For reasons I will explain later, this is probably the most difficult review I have written to date. Finding myself with late appointments one Thursday, and with Mrs. C out of town, I thought I might try dining alone and waiting out the traffic at Staplehouse, in the Old Fourth Ward. Logging into their web site I was directed to call the restaurant for reservations.
With trepidation I dialed up, fearing a journey into voice mail hell, but after punching only one additional entry I was greeted by Jen, who told me they were booked that evening but I was welcome to dine at the bar on a first come first serve basis, but only the a la carte menu (not the tasting menu) was available at the bar. Telling her I was only interested in the tasting menu, she said that they do, depending on the kitchen’s availability, allow reservations at the bar for the tasting menu and that she would check with the kitchen and get back to me, which she did in short order, securing me a stool at the bar for the tasting menu at 6:00, but cautioning me to be punctual.
Arriving fairly punctually, I found easy and friendly valet service turning off Edgewood into the property immediately adjacent to the restaurant, where resident parker Larry introduced himself, directed me to the entrance which is at the rear of the building and told me I was in for a treat.
Entering the restaurant I met the Jen who had helped with the reservation and who escorted me to my reserved spot at the bar, next to a lovely young woman, also dining alone, who arrived one course ahead of me, so I always had a preview of what was to come (had I not been married and old enough to be her grandfather I might have put some of my better moves on her, had I been able to remember them).
Anyway, on to the meal, which consisted of five announced courses and three lagniappes from the chef. Let me say here that if you are looking for a steak with bernaise sauce, a nicely grilled piece of fish or portions approaching those you would serve yourself at a buffet, this restaurant is not for you, but luckily Atlanta is loaded with other dining venues that will make you happy if that is what you want.
If you are put off by truly artistic and occasionally architectural presentations, once again, this restaurant is not for you. Let me add however, that below the art and architecture lie superbly sourced ingredients prepared in truly creative ways. Your waiter will tell you the farm that each ingredient came from, omitting only the name of the farm worker that picked it or slaughtered it.
The various dishes change out daily, weekly or longer, depending on what is available, so I will not go into each dish except to state that all were unique and delicious. I also found some reasonably priced glasses of wine to aid in the gustatory enjoyment. As I mentioned, that was Thursday night. Fast forward to Friday, when I was telling my good friend and fellow gourmand (remember that a gourmand is nothing more than a gourmet with 15 additional pounds) Shane about the restaurant.
He knew Mrs C. was out of town and asked my plans for the weekend. Telling him I had none, he said his wife was out of town as well, why not take him there Saturday night. I told him they were probably booked at that late date, but not one to be dissuaded, and having contributed to their start up campaign, he made a well-placed call or two and secured us a table for the first seating.
Two of the five dishes had changed, and rather than order our wines by the glass we did the wine pairings, which I highly recommend. Shane’s comment after the meal was that it was by far the best meal he has ever eaten in Atlanta, and this from someone who, in horse parlance, is no stranger to the feed bag. The experience is not cheap ($85.00 plus a 20% tip added in, then $40.00 for the wine pairings) but given the quality of the ingredients, the preparation, the presentation, the flawless service and the fact that they actually thanked us for coming in it was well worth it.
So why was this a difficult review to write? Please remember that I am the restaurant curmudgeon, and to find nothing for me to complain about is almost as impossible as leaving a hematologist without giving blood samples. Try as I may, I have no complaints. Move over Bacchanalia, there’s a new kid in town.