When a restaurant closes in Atlanta a few are genuinely disappointed, some are cynically smug, but most don’t even notice. However, this is not the case for the The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Buckhead. After 25 years of service (and the best service a restaurant can give), October 1, 2009 is the last day you can score an uber high-end meal at this establishment. Blogs are a-buzzing (mostly food related of course) and comments are flying. Some are sad to see one of the best fine dining restaurants in the South close, while others are happy to see a place that required jackets and a small fortune disappear.
I belong to the former and am appreciative of my one-time dining experience at the restaurant. At the time of this visit(February 2009), I had never dared to spend more than $100 for a meal – since then, I’ve done it more than I care to admit. This meal changed my perception about whether it is worth it to splurge for a meal(and an experience). The resounding answer (for me): Yes, Yes, Yes!
Here is my humbly, small tribute to one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in Atlanta as well as my first foray with true fine dining.
They throw you right into the ring of fire as soon as you are seated. The bread cart rolls around and the pressure is on – which to pick?
I can’t even begin to remember all of the different types of carbs that lived on this cart, but I do remember there were more than 20 and they all looked delicious. I tried a few throughout the course of the evening.
Amuse Bouche – Fennel & Olive Oil Soup with Grapefruit & Truffle
The soup came in a shot glass, which was placed on a wooden coaster of sorts, which laid on top of a gorgeous plate lined with silver and gold splashes. Nice start.
“Hawaiian Sweet Potato Soup” – with sea urchin, scallops, nasturtium
after a few bites:
I remember this dish was mellow tasting, with a subtly sweet overtone from the potato and scallops. It was also POIPLE!
“Lobster Preserve” – Red Pepper & Orange Distillation, Bok Choy, Ginger
By far the coolest dish (or jar) of the night, all ingredients were presented in a closed mason jar. The server set it down and then popped open the top of the jar to let the fragrant, lobstery smoke waft up to our noses.
We substituted a fish for the beef tenderloin and we got this:
Yes, that is a nice, big blob of caviar you see, resting atop my hunk of protein. I believe it was Dover sole, but not 100% positive.
“Fresh Goat Cheese” – Membrillo, Black Truffle
I loved the quincy sweetness paired with the tangy goat cheese. You can see the layers on Lauren’s spoon.
Strangely enough, this ‘introduction to dessert’ course was the highlight of the entire meal for me. The tangerine flavor burst in my mouth and the texture was gooey, mushy, and soft in the middle with a crunchy crust on the top. You can sort of see the crust around the edges of the clafouti in the photo below.
Absolutely LOVED this dish.
Finally, we arrive at the famous dessert course.
The “Chocolate Souffle” – with Vanilla Ice Cream and Strawberry Confit
The execution was flawless, the flavor combination worked well, but this dessert did nothing for me. I was far too blown away by the previous offering, so much so that nothing could have lived up to it. I also may not be a serious chocolate souffle gal.
Not so fast; there is a bit more. Next we received this plate:
Some madeline, nougat, jelly, etc. All were excellent, all were eaten.
Is that all? No, of course not. Similar to the bread cart at the start of the meal, a large cart was rolled over to our table at the end of the meal. Except this cart was FULL OF CHOCOLATES. Tons of different choices with far too many to choose from. So, we did what any good foodie would attempt to do – tried to get them all. We strategically picked different chocolate options so that we would be able to try one of each. The problem was, even half of the options couldn’t fit on the plate(small) so we did the best we could. This is what we ended up with on our plates and in our stomachs.
As you can see, I was a super lucky duck to be able to eat here, even just once. Although I may not have returned to the Dining Room in the past 6 months, it was a comfort to know the option was there. It convinced me that I was living in a city with the best of the best.
Instead of eating out tonight, the last night the Dining Room at the Ritz serves dinner, I will hang my head and cook my own food which mostly ends up looking like this.