Atlanta: Rathbuns' Suggestions?
I need a table for two for dinner with a professional colleague tomorrow night. I was looking for someplace good, but also quiet so we can hear each other talk.
The choice was between the following three, all of which are within two miles of the downtown hotel area where we will be staying.
RATHBUNS’ 112 Krog St 30307 1.5 miles 404-524-8280
MITRA 818 Juniper St 30308 1.6 miles 404-875-5515
SPICE: 793 Juniper St @ 5th St 30308 1.6 miles 404 875 4242
The hotel concierge recommended Rathbuns' as the quietest. Do you all agree about that?
Any suggestions as to the chef's signature dishes and other must-eats on the menu?
Went to Rathbun's a few days ago. Based on what I had learned I was worried about two problems: noise and salt. In the end neither troubled our evening.
The Hilton concierge offered to book the table. Though I initially demurred, I thought it worth giving him a chance to prove his mettle and find a quiet spot. When we arrived on time it was clear that his call made no difference since they could offer nothing special. So much for the Hilton concierge service. OpenTable could have done the same and I would have gotten the credit. The wine room was closed for a private party. A table against the wall in the main dining room was not available at that moment. The only table right then was outside in the patio. So we went there. Then we were blasted by the heat lamps. The temperature in the patio on this globally-warmed night was probably in the mid-60s, perfect for me, but Atlantans like heat blasting in their faces so the place was pock-marked with heat towers. We finally found a table slightly out of their range. This took only a few minutes and was handled by all with much grace, patience, and humor. The staff was doing its job well.
The menu arrived and it is huge. Since I had been doing my research I knew what to look for. The lobster tortilla had gotten praise. I was tempted until I saw the size and price, about $32 for one of the second mortgage plates. Since I still have to pay my first off, the name alone put me off. Furthermore my fellow diner and I wanted to keep our options open with small plates. A major course for the main would have disrupted the culinary design for the evening. As it happens after we ate we spent some time (on that see below) with the floor manager, Doug from Cleveland, who told us more about the dish, suggesting that I was wise to pass. Coming from New England, lobster is not normally the first dish I order in the South. I had thought it would be something like the East Coast Grille sushi-tuna taco starter, one of the great dishes in North America. But no such luck, the lobster at Rathbuns' is cooked. then wrapped in a flour tortilla and smothered in a creamy sauce, sort of Lobster Savannah meets Montezuma. I like hybridity, but this particular tortilla sounded like it could not be eaten with fingers. Here perhaps southern tastes differ, milk-white gravy and all.
So we ordered five small plates between the two of us along with a bottle of an Argentine Viognier: crab tarte, marrow bones, eggplant fries, lamb, and butternut squash tortelloni. The lamb dish consisted of three crispy bits in sauce - - the precise name eludes me and my hotel internet connnection is too slow to google the Rathbuns' website. The sauce was far too sweet for my taste, a bit like the sweet dipping sauce that accompanies Thai spring rolls. It works with Americanized Thai food, but not with this dish. It was particularly unexpected since the dish was given an Italian name so if anything I expected something green or red.
The eggplant fries made the largest plate of the evening. We could not finish them. Unfortunately as they cool off they become less appealing. Competing with the other food on the table meant that they did not get eaten as quickly as they should have. They are fun, a variation on fried mozzarella. Certainly worth ordering but not something I need to go back to Atlanta for. The marrow bones were long and fatty cut down the middle so some of the mining work that marrow might demand was removed. The bread accompanying that plate was not acceptable, seemed like slightly dried out wonder bread. Otherwise the bread served with the meal was OK so they have a better alternative. They should do use their standard bread for the marrow plate, which is what we did. This was a satisfying dish, particularly tasty was the bit of beef juice that flowed from bone and marrow as it cooled on the plate.
The butternot squash tortelloni had not been my recommendation, but my companion's choice. It was perfectly fine, but nothing special. I am not a huge lover of squash and rarely do I find filled pasta that loves up to the anticipation of its contents. In this case my anticipation was low enough so I was not disappointed. I found the warm crab tarte a bit too gooey for my taste, but still tasty enough. Since it was the last dish I tried my taste buds may not have been clean enough to rate it justly. I would have preferred a dish in which the lump crab stood out more forthrightly on its own.
At this point I must break and will return later for the sweet course and why we spent time with Doug. But to give you a taste of what is to follow: the desserts are the unsung heroes of the restaurant and taxi service in Atlanta sucks.
Don't like Mitra or Spice. Go to Rathbun's. Or across the street from Spice is Avra, great Greek food. Also, down the block is Ecco. Truely one of Atlanta's finest new restaurants.
If you do go to Rathbun's: Do not miss the Lobster Taco and the Blue cheese potatoes.
The smoked salmon appetizer is awesome!
I just had dinner with 3 colleagues and, sitting in the middle of the room, we were able to hear each other just fine. So if you request one of the tables against the wall, with booth "surround" seating (don't know what else to call it), I'm sure it would be perfect.
Have not been to Mitra and only had drinks at the bar at Spice. Can't really comment on those.
Oh, Rathbuns' patio seating - enclosed & heated - might be even more quiet. Not the same ambiance as the inside, but same food!