It's been about 16 months since I visited Repast (620 N. Glen Iris Drive, 404-870-8707). I remember because it was the first restaurant I visited after a two-week stay in the hospital. I was in leg braces, using a walker, feeling grouchy but happy to be eating something besides a hospital's bizarre notion of nutritious food.
Despite a few problems, I liked the restaurant then. It was brand-new and the waitstaff was a bit uninformed but otherwise great. The food, with a few glitches, was terrific. I confess I was worried, though. We've seen few chef-driven restaurants succeed in our city in the last few years. SAGA, with a curious blend of South African and Southern cooking developed by chef Drew Van Leuvan, closed recently, for example. Seeger's, the best restaurant in the city for years, went kaput. Soto, the best stop for sushi, closed, too.
So it was great to see that Repast, which has only gotten better, was doing great business last Monday night. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's turned into one of the best restaurants in the city. The married owners-chefs, Joe Truex and Mihoko Obunai, call their cuisine New American, but it is unique in the city because of the couple's fascinating résumés. Obunai grew up in Japan, lived in Peru and attended the French Culinary Institute. Truex is from Louisiana and his experience has ranged from New Orleans to the famed Le Cirque in New York, to a restaurant in Switzerland. Along the way, he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
The restaurant's sleekly moderne design reflects the couple's background. It's two levels with a dining loft and features occasional Japanese flourishes. The kitchen is open – as it should be at any chef-driven location. Indeed, the windowed walls of the soaring space communicate an overall feeling of openness.
We have eaten a hell of a lot of mediocre food lately and that may have inspired me to blow my wad at Repast. I ordered the expensive special appetizer of foie gras followed by the second-most expensive entree, veal saltimbocca, one of my all-time favorite dishes.
The foie gras was a kind of kinky flirtation with Indian seasonings. The creamy seared liver was placed over diced cucumber with yogurt. The yogurt was light – not anywhere near as heavy as it is in classic raita – and on the side was a sweet paint stroke of pureed mango. A piquant curry powder was lightly dusted on the plate in the vicinity of the mango. I am salivating as I write this. Of course, the serving of foie gras was too small, since no serving of foie gras is ever big enough.
Wayne ordered another appetizer special – a fluffy flat bread, almost like Indian nan, topped with goat cheese, fried capers and chunks of luscious house-cured salmon. (If you have not dined here before, you should try the house-cured duck on the charcuterie platter, one of the city's rare treats.)
Wayne followed with an entree special – crispy slices of pork shoulder with warmed peaches and an arugula salad with capers and lemon dressing. "Funny," he said, after a few bites, "it doesn't taste sweet." Well, thank you. I get tired of the way every meat dish that features fruit in our city seems to be oversweetened.
The veal saltimbocca was one of the best versions I've ever tasted in Atlanta (and I've had some amazingly dreadful ones). Here, the chefs use a chunk of tender, grass-fed veal. Classically, it's wrapped in good prosciutto, which gets a bit crisp and chewy during the cooking. They serve it over a small pool of tomato sauce seasoned with capers. On the side are roasted organic vegetables.
Next was dessert. Wayne ordered the Mad Hatter-esque green tea tiramisu with adzuki bean compote and strawberries. This Japanese version of the Italian classic would be kitschy if it didn't taste so damn good. I chose the fluffy soufflé-like cheesecake heavily flavored with lemon. It was served inside a square painted with strawberry puree. Two blueberries and two blackberries marked each corner.
You can, by the way, order tasting plates of three or four desserts. We were really tempted by a rose ice cream.
Service at the restaurant is still hospitable but, as was true during our first visit, the waiter wasn't thoroughly educated about the food's ingredients. I suppose this is a relatively minor complaint – he happily conveyed our questions to the kitchen – but I'm assuming this kind of menu attracts a lot of foodies who would be as curious as we were.
The restaurant also gets props for using sourced ingredients, including organic meats and vegetables. Put it on your list!
Here and there
I heard Bernadette Seacrest sing at Daddy D'z on a recent Wednesday and was blown away. Her version of "Body and Soul" was an almost eerie, beautiful evocation of Billie Holiday. Seacrest performs 8-10 p.m. Wednesdays. By the way, there is a connection between Seacrest and Alix Kenagy, the owner of Partners and Indigo Coastal Grill, two (defunct) restaurants that were important in the maturation of Atlanta's dining scene. But you'll have to figure out the connection yourself. ...
I've been enjoying Village Pizza in Cabbagetown, but last week I ordered a pizza whose crust was easily twice as thick as usual. I hope that's not a new standard there! ...
Check out our blog, OmnivoreAtl.com, for regular updates on Atlanta's food scene, including recent reports about breakfast at MetroFresh, lunch at Havana Sandwich Shop, the latest on Paula Deen's troubles with workers at Smithfield Foods, and an encounter at the Standard with Tom Houck, longtime king of the Atlanta gossip scene. There's also a recent rave by a reader about, of all things, the wonderful service at Popeyes.
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