The good news, logistically speaking, is that so many people are content to wolf down mediocre food in one of the many national chain restaurants clustered in the immediate vicinity that there are plenty of parking spaces around Nathaniel's.
Happily, all the annoyance caused by negotiating the traffic will evaporate the moment you step in Nathaniel's front door. Although the space is rather oddly shaped -- sort of a pie wedge -- the low lighting, expansive use of brick and dark wood, deep burgundy and green colors, fireplace and the whimsical inverted calla lily hanging light fixtures are cozily inviting. I felt even happier to snare one of the circular booths, a comfy outpost from which to survey the room.
What did not make me happy -- and it is a nice problem to have -- was trying to choose from all the appetizers that sounded so, well, appetizing. So, I didn't; I ordered all of them and began studying the menu.
It has been years since I have seen turbot on a dinner menu. And then, it was in New York and Philadelphia, not in Atlanta (except, of course, at Bacchanalia). Turbot is a wonderful fish, firm and amenable to saucing. (Even better, in classical French cooking, it has its own diamond-shaped pan, yet another odd kitchen gadget I must own.) Along with that, the dinner menu features one dish in every major category: beef tenderloin, double pork chop, duck breast, rack of lamb, free-range chicken, New York strip steak. There also is a vague vegetable assortment -- "Choose from menu or ask about seasonal vegetables" -- and three more fish choices: grouper, snapper and the trendy Chilean sea bass.
I suppose it is not necessary to say that the choices are less extensive at lunch: "sheppard's" pie (or shepherd's, if you care about spelling), smoked mozzarella and roasted pepper-stuffed ravioli, roasted red pepper fettuccini, chicken parmesan, meatloaf sandwich, grilled rueben, salads and a bacon blue cheeseburger. But there are several constants. One is the subtle and satisfying house soup, a rich butternut squash soup garnished with a mound of crab meat.
Another is a pair of eensy teensy crayfish crab cakes (and they are zesty little things), pan roasted. Proscuitto-wrapped "prawns" (they were really shrimp) were incredibly salty, but I liked them anyway. (Be aware that an $11 order brings only a trio of them to the table -- true proscuitto costs money.)
I encountered the shrimp again in the day's special, atop some marvelous couscous with lobster sauce ($16). An interesting contrast, the pearls of couscous, the nuggets of charred shrimp, the elegant tinge of lobster laced through the whole thing.
Considering the smallish portions, you might decide the prices are high here. That went through my mind briefly. But only briefly. I suppose I am so tired of paying through the nose for average food in average surroundings that I am happy to pay for food that shows some evidence that the kitchen is paying attention to it.
Nathaniel's, Powers Ferry Road just south of the intersection with Windy Hill Road in the Wildwood complex, 770-955-1464. Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Brunch: Sunday 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Expensive. Average price of dinner special, $23. Credit cards. Dress: business attire. Ambiance: cozy. No-smoking section. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
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