does the food in West Midtown just continue to kick more and more ass?

             Miller-Union takes its name from the old Miller Union Stockyards that were housed in this massive block of warehouse space around the turn of the century. Obviously, some renovations have been made since then. The décor is very modern/rustic farmhouse. Though I didn’t tour the entire space, which is essentially a maze of “dining nooks” intended to give the patrons a more intimate dining experience, much of the dining room was covered in loaded bookshelves. It feels less like a library than a study in a swanky country home. It’s cozy, to say the least, but there isn’t much room for the servers to navigate between the tables. In fact, I all but took out a runner passing behind my chair when I stood up to leave. It didn’t bother me all that much, but I’m guessing that guy’s shins didn’t feel too hot afterwards.

             At the time of my visit their liquor license had not gone through yet, so it was BYOB, which was just fine by me. My original plan was to bring a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel with me, because I always like to start a good meal with a glass of bourbon, but my better half put the kibosh on that idea. Apparently, it isn’t “classy” to nurse a whole bottle of whiskey at dinner. She’s probably right. So, we brought a few bottles of wine along instead. This worked out great, because it saved me a bundle on booze. If only we lived in a world without corking fees…ahhh….

             There were a few items on the menu that I immediately knew that I was going to try. In addition to the braised rabbit with wild mushroom fettuccini, which came highly recommended a la Twitter by both Foodie Buddha and Savory Exposure from their man-date the night before, I was intrigued by the farm baked egg in celery cream. This turned out to be the best call in the long series of good calls that I made that night.

             The farm baked egg is essentially a single farm egg that is broiled in a bowl of celery cream sauce and served with a side of baked rustic bread. The egg/cream combo serves as a dip for the bread, which is heavily buttered and slightly charred (in a good way…not in a burnt way).

 

Farm egg and Creme Sauce

Farm egg and Creme Sauce

For lack of a better term, this dish was FUCKING AWESOME. My mouth is literally watering right now as I’m writing about it. I would recommend this to anyone. It is a great app to share, but next time I might get one just for myself. The key is in the celery cream sauce…it is rich, creamy, and balances with the egg perfectly. Well done sir, well done.

             My ladyfriend opted for the autumn squash soup for her starter. Nothing to complain about here…it was a well executed and simple squash soup. One thing I did notice, especially when compared to my own attempts at squash soup at home, was how smooth it was. It was obvious this had been passed through a strainer about 47 times. There wasn’t a lump to be found in the bowl.

             When ordering the braised rabbit with wild mushroom fettuccini, I commented to our server that I had originally heard of this dish being served with grits. It seems they are mixing it up a bit to see which starch best compliments the rabbit. I can’t speak to the grits version that FB and SE recommended, and I can’t imagine that the two variations are all that different, but the flavor was fantastic.

Braised Rabbit w/ Mushroom Fettuccini

Braised Rabbit w/ Mushroom Fettuccini

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let you make your own conclusions about the presentation of this dish. I’m definitely of the school of thought that if it tastes good, I couldn’t care less what it looks like on the plate. Sooooo….moving along…..

         The umami flavor of the rabbit meat and the mushrooms really hits the back of your pallet at the end of every bite and I found my eyes rolling back in my head with every swallow. The rabbit was perfectly cooked, with only a very mild hint of gaminess. Enough to let you know you aren’t eating chicken meat, but not so much that it is overpowering. I’m interested to find out which manifestation of this dish they decided to stay with, but I sincerely hope that this stays on the menu in one form or another.

             We also ordered the red snapper fillet with root vegetable gratin and sautéed greens. The fish was cooked well, and was lightly seasoned. I wasn’t terribly blown away by this one, nor was I terribly disappointed. The only real complaint we had was in the choice of greens, which was kale. I think this probably comes down to personal preference. I’m just not really big on bitter food in general, and these were noticeably bitter. The greens were just a side to the fish, and were easily ignored, but I would have preferred a nice side of southern-style collards to the kale. Again, probably just personal preference.

             We finished the meal by splitting the trio of seasonal herb ice creams. There is one scoop of sage, rosemary, and thyme ice cream served in a single bowl with a wafer perched on top.

 

Trio of Seasonal Herb Ice Cream

Trio of Seasonal Herb Ice Cream

I was a little wary of this one. Having never eaten herb ice cream, or even having heard of such a thing before, I was curious to find out what a sage flavored dessert would taste like. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this. We both agreed that the thyme and rosemary ice creams stood out above the sage flavored scoop, but there wasn’t a trace left of all three by the time we were done. Not too sweet, but sweet enough to compliment the sharpness of the herbs.

         Finally, I feel I should mention something about the service. Short of the little run in with the server and my chair, which was mostly my fault, the service went off without a hitch. Had I not known that they were a brand new restaurant, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. Now, I’m sure that some people out there have had a few service hiccups during their respective visits, but I can only speak to my experience. No problems to report there, which bodes well for them.

            Granted, I only sampled two apps/entrees and only one dessert, but it was an overall great experience. A more in-depth analysis is probably required before I make any sweeping generalizations about Miller-Union, and I’m more than up for the task. But the next time I go I’ll just have to save room for 3 orders of the farm egg and celery cream on top of any new dishes I try.

Miller Union on Urbanspoon

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Holy wow – it looks like the menu changes a good bit from day to day. Thanks for the link love! Nice write up … I’d say we had similar experiences.

  2. Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I too LOVED this place. I wrote a little blog about too. Hope you’ll check it out. http://bit.ly/5NkFY4

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