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Drink Up: Perrine’s Wine Shop
Too many wine shops in Atlanta, no matter how choice their inventories, display all the decor appeal of a storage warehouse. How wonderful, then, to step into the breezy serenity of Perrine’s Wine Shop, which opened in August on the Westside. Gauzy curtains, whitewashed columns, and even a showcased French skin care line make the place feel more like a boutique clothing store.
A server at Bacchanalia set down an orb of crabmeat bound in a bronzed coating of breadcrumbs, arranged over splayed avocado slices, and stippled with orange and grapefruit sections. Vanilla beans speckled a shallow pool of vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl; the maternal warmth of their aroma and flavor calmed the precocious jolts of Thai pepper essence that bounced among the ingredients. Every sweet, hot, mellow, and tingly nuance harmonized with the crab. The effect of the dish was akin to the reprieve after an evening thunderstorm that dissipates the Atlanta summer heat. My heart felt lighter afterward.
Quinones at Bacchanalia
I walked into Quinones at Bacchanalia, glanced around, and realized I was the only fellow wearing a suit. This surprised me. After all, Quinones is the most formal restaurant experience left in Atlanta. Situated on the lower level of the Westside complex that houses Bacchanalia and Star Provisions, the hushed Southern Gothic dining room holds only eleven tables. It serves a nine-course set menu (no choices, but it changes weekly and includes several bonus noshes) that costs $125 per person—$195 if you opt for wine pairings with seven of the dishes. It is a restaurant engineered for lavishness. Why not dress for the occasion?
The braised rabbit at Miller Union looks homely, as many of the South's finest dishes do. Shredded meat, sauteed mushrooms, russet-colored gravy, and a moat of grits make for an unglamorous collage of earth tones. But, oh, the taste. Bite after bite, this entree reminds me of Nat King Cole’s voice: velvety, soothing, timeless. The rabbit is cooked for two hours with carrots, celery, and fennel in chicken stock and red wine before being pulled from the bone—a step that helps squeamish eaters disassociate their meal from the cuteness of bunnies. No fancy seasonings mar the Logan Turnpike grits from North Georgia. They are simmered in water and milk and finished with salt, pepper, cream, and butter. The mushrooms add pleasant murkiness, and the braising liquid, acting as gravy, curtails the richness. This is food in high definition, a vivid sequence of flavors that reflects the agrarian roots and ingenuity of our region’s cooking.
Watching Atlanta's Westside develop has been the urban equivalent of witnessing a new mountain range emerge in fast-forward: So much fresh geography, so many uncharted nooks. What is currently the area’s most fertile corridor of businesses—between the junction of Northside Drive and Marietta Street and the intersection of Howell Mill Road and Fourteenth Street—felt forsaken just five years ago. Now you can stop for Thai curry at Spoon, pick up cupcakes in a dozen flavors at Caryn’s Cakes, grab panini at Toscano & Sons Italian Market, and disappear into the clump of businesses dubbed the "Beer-muda Triangle": 5 Seasons Brewing Company, retailer Hop City, and Octane, which serves Belgian ales and microbrews alongside coffee. This stretch also claims its share of destination restaurants—Bacchanalia, Abattoir, and the just-opened Miller Union among them.
To Anglo ears, the word "abattoir" has an almost spiritual chime. Without knowing its meaning, one might guess that it refers to a labyrinth of monastic cloisters, or the dwelling of a particularly devout ascetic. But it’s French for "slaughterhouse," the term being derived from the verb abattre, meaning to shoot, knock down, or demoralize. Abattoir is one of the least onomatopoeic words ever adapted into the English language.
JCT Kitchen & Bar
Wishful thinking goes a long way toward explaining why too many Atlantans, some of them respected colleagues of mine, speak of JCT Kitchen & Bar as if it were a dyed-in-the-wool Southern restaurant, the deluxe meat-and-three of their dreams.