Amazing Dinner at Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta, Georgia)
Atlanta is a city where fine dining (a few NYC examples like The Modern, Del Posto, Per Se and so on) is generally rare. It’s a place where small, independent chef-driven restaurants as well as big box franchised restaurants are common. Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood is one of the few restaurants where Southern food gets the haute treatment — and it’s executed beautifully.
This restaurant is owned and operated by a husband-and-wife team of chef Linton Hopkins and sommelier Gina Hopkins and still going strong for nearly a dozen years. This jewel box of a restaurant decorated in a high-end, minimalist style. The clientele is mixed ranging from someone in their 30s having a very nice after work dinner to a much older couple celebrating an occasion.
We had an excellent dinner there were food is consistently good, service astounded us about the minute details (our waiter made us assume that he worked at a Danny Meyer/Union Square Hospitality establishment before Eugene). and it certainly feels plush.
We started off with classic cocktails of Boulevardier and Aperol spritz ($12 each) that were perfectly made. These two cocktails are generally easy to make but many fail to make me swoon (sipping the Boulevardier) or make me want to dine on a porch and kickback a couple of these spritzes.
The flood of amuse bouches arrived shortly. Warm, beautifully baked gougeres. Pimento cheese macarons that were a nod to the Southern tradition melding with the classic French macaron cookie (it was perfectly sweet and savory with the right amount of chewiness). The shot of sweet potato was sublime – perfectly sweet, velvety smooth and utterly delicious.
When the this egg landed on our table, I immediately thought of the famous l’Arpege egg before our waiter informed us what it was — Egg a la l’Arpege. l’Arpege is a 3* Michelin Paris-based restaurant owned by chef Alain Passard and the signature chaud-froid oeuf or “hot-cold egg” contrast between the warm, poached runny egg yoke, and the sherry vinegar-infused whipped cream he adds at the top. Restaurant Eugene’s take on it is to have the warm runny yolk with cool, sweet sorghum syrup, and the JQ Dickinson salt, and finely chopped chives really made a difference to this egg. It was almost as profound as the original chaud-froid oeuf.
Our appetizers of fried softshell crab, Georgia cheese curds, smoked Louis, green coriander ($28) and whey braised pork belly, blueberry preserves, shaved fennel, fried pillow of potato ($20) were very good although the soft shell crab was much better than pork belly (and I really do love my pork belly). The soft shell crab was beautifully fried and the fried, gooey cheese curds added some lusciousness to this decadent dish. The pork belly’s flavors were tasty but oddly is a bit tough on the chew and slicing isn’t as ease-free as it should but we did enjoy the interesting texture of the fried pillow of potato (gnocchi meets knish). I should note, these appetizers are quite substantial.
For our main dish, the butter poached swordfish, sauce Bretonne, black olive oil, crisp kale ($38) and Bone-in Kansas City strip, Benne seed panisse, creamed kale, marrow butter ($55) were great in its own way. The swordfish was beautifully plated and the swordfish was cooked perfectly. Despite the fact it seems like a virtuous dish, this is certainly not. Underneath the chunks of swordfish, the bed of finely shredded carrots is wallowing in a pool of delicious, golden yellow butter. The Kansas City strip steak was a fantastic steak that has some satisfying gristle and chew that you’d want in a steak and the strip of bone marrow butter enhanced the steak. The firm, creamy benne seed panisse topped with creamed kale were delicious.
The train of sweets arrived at our table (thankfully, the kitchen paced this course out). Pre-dessert was an intensely creamy and nutty quenelle of oat ice cream, peanut powder and peanut brittle. Our main desserts ($10 each) were strawberry hibiscus sorbet, laurel panna cotta, chamomile, celery and baba au rhum, creme anglaise, citrus that were good. The panna cotta had the desired silky, not too firm texture but the laurel (or bay leaf) and celery flavors were too subtle for me. The sorbet was more strawberry forward than having the balance of hibiscus.
The baba au rhum was not what we had in mind. The rum soaked, yeasted cake was set on a creme anglaise which made the cake incredibly soft than what I prefer for a baba au rhum. The grapefruit suprêmes (segments) was a nice touch.
We thoroughly enjoyed the trio of fresh made hazelnut profiteroles the kitchen sent out to us. The puffs were delicately crisp and the hazelnut pastry cream was incredibly nutty and not too sweet.
The quartet of mignardises were a very nice ending to a great meal. The red swirled, peppermint meringue was nicely minty. The peanut meringue cookie was delicious. The peach pâte de fruit was my favorite and the financiers were delectably buttery and chewy.
2277 Peachtree St NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: (404) 355-0321