ATL Food Chatter: May 24, 2010
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Several of Atlanta’s upscale hotels have been recasting their dining rooms with more affordable menus to attract a broader customer base. One of the more recent examples is Paces 88 in Buckhead’s St. Regis hotel. After a whirlwind beginning that saw national recognition (including a place on Esquire’s Best New Restaurants list), Paces 88 recently celebrated its first year and made a striking shift toward casual dining. It switched from entrees such as rack of lamb with Lyonnaise potato, fava beans and white asparagus (priced at $29) to a menu of luxe salads (“Paces 88 Cobb,” seared tuna with jicama-carrot sald, classic Caesar), sandwiches (short rib, lobster cake, marinated steak wrap) and a few entrees (salmon with corn and bacon ragout; roasted chicken breast with mashed potatoes and green beans) at half the price. [Note: the restaurants online menu doesn’t yet reflect the changes.]
Excecutive chef Mark Alba—who has an extensive Atlanta resume that included the late, lamented Food Studio—shared some impressions of the restaurant’s first year via e-mail.
Q: What were some of the biggest lessons learned from your first year of operation?
MA: I feel as though we now have a better grasp of our guest’s palette. We’ve responded well to their feedback and made valuable changes. Our menu is more approachable. We now cater to the non-adventurous diner as well as the food savvy gourmet. Because we are a St. Regis property, we are associated with luxurious brands and our clientele thought we would be too stuffy or pretentious. But we treat our guests as if they were in their own home.
Q: If you could go back to a year ago, what would you do differently?
MA: There isn’t much we would change. We were blessed with a successful opening and continue to be a powerful force for setting high standards. We are striving very hard to achieve a Five Star and Five Diamond status, because that is what we believe in. We won the Esquire Best New Restaurants of 2009 award but we’re not satisfied yet. I know I will never be. I want more success for Paces 88 and the St. Regis.
The St. Regis Atlanta is being modeled for other St. Regis hotels around the country, due to the success we had in our opening. We were very organized and had vital systems in place prior to our doors opening to the public. It’s remarkable how smooth everything flowed. It’s a great feeling to be a part of something so historic.
Q: There has been some chatter about the changes to your menu, what precipitated the menu changes?
MA: After our first year of business we celebrated our anniversary with a grand party for our staff and patrons. When the confetti settled we realized that we needed to change things to become more relevant. We wanted Paces 88 to still remain fresh in the minds of our diners so we put together menus that appeal to everyone.
It’s important to note as well that the Paces 88 culinary team also prepares food for 150 guest rooms, 52 residences, a grand pool bar, the St. Regis bar and a spectacular wine bar. We prepare a broad range of food items and I have to thank my restaurant staff, the banquet staff and our pastry staff for all of the success the hotel has shared.
Q: Last question-Where do you eat around town?
MA: I have a 19-month-old daughter, Madelyn, so I tend to frequent child friendly restaurants often or I like to grill out on my patio. But when I am out on my own, I enjoy Taka for sushi, Aria for New American and Nan for Thai. I also enjoy Fat Matt’s BBQ— and who can beat a burger at the Vortex?!?! I could go on. I love food!
NEWS AND NOTES:
Kelly Spikes, former marketing manager for the W hotel Atlanta Buckhead and the W Hotel Atlanta Midtown, has joined The Reynolds Group as a senior account manager.
Buckhead. Look for Sakura Stix, a new Japanese restaurant, to open at 857 Collier Road soon.
Decatur. John Kessler reported that Ryan Stewart (recently the opening chef of Mac McGee’s Irish Pub) will be the executive chef at Farmstead 303, the restaurant slated to open in the former Depeaux location.
Downtown. Thrillist notes that Cloud IX, featuring Caribbean cuisine, has opened at 177 Peters Street in the former Star spot.
Tomorrow’s News Today is reporting that Ciao Bocca, featuring house made gnocchi and other pastas, will open soon in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
Midtown. What Now Atlanta got the scoop first that both Lupe and Beleza closed this past Saturday, May 22.
The Blissful Glutton noted that Enrico Liberato, the Neapolitan pizzaiolo who formerly fired up the ovens at Fritti, is no longer at Antico Pizza.
What Now Atlanta is reporting that Woody’s Famous Philadelphia Cheese Steaks is reopening under new ownership this summer.
Westside. June 10 is the newest opening date set for Shaun Doty’s YEAH! Burger.
Question of the Week: What ATL beef purveyor is dry aging Niman Ranch beef for a major Dallas steakhouse?
PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What ATL top toque has their lamb barbeque recipe included in barbeque guru Steven Raichlen’s latest book, Planet Barbeque?—is Rafih Benjelloun of Imperial Fez.