The verdict on 3 new Atlanta restaurants: Cold Beer, Aziza, Vietvana

Three restaurants in three minutes

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Cold Beer's shrimp pancake
Shrimp pancake with bitter lettuces, herbs, and flowers

Photograph by Cori Carter

Cold Beer

Don’t be fooled by the name—a good ol’ boy–friendly joint this ain’t. Of course, the moniker makes more sense when you take into account that this is a Kevin Gillespie creation; the celebrity chef has another restaurant, uniquely innovative and decidedly un-Southern, called Gunshow, after all. As at Gunshow, you’ll find globally inspired small plates and some of the city’s most creative cocktails. Some drinkers might turn up their nose at a frozen avocado margarita, in which case they’ll be missing out on the concoction’s gloriously silky richness. Equally surprising (in a good way) is the multi-layered mezcal ice cube, caked with basil seeds, that steals the show in another of bartender extraordinaire Mercedes O’Brien’s marvelous compositions. When attempting to prioritize among the dozen or so small plates on offer, don’t skip the revelatory raw scallop with lemon verbena ice and salted buttermilk, or the shrimp pancake buried under bitter lettuces, herbs, and flowers. But be warned: The BeltLine is literally at the restaurant’s doorstep (making the front patio prime real estate)—and even if you only order the recommended three dishes per person, your bill might approach the cost of said real estate. 670 DeKalb Avenue, 404-254-1032

Aziza

The wave of modern-Israeli restaurants that dramatically crashed in recent years in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles has now arrived in Atlanta, more gently lapping the surface of the cuisine. Aziza, located in Westside Provisions District just down from Room & Board, is the brainchild of Israeli-born Tal Baum, who previously opened the Italian restaurant and market Bellina Alimentari in Ponce City Market. Baum might not have created a boundary-pushing Israeli restaurant, but what Aziza lacks in daringness it makes up for in pure comfort. This is a beautiful and worthy destination for unwinding over Middle Eastern–inflected cocktails (the captivating Fields of Flora mixes pisco, brandy, citrus, rose, orange flower, and yogurt) and generously sized shared plates (tender octopus mingles with roasted sunchokes atop squid-ink tahini, and the must-order eggplant is glamorized with subtly funky pickled egg, charred tahina, and peach amba, a smooth sauce typically made with pickled mangoes). The velvety hummus, the benchmark of any Israeli restaurant, was in dire need of a squeeze of lemon to offset its muddiness, and the charred padron peppers and okra over a luxurious pool of creamy labneh would have been a stunner if only for a sprinkle of coarse or flaky salt. But these are quibbles, which were forgotten upon the arrival of the entree-sized prawns, cleverly served atop falafel “toast” (exactly what it sounds like and absurdly good) that sops up the richly spiced, tomatoey sauce. Be sure to linger over Turkish coffee; you’ll want to plant yourself as long as possible in the warmly lit, Mid East–chic dining room. 1170 Howell Mill Road, 404-968-9437

Vietvana

In a sleepy Avondale Estates strip mall, in the space that formerly housed the longtime meat-and-three Our Way Café (RIP), a fun and ambitious Vietnamese joint has set up shop—one that makes its own baguettes for the banh mis and its own noodles for the pho. Welcome to the new New South. A spicy lychee soju slushie sets the mood for a parade of well-executed Vietnamese dishes—say, brightly acidic papaya salad, spicy-peppery clay-pot catfish, soul-warming crab and egg soup, a petite banh mi that’s a perfect extra bite for the table to share, and pho that’s simultaneously light and hearty, meaty and vegetal. But the parade, unfortunately, is a bit all over the place as far as pacing goes—a soup or appetizer might appear with or even after the entrees, and those entrees might arrive 10 or more minutes apart from each other. Until those kinks in service are worked out, order another slushie and chill. 2831 East College Avenue, Avondale Estates, 404-963-2757

This article appears in our November 2019 issue.

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