Atlanta is extremely fortunate to have the chef duo of Anne Quatrano, and Clifford Harrison. This husband/wife team have given Atlanta some of it’s best food destinations. They also combine an unrelenting pursuit of all things local; being one of the first chefs in the country to use their own farm just south of Atlanta to supply their flagship restaurant Bacchanalia and provision market, Star. Star, is an everyday market allowing the average diner to purchase arguably the finest list of ingredients in the Southeast. Bacchanalia on the other hand, consistently rated and voted the #1 restaurant in Atlanta, is a fine dining destination ideal for any special occassion.
Relocating on the westside of Midtown back in the late 1990’s, Bacchanalia set the stage for what is now considered a full fledged neighborhood with eateries, shopping, and residential. Housed in an old supply warehouse, the interior is stark and minimalist. Entering through the market, the hostess greets you by name and the occassion specific salutation. With just a few free standing tables, the majority of the restaurants seating is along a beautiful banquet running the length of the rear wall. The bar area is backed by a glass wall showing the entire kitchen and staff with 8 bar stools that stayed ghostly empty.
On the night of our visit we saw owner and chef, Ms. Quatrano, expiditing food from the kitchen. We always like to see the proprietor on premise – shows committment to the concept. The rest of the staff were exceptional as well. Cocktails came mere minutes after ordering and were mixed perfectly and measured generously. With no bar customers to tend, the bartender did not have much volume to maintain and therefore had plenty of time to manage the dining room’s orders.
And then there is the food. Using seasonal products, the menu changes accordingly and is designed to be ordered prix – fixe (priced fixed) for $75. Wine pairings are also available for each course and priced separately. One of the best things about Bacchanalia is that you can also order all items separately. This is the same of the wine pairings – order one glass, or each recommended pairing – whatever suits your tastes. The staff is very knowledgeable, and will mix and match food items and wine choices to your specific desires all with an unpretentious approach that is refreshingly unexpected in this type of setting.
Bacchanalia must have first dibs when it comes to the food chain in Atlanta. No other restaurant seems to get the most perfect cut of fish, meat, or cheese that Star/Bacchanalia seems to procur. The Ahi tuna appetizer was so fresh and buttery that it only needed a crispy pickled radish slice to accompany. The kuomoto oysters were briny and cold, topped with beluga caviar. Again simplicity reigned supreme, with the food being the star of the show.
TFL has eaten at restaurants from NYC to Paris to Rome, and Bacchanalia delivers one of the finest meals anywhere. The tasting of locally raised heritage pork was umami heaven. Creamy stone ground grits served as a base for grilled pork tenderloin, house made andouille sausage, and braised belly. The sausage was smoky and spicy with a creamy texture never before experienced in a standard nitrate filled andouille. The tenderloin was clean in flavor, and with light seasoning. The belly was bliss – smoky bacon flavored with mouth melting crackling skin. Enjoying each bite of protein with a spoonful of cheesy grits was by far the highlight of the meal.
The repeating theme of a meal at Bacchanalia is quality. The finest ingredients are sourced as regionally as possible and there is no tolerance of inferior products. The menu will be changed before integrity is relented. The lamb chops were the perfect example of locally raised minimally processed food. With very little gamey flavor, cooked to perfection, and again lightly seasoned – this was one of the best lamb preparations every sampled. Pure and clean lamb with little fat or greasy aftertaste.
With everything being prepared in house including the charcuterie and all baked goods, Bacchanalia delivers on every bite. The bread and deserts are phenomenal – and also available every day through Star Provisions. TFL usually singles out the top five items not to be missed at each specific restaurant. Unfortunately this time, every item sampled was worthy of the top five. When you have the privilege of dining in a restaurant of this caliber, one should trust the vision of the proprietors and follow one’s preferences. Sometimes prix fixe menus are conceived to maximize profits; at Bacchanalia the menu is designed based on balance of taste, flavor, and satisfaction. Like driving the finest built automobile, a meal at Bacchanalia will transport you to a higher level of satiation.
In the end, this is truly a restaurant for that special occassion. Flawless from start to finish, Bacchanalia serves ethical food that should only be enjoyed on occassion. Rich and luxurious, the meal hits on all tastes without experiencing gluttony.