Dining at the Spence reminds me of attending an improv troupe performance: The experience is never the same twice, but you’re bound to be entertained. Headliner Richard Blais keeps his menu in perpetual motion, even listing daily changing sources of inspiration at the top of the page (recent muses included pickled walnuts, orange wines, and Life After Top Chef, the five-episode series in which Blais costarred this fall). Expect improbable ingredient pairings like tuna tartare and fried quail eggs atop roasted bone marrow (it works), or a touch of Nutella stirred into coq au vin’s red wine reduction for an elusive, agreeable sweetness. Among the few constants since the restaurant opened in May is the Juicy Lucy, a thick beef patty stuffed with molten white American cheese. It seems very Blaisian, particularly given his ties to the Flip Burger Boutiques, but it actually originated decades ago in Minnesota. Every table should order one: Its earnest simplicity helps anchor the kitchen’s more outré compositions.
If the food has a theatrical quality, the dining room more resembles a nightclub. Blais partnered with Concentrics Restaurants, which runs One Midtown Kitchen and Two Urban Licks, and like those survivors, the Spence’s walls are dark and the indie rock earsplitting. If you’re determined to snap a pic with the resident television star, check his twitter feed, @richardblais, before showing up to make sure he’s in town. Beyond Blais, though, the restaurant employs two breakout talents: pastry chef Andrea Litvin and sommelier Justin Amick. 75 Fifth Street, 404-892-9111, thespenceatl.com