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Chef-owner Gerry Klaskala builds menus with familiar comforts—crab cakes, smoked salmon, pork shoulder, short ribs—and heightens them with a melting pot of seasonings and accompaniments. His masterstroke is the butter-braised lobster floating in a lagoon of black-truffle-scented mashed potatoes and a ring of broccoli puree. He salutes the South with warm-weather entrees like herb-crusted sole with bacon, brown butter vinaigrette, and a succotash of white corn and lady peas. Pastry chef Kathryn King has always been Aria’s secret weapon. Like Klaskala, she composes winners—warm chocolate cheesecake, seasonal creations like upside-down black plum cake—that satisfy more than astound. General manager Andres Loaiza, a polished charmer, directs a front-of-house staff with one of the lowest turnover rates in the business. On busy nights, the dining room takes on a glittery Buckhead frisson.
Best of Atlanta 2013: Personal Endorsement, Restaurant for an Anniversary Dinner
An editor once asked me to suggest a fitting restaurant where he could propose to the woman he was dating. I recommended Aria; she said yes. My partner and I also celebrate at this Buckhead bastion. Front-of-house manager and wine director Andrés Loaiza greets customers with the warmest smile, and he always keeps one or two elegant Champagnes on the by-the-glass list. Gerry Klaskala’s New American cooking is precise and consistent. He rotates in trendy ingredients on nightly specials, but I return for long-running favorites like butter-poached lobster with broccoli mousseline and whipped potatoes. We always save room for Kathryn King’s suave desserts. When the warm chevre cheesecake arrives and we see “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on the plate in King’s ornate penmanship our night is complete. —Bill Addison