Aria has plenty of well-fed loyalists, but it fell off the restaurant hot sheet a few years back when the New American craze yielded to the crusade toward regionalism. But vogue or not, chef-owner Gerry Klaskala is a great New American chef. He 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 improbably harmonious masterstroke is the butter-braised lobster floating in a lagoon of black-truffle-scented mashed potatoes and a ring of broccoli puree. And Klaskala does salute the South with warm-weather entrees like herb-crusted sole with bacon and a succotash of white corn and lady peas.
Pastry chef Kathryn King has always been Aria's secret weapon. She's an artist with plums when they're in season. 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. If you're seeking a more serene experience, consider booking the private room in the wine cellar.