On the occasion of our thirtieth anniversary, your food curmudgeon took Mrs. Curmudgeon to Bacchanalia to celebrate the event. Afterwards, the most frequently asked question by my friends was not “How was the food?” but “Was it really worth it?”. If you are from the school believing that the highest and best compliment you could pay a meal is that it was filling, or if the thought of a buffet makes you drool with anticipation, read no further, although I suspect if you have navigated to this blog that is not the case, so herewith is my impression.
When I made the reservation I informed them that it was our anniversary and that my wife was gluten free. When we arrived and as we were escorted to our table, I regretted not requesting a table for us to sit side by side so that we would not have to look at each other the whole night, but there was no reason to worry, as they seated us in a corner banquette, next to each other, but with me facing north and her facing west.
Our waiter (or one of them, as it turned out there was a veritable army serving everyone without regard to whose station is whose) appeared immediately and without introducing herself (a plus) welcomed us and wished us “Happy anniversary”.
We then each ordered a glass of champagne to toast the occasion, and proceeded to place our order, at which point the waiter pointed out which items (and there were many) were gluten free or could be modified to be gluten free. When an amuse bouche appeared, I was served a pair of gougeres, and my wife was served a gluten free unidentifiable but delicious mystery dish. Next, a server came by offering a variety of breads and butters, telling us that the kitchen was preparing a gluten free option that would be out shortly.
For the first (of five) course we had each had the oysters and our waiter came by to tell us he was rushing the oysters so that we would have some champagne left to accompany them.
For the next course I had the crab fritter and my wife had the foie gras (a $25.00 supplement – but it was what I call the McDonalds’ portion, a quarter pounder). I must disclose at this time that my wife suffers from menu myopia, a not so uncommon anomaly afflicting women – the inability to read prices on a menu. For the main course we ordered lamb three ways as well as the duck breast, each of which was superb, but one of the lamb selections served was a sliver of tongue that had it been sliced any thinner it would have been translucent, and it was too thin and too small to get the full flavor.
While Bacchanalia has never been famous for large portions, this bit of tongue tested the limit in the opposite direction. We next had salads with cheese, and for dessert I had the tart tatin and my wife had a selection of sorbets, followed by coffee and complimentary madeleines for me as well chocolates for her.
At this point I should disclose that I invaded my cellar and brought a superb Bordeaux ($25.00 corkage fee) to enjoy with dinner. On the topic of taking your own wine, etiquette would demand that you don’t take anything on their list and that you bring something the equal of the food, rather than a box of cardbordeaux. Regarding their wine list, while the majority of the wines are rather high priced, on their list (as well as those at the temples of high cuisine in Manhattan) there are bargains to be found, just ask the wine steward and give him your price point.
We left, not bloated but properly sated. All together, tag, tax, title, delivery and tip the final tab was $330.00, so, was it worth it? While one side of my brain tells me I could have three lovely dinners at Anis or a variety of consistently excellent Atlanta restaurants, the other portion of my brain, that lobe that appreciates anticipatory service, that craves creative cuisine, that pulsates for prime provisions (luckily I am out of alliterative descriptions), says book a table for that special occasion.
I wouldn’t go with the regularity that I inhabit my neighborhood favorites, but all things considered we enjoyed it immensely and would have no reservations on returning for another special occasion or should someone else offer to pick up the tab.