Former St. Cecilia chef aims to make shrimp cocktail and beef stroganoff cool again at the Betty

First of three concepts opens February 10 at the Kimpton Sylvan Hotel in Buckhead

Salmon confit

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

The Kimpton Sylvan Hotel is opening in Buckhead (374 East Paces Ferry Road) with 217 rooms and a mid-century modern design. But when it comes to their restaurant, the boutique brand is forgoing the usual burgers and overpriced cocktails for three gourmet concepts helmed by executive chef Brandon Chavannes.

“We offer three different experiences based on the mood of someone in the community on any particular night,” says Chavannes, who brings experience from St. Cecilia and King + Duke, as well as John Dory in New York City.

The first of these experiences, the Betty, opens February 10. Inspired by old-school supper clubs, it is designed with dark surfaces, polished wood, leather, and velvet elements. “It feels like you’re in a time warp,” Chavannes says.

Serving continental cuisine alongside classic cocktails highlighting brown spirits, the Betty will seat 175 people and feature a 1,100-square-foot patio. Come March, it will serve brunch, too.

In the spring, the garden-esque Willow Bar and rooftop lounge St. Julep will open. Willow will serve shareable, plant-based snacks like smoked shiitakes with green tomato and walnuts, jerk cauliflower with tamarind, fried chicken, artisanal cheeses, and charcuterie. Nine stories up, St. Julep will serve gin & tonics, margaritas, highballs, and boozy soft-serve ice cream while DJs spins live sets.

Chavannes shares more about the new restaurants and bars below.

The Pink Squirrel cocktail is crafted with crème de cacao, crème de noyaux, cognac, and cream, and garnished with grated nutmeg.

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

The Naked and Famous cocktail

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Where did the name “Betty” come from?
Buckhead is stuffed full of these masculine steakhouses: Hal’s, Chops, Bones. We thought it was a rebuff to the norm to give our space a feminine name.

Where do you get your inspirations for the Betty?
A lot of it is inspired by supper clubs of the ’40s and ’50s. I’m inspired by the food of yesteryear in classic cuisine. We want to incorporate modern technique and take advantage of the great farms around here.

We pay homage to the items that have fallen out of style that everyone really loves. Shrimp cocktail is a great example. It’s not the coolest dish on the face of the earth but people like it. [Think about] beef stroganoff and cream of mushroom soup. These don’t have the glamour anymore, but with a little history and creativity, we can give them a facelift, so they feel new and exciting again while still having the nostalgia and comfort.

How will you make these items unique again?
Take shrimp cocktail for instance. The reimagining is done in the presentation. The shrimp, cocktail sauce, and cracker elements are still there. We use fermented limes with warmer Indian style spices to create the base of cocktail sauce with tomato and horseradish sauce. We pair the cracker with avocado, lime, and aioli.

It’s presented with midcentury design: straight lines, attention to detail, very precise, and sharp. Instead of the shrimp hanging out of martini glass like candy cane, we lay it belly down on plate, presented head on. Cocktail sauce becomes the glue to glue the shrimp to the plate and adhere wispy, thin crackers to the back of the shrimp. We end up with three straight lines of shrimp and diamond shape crackers meticulously placed and cleaned.

Shrimp cocktail looks a little different at the Betty.

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

What else is on the menu at the Betty?
The raw bar has six or seven offerings. We’ll have seafood towers, plus celery ceviche for vegetarians. The steak tartare is presented in marrow bone with aioli made of smoked bone marrow, served with pickled mustard seed and toasted brioche. Beef cheek stroganoff comes on potato gnocchi with slivers of kumquat. The bouillabaisse is made with shellfish stock fortified for three to four days. It’s the food you see at cocktail parties that’s never as good as you want it to be, but this time, it is as good.

Porterhouse steak

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

How will you avoid falling into the trap of being a stereotypical hotel restaurant?
We make sure the soul and honesty of the food is always present. We’re not trying to cook for all people. We want the hotel to have its own identity.

I don’t see a burger on the menu. What will you have for hotel guests who just want some comfort after a long day?
We do have a hotel menu to accommodate that type of thing. Julep on the roof will be geared to more casual food. Willow Bar will have falafel burger with pickled vegetables.

Willow is so landscaped and lush and beautiful. If I didn’t work here, that’s where I’d want to live. With St. Julep, it’s all about the ambiance. The view from the roof is amazing.

I want to do a soft-serve machine because no one has soft serve in this neighborhood. If I’m sitting on the roof in 90 degrees, baking in the sun, I want some soft serve and I might want to put some tequila on it.

Crab avocado salad

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

How do you keep the concepts from overlapping?
Having a clear vision of their identities. For Willow, I think about a picnic on the English countryside meets a Kentucky Derby party. I think about what I’d want to eat in either situation. It didn’t start off as plant-based concept but started to feel too expected. We’ll have a celariac pastrami sandwich and salad-y plates but not leafy, like smoked shitake mushrooms with tomatoes, walnuts, and crème fraiche. Instead of fries, there will be crispy breadfruit with aioli instead of ketchup.

St. Julep is a mishmash of my guilty pleasures as a chef: tater tots, burgers, and corndogs inspired from Korean corn dogs—yeasted dough rolled in French fries. I love eating dry fried eggplant from Jia and Tasty China. I’m going to do that with tater tots instead of eggplant.

We’ll have vanilla black pepper soft serve ice cream sandwiches with snickerdoodle cookies and cinnamon toast crunch pieces on outside. It’s playful food. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously.

Check out the menu below. (Tap to enlarge.)
Betty menu