The first item on the menu here lists king trumpet mushroom, cherry confit, blue cheese, chocolate oil, and truffle as ingredients, suggesting that you’re experiencing one of two things: some unusual electrical activity in the brain, or the flagship restaurant of a “culinary”-themed hotel. Luckily, the latter is possible—the hotel is in fact called the Epicurean, and it opened in Midtown in September, billing itself as a place of “truly exceptional flavors and experiences.” In keeping with the conceit, the kitchen is encased in glass, like an exhibit on ancient peoples at the natural-history museum; hotel guests check in right next to the restaurant host station, at a counter that doubles as a wine fridge. Everything served here has at least as much going on as that mushroom, giving the menu a kind of mad-libs quality: “Maine lobster beetroot salad” has figs, feta, yuzu kosho, and puffed sorghum; “chicharrones surf and turf” has uni, avocado hummus, pork belly, and pomegranate; and so forth. The chef is Ewart Wardhaugh, a veteran of hotel restaurants who’s cooked at the Bellagio and elsewhere.
The mushroom wasn’t as alarming as it sounds; it was juicy and had a nice sear on it, with the blue cheese eclipsing the various other garnishes, which is probably for the better. “Royal rare seared salmon pastrami” was a succulent treat indeed (pictured, bottom left, with shrimp and grits croquetas and lobster salad), particularly as complemented by cilantro mint salsa, and the chocolate dessert—with blueberry ganache, hazelnut butter, coffee meringue, and ginger cream—tasted like somewhat less than the sum of its parts. I mean that as a compliment; it was a good piece of cake. 1117 Peachtree Street, Midtown
Biggerstaff Brewing Company
Brewpubs serving “elevated” bar food are a dime a dozen these days, but few really distinguish themselves; few, on the other hand, have a menu developed in collaboration with Ryan Smith, chef and co-owner of Staplehouse. So, that’s one advantage enjoyed right off the bat by this excellent new brewery, which neighbors Staplehouse on Edgewood Avenue. Its own chef is Davis King, who divides the menu into four sections, each offering something worthwhile: snacks, small plates, sandwiches, and large plates. Snacks include a generous spread of vinegar-brined pickles, which could profitably be consumed by themselves, by the bucketful, but which also work beautifully to offset some of the heavier fare. This is, after all, drinking food, so you have the option to order smoked onion rings, or an ATL-appropriate Scotch egg with lemon-pepper chicken sausage, or a gloriously messy brisket sandwich with peppers and Green Hill cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy. The pickled vegetables change depending on what’s available, as do various menu items; if a recently added green salad with apple, pecan, and Thomasville Tomme is even half as good as its predecessor—an unabashedly rich combo of beets, country ham, and burrata—it’ll be worth ordering indeed. The beer is as well-executed as the food, featuring a couple of clean-tasting IPAs, a California-style steam beer, and a session ale brewed with Intelligentsia coffee. Speaking of which: Until 3 p.m. on weekdays, Biggerstaff operates as a coffee shop. 537 Edgewood Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
Big Boss Chinese
I grew up in a blasted, desolate land where there was no Chinese takeout (rural Michigan), a fact that seems relevant to mention in the context of Big Boss Chinese. Guy Wong’s new Midtown restaurant has been calibrated to hit the nostalgia bone first and foremost; everybody’s experience will therefore be different, more wistful or less, depending on your love for the Chinese American joints of your past. (This very space, in fact, used to be the restaurant Chinese Buddha and was owned by Wong’s mother, aka Big Boss.) But even a rookie can dig these vibes: With its alien-green fluorescent lights, its mirrored walls, and its plastic banquettes, the dining room is like a mall food court by way of Stranger Things. Wong, who also owns the Old Fourth Ward restaurant Ruby Chow’s, has described Big Boss Chinese as a “more casual little brother” to that swankier lounge. The menu is remarkably faithful to the concept, playing all the hits—General Tso’s, lo mein, hot and sour soup—with not a hint of irony, no fancy twists: This is just plain good food, with fresh vegetables, well-cooked meats, and sauces that aren’t too sweet or gloopy. (Every dish can be prepared vegetarian, too.) Egg rolls? The platonic ideal, no more and no less. Condiments? They’re in little plastic packets by the soda fountain. Drinks? Well, there’s Heineken. Welcome back, even if you’re here for the first time. 100 10th Street, Midtown, 404-855-5889
This new Italian restaurant, in the old Three Sheets space, has a small market attached to its sprawling dining room, should you want to pick up something to take home. And you may want to: The cold case is filled with pastry chef Jae Eun Park’s gorgeous desserts, including a subtly orange-scented tiramisu that must be one of the best around, neither too dense nor too light—just a creamy marvel. It can also be ordered off the restaurant menu. The savory cooking here is done by executive chef Giancarlo Ruiz, who developed the menu in consultation with Mission + Market chef Ian Winslade (the same restaurant partners are behind both businesses). It comprises various favorites of the upscale Italian kitchen: antipasti like grilled baby artichokes with salsa verde, a few simple pizzas, pasta including pappardelle with lamb ragu and a decent cacio e pepe. (Made in-house, the pasta is also sold fresh at the attached market.) On the whole, the food is—you know—fine. Every ingredient in a Caprese salad tasted like it had been pulled straight from the fridge, which is less than ideal, though maybe that’s what you get for ordering tomatoes out of season. In a grilled-chicken entree, the poultry itself was no great shakes, though it was rescued by a potent, fire-truck red romesco sauce spiked with Calabrian chilis. The dining room is very becoming, with white painted brick and plenty of plants, and seating options include a spacious rooftop terrace. 6017 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs
Pop-up: Brave Wojtek
Wojtek was the name of a brown bear adopted into the Polish army in 1942, achieving the rank of corporal before retiring to Scotland as the war ended. A kind of folk hero, Wojtek enjoyed the familiar creaturely comforts: beer, cigarettes. In that sense, he makes a good mascot for this new Polish pop-up from Matt Reeves, a restaurant-industry vet who was formerly the general manager at One Eared Stag. Reeves had thought about starting the project over the summer—but “the heat index was just out of control,” he said. “Polish food is kind of heavy.”
Reeves, whose mother’s side of the family is Polish, grew up eating this sort of fare. Dishes this winter range from the familiar—pierogi, stuffed cabbage rolls, barszcz (aka borscht)—to the less so, like zapiekanka: a snacky street food that’s basically a French bread pizza, topped with wild mushrooms, smoked cheese, and onions and drizzled with ketchup. It’s as satisfying as you might imagine. The menu also includes hearty dishes like bigos, a stew with sauerkraut, sausage, “and, traditionally, wild game like boar or venison. But I’m not a hunter”—Reeves laughed—“so that’ll be, like, beef shoulder or pork shoulder.” @bravewojtek
This article appears in our December 2021 issue.