Restaurant Eugene - Atlanta, GA

Dinner - Monday, December 30, 2013

Linton Hopkins was named the James Beard "Best Chef - Southeast" in 2012, and Restaurant Eugene is the flagship of his restaurant family (although Holeman & Finch arguably garners more press for its burger). The style here is very classical - broadly speaking, traditional French technique with Southern ingredients. Arguably not the sort of place we typically gravitate towards, but this time, the lack of information about the food here piqued our curiosity.

White grapefruit, swordfish bottarga, brussel sprout, Georgia olive oil
Pimento cheese macarons
Brown butter sauteed Georgia apple, toasted brioche, rosemary
Beet soup
A series of five snacks arrived as soon as we were seated, before we were even presented with menus. The gougères were a little salty for a first bite, kicking my mouth into overdrive. My favourite of the quintet was the macaron - who knew pimento cheese lent itself so well to delicate pastry.

Ashed carrots
Beets, brussel sprouts, pecan sorbet, buttermilk
Great texture on the carrots - tender, but not mushy. I enjoyed their sweetness with the tangy buttermilk and the pecan sorbet (which, by the way, is probably the best example of pecan ice cream I've tasted to date). An excellent way to start a meal, with layers of temperature, texture and flavour.

Trout tartare, crisp clams, remoulade
In stark contrast to the carrots, I actually actively disliked this dish. While the trout tartare and roe had a nice salinity, the rest of the dish was clunky and heavy, quickly overwhelming the raw components and leaving a strong aftertaste.

Foie gras, fleur de sel
Toasted brioche, muscadine membrillo
Alba white truffle, rice grits, fresh turmeric
Very tasty (as expected), but texturally lacking - the individual rice grains in risotto are a key factor to their draw. Soft grits will never be a fitting substitute. That being said, I'd still gladly eat this again.

Squash, fennel, kumquat
This was fantastic. Slices of acorn squash, charred and smoked, lay on scales of roasted fennel. Next to this, a squash dauphinoise - beautifully layered and cooked, with a caramelized surface. Fennel fronds and a dried squash powder adorned the main components. A caramelized kumquat completely changed the profile of the dish, lending some bitterness from its rind to contrast the sweet, earthy squash.

White shrimp, Hoppin' John, benne cream
Described by our server as a "tribute" to Charleston (note the use of the term benne instead of sesame), this was a remarkably delicious take on Hoppin' John. Carolina Gold rice was paired with red peas, and topped with some excellent shrimp. The thick, rich sauce was a fitting complement - very enjoyable.

Lemon sorbet, spice cake, candied ginger
North Georgia lion's mane mushrooms
Baked peanuts, watercress, potato
A really meaty dish, the mushrooms infused with a rich demi-glace. Uncomplicated and delicious.

Pot likker, chard, Tennessee bacon
Roasted cauliflower "Country Captain"
We enjoyed this course a lot. The generous slab of roasted cauliflower was laid on a Country Captain purée, its curry notes a classic match with the brassica. A "granola" of parsley, raisins and peanuts (echoing the ingredients in the purée) was strewn across the plate for texture. Finally, a bitter orange sauce rounded out the flavours.

Veal pot au feu
Veal loin, shoulder, and sweetbreads, dressed with a light consommé and accompanied by carrots and white turnips - an upscale but straight-laced interpretation. The individual meats were lovely, but I missed the unctuousness and depth of flavour that characterizes the classic.

Consider Bardwell Farm "Pawlet"
Date chutney, white chocolate
Pierre Robert
Cherry mustard, sesame wafer
Coffee sorbet, spice cake, cocoa nibs
Quince tatin
Spice caramel, hazelnut praline, Sauternes-soaked raisins
Cocoa-dusted chocolate chip cookie dough
Almond streusel, bitter cocoa, cream
Sticky toffee pudding cake, rum caramel
Blood orange pâte de fruits, peanut croquants, financiers
Although the restaurant is actually rather nondescript, our meal evoked the sense of a bygone age of fine dining - from the style and progression of our courses (many quite rich), to the formally-dressed diners and servers, to the fantastic service (the best of Southern hospitality). To be sure, this was not a meal that we would repeat anytime soon, but we are both left with fond memories of Restaurant Eugene.

Restaurant Eugene
2277 Peachtree Road
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: (404) 355-0321