Q&A with CineBistro’s Isaac Stewart

ATL Food Chatter: November 8, 2011
(To receive the Chatter and other culinary tidbits directly in your inbox, sign up for our weekly dining newsletter)

CinéBistro—the seven-unit, Alabama-based chain—is the newest, swankiest entry to Atlanta’s dine-in movie scene. The luxe setup includes a bar for lounging before or after a film, and a menu that ranges from meatloaf sliders and baked goat cheese to crab cakes, blackened ribeye, and warm chocolate and cherry bread pudding.

The culinary director behind the scenes at all of the CinéBistro theaters is corporate executive chef Isaac Stewart, who has created the menu that caters to a diverse set of tastes. Stewart, an Atlanta resident whose local stints included Tavern at Phipps and Fado, recently took some time to talk about CinéBistro Atlanta and its menu.

Q: How has business been to date? Has it met your expectations?
IS: Business has absolutely exceeded our expectations. There has been such an overwhelmingly positive response from Atlantans, and the Brookhaven community has given us a very warm welcome to the neighborhood. From an operational standpoint, I think that we have hit our stride very early. I’m very proud of the quality that is coming out of the kitchen—the team is extremely dedicated and focused. Overall, guests have been very receptive to CinéBistro’s food, level of hospitality and amazing comfort of the auditoriums.

Q: What menu items have you developed just for the Atlanta market, and how have they been selling?
IS: Many of the items guests will see on our menu were created specially for Atlanta, with only a few CinéBistro standbys including the popcorn trio (a combination of one, two or all three options of “popcorn” chicken, rock shrimp or calamari) and pan-seared Atlantic salmon on lemon whipped potatoes with smoky bacon collard greens, sauteed rock shrimp and ripe avocado key lime butter sauce. With other items, such as “The Bay” crab dip and mezze platter (with white bean hummus, smoky eggplant and tomato dip, olives, roasted fresh vegetables served with grilled pita), we reinvented flavor profiles for this foodie-centric market.
The big surprise for me is the reception of the burgers—both of them! The house-ground bistro burger I can understand. It is probably our biggest seller and is delicious—we grind three flavorful cuts of meat (short rib, brisket and chuck) into it. But the veggie burger is flying out of the kitchen too. It always surprises me when I see eight to ten on the board – it’s a great feeling. I have been working to develop a killer veggie burger for a long time, and I think I finally found it!
This is not really a surprise to me, but our desserts are also very popular. I think restaurants generally drop the ball on this, purchasing ready-made desserts, or making their dessert program secondary. We hand-make everything, and people really get behind them.

Q: You had worked in Atlanta before in some of our better restaurants, what has been your biggest adjustment working as a corporate chef overseeing several markets?
IS: CinéBistro is the coolest company to work for, and I really think we have tapped into something big. This concept is truly cutting edge and I love it because what we do at the volumes and quality level that we do it is really special and one-of-a-kind. It does not exist anywhere else. If people could go behind-the-scenes at CinéBistro and see what how our team operates to bring them such an intimate and amazing experience, they would be blown away.

Q: When in town, where do you go out to eat?
IS: Our standbys are La Tavola and Ecco; New York Prime on a splurge; Antico Napoletana for pizza and Tomo in Vinings! R.I.P. [The restaurant recently relocated to Buckhead.]

The Atlanta casting calls for season 3 of Master Chef will be held Saturday, November 12, at Le Cordon Bleu, 1927 Lakeside Parkway, Tucker, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Chefs in the City brings renowned chef Hector Santiago of Pura Vida and Super Pan to the store’s state-of-the-art demo kitchen on November 17, from 6-8 p.m. He’ll demonstrate how guests can add some Latin flair to their cooking, ideal for unique tastes for holiday gatherings. A portion of each evening’s proceeds will benefit Open Hand in an effort to further their mission of helping people prevent or better manage chronic disease through Comprehensive Nutrition Care.

Buckhead. What Now Atlanta is reporting official confirmation that Watershed restaurant has signed a lease for space in the Brookwood Condominiums. The report cites information from the current owner of the project at 1820 Peachtree Road, stating that a lease has been signed, although no timetable was provided regarding the restaurant’s opening date.

Decatur. Decatur Metro is reporting that the Decatur Dine has ben sold to a new owner.

Thrillist reports that Out of the Pan, featuring $6.99 or less breakfast/lunch menu, has opened at 105 Clairmont Avenue.

Druid Hills. What Now Atlanta notes that Marlow’s Tavern and Which Wich are among the first restaurants to lease space at Emory Point, the massive mixed-use project slated to open its first phase in fall 2012 on Clifton Road adjacent to Emory University.

Midtown. dTox and dShop, a juice bar/meeting spot will open this week at 305 6th Street NE (6th and Argonne) . According to Urban Daddy, the artfully designed space features meeting tables that can be reserved in advance and a menu with concoctions like Red Juice with cucumber and beet, Wheatgrass Elixir or Brazil Nut Milk.

Urban Daddy also reports that Murphy’s Den, a ’60s-style piano bar and lounge, is opening this week at 794 Juniper Street.

Roswell. Look for Slate Table and Tap, featuring traditional American cuisine like burgers and sandwiches from the owners of Indigo, to open at 1132 Canton Street soon.

Westside. According to a release from their PR firm, Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison have announced that Abattoir opening chef/partner Joshua Hopkins is leaving his post by year’s end. No replacement has been named and “Quatrano, Harrison and the culinary talent at Bacchanalia will lead the kitchen at Abattoir while a replacement from within their restaurants is put into place.”

Tomorrow’s News Today
is reporting that casual Chinese steamed bun concept Yum Bunz will open its first location in the 935 M Apartments at 935 Marietta Street in May 2012. The street level space will seat 100 and has access to 85 non valet parking spaces.

Question of the Week : What intown ATL resto’s fried chicken was on the Best Fried Chicken in the US list published by a national food publication?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What Art Institute of tlanta culinary grad is part of the leadership team for a recently opened intown wine bar?—is Adam Halberg, executive chef and culinary director of the Barcelona Wine Bar Group.

Do you have restaurant openings, closings, or other news to share? Email James Oxendine at atldiningchatter@gmail.com