Rathbun’s

April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rathbun’s
112 Krog St. Ste R
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 524-8280

http://www.kevinrathbun.com/restaurants.htm

I had been anxious to experience one of Kevin Rathbun’s restaurants since loving the delicate spicy tomato soup broth dumpling at the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival last year, and I anticipated that the Inman Park Restaurant Week event would be a great way to try Rathbun’s out before plunging deeper into their full menu.

I hastily made reservations and didn’t think to look at the prix fixe offerings until afterwards.  I was uninspired by the offerings but was hoping to be surprised with execution and flavor balance.

Ahi Tuna Tartare, Blood Orange Vinegar, Serranos

Curious to check out an item off of the more appealing-sounding regular menu, we selected the tartare.  The tuna itself was as expected–fresh, chilled, a fleshy vessel for the other flavor components on the plate.  I found that the intriguing thing about this dish was that the distribution of elements on the plate led to a lot of variety in each individual bite.  Spicy little heat pockets of serrano pepper popped up in occasional bites in the midst of a more rounded black pepper flavor throughout.  The blood orange vinegar leaked through in varying degrees of intensity. It was a bit of a strain to try to detect the blood orange in the vinegar.  Perhaps the only real sign was the citrus lending a light sweetness to the vinegar.  The range of spicy heat to tangy sweet landed with the citrus on the opposite side of the plate.  I was a little perplexed as I was pretty certain that the citrus on the plate was not a blood orange and I wonder why the lost opportunity to coax the flavor from the vinegar was lost here.  This was a nice, light play on flavors that managed to be interesting but still subtle enough for a clean start to a meal.

Georgia Shrimp, Udon, Pak Choy

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this dish as I felt it could have gone all sorts of different directions based on the very stark description.  The gut instinct was that this would have some sort of Japanese influence, but that was not the case.  The moment this hit my palette, I immediately thought I was eating something at the Thai restaurant, Spoon.  The sauce reminded me of a coconut-based curry melded with a slap of heat.  The creamy texture of the sauce and soft noodles was contrasted with the soft snap of the scallions and the slightly more al dente texture of the pak choy.  I actually rather enjoy Spoon and I didn’t dislike this dish, but I really felt like it was entirely out of place here and I failed to see any sort of real fusion or anything else about this dish that could take the entirely Thai flavor combination to a different level.  The shrimp itself was fine; I just didn’t get at all how this fit into the scheme of things or represented the restaurant.  It was forgettable if not for the fact that it was such an odd choice to serve.  I also see after adjusting the photo a little bit to compensate for the lighting that the presentation is fairly neat considering how difficult it can be to make a bowl of noodles look tidy except for the blatant sauce splatters on the bowl.

Fried Quail, Baby Carrots, Stone Ground Grits

The first reaction to this was, “ok, yes, that’s fried quail.”  It was after a few more bites that I started to pick up on some of the subtle nuances that made this slightly more elevated than simply “ok.”  There were little bright bits of vinegar-driven acid drizzled here and there on the plate that added some interest and made you more aware of the perfect, yet simple blend of salted flour coating on the quail.  The grits were creamy, but very sparse on the plate.  The carrots left a warm, naturally sweet note that helped round out the overall flavors.  It was a classic homestyle-driven meal that was slightly elevated, but not by much.

C.A.B Flat Iron, Anson Mills Polenta, Foraged Mushrooms

Both of the entrees looked rather sloppy, and I honestly can’t say which I think looked better of the two.  I guess things such as these are hard to plate, but when you’ve already gotten the feeling that they’re not putting their best foot forward as we had with the prix fixe offerings so far, this just adds to the list of things that aren’t what you expected.  Whereas the quail and the tartare dishes seemed to display a range of subtle flavor play, this dish stayed in the slightly woody, smoky, buttery note and never left its comfort zone.  It could have benefited from some sort of spice or saltiness, but the whole dish just  felt heavy-handed in a greasy, unflavorful way.  The juices of the meat and the mushrooms that weren’t cooked down enough for me were watery in the grease leaving a sort of oil and water effect that I didn’t find particularly pleasing.  I ordered rare which might have been a mistake on my part, but it was a bit chewy, uninspiring, and pretty forgettable if not for the greasy butter note that it left lingering on my palette.

N.C Chicken, Brussels, Whipped Parsnips

Once again, this was your typical slightly elevated classic Southern family-style meat and three-esque dish.  Was it elevated enough for the price point or a place like this?  I’m thinking not.  It was good, however, and I surprisingly enjoyed more than the steak but it was still not particularly memorable.  I enjoyed the natural sweetness of the parsnips whip, but once again, the best part was barely present on the plate.  The brussels sprouts were a nice lightly buttered counterpoint when you could find them.  There was more chicken by far than everything and the gravy was pleasant, but nothing spectacular.

Key Lime Brulee with Plant City Strawberries (left)

Mini Banana Split with French Vanilla Ice Cream and Pecan Brittle (right)

These both tasted about like you’d expect with no surprises or anything interesting about them for the most part.  The brulee had a subtle citrus note and I found the custard itself to be more heavily sugared than I prefer.  It is nice when you can let the brulee carry the thick, crusty sweetness with touch of bitter throughout the soft, creamy depths below.  This was more of a sugar jolt throughout.  The banana split had a little bit of praline-esque softer crunch to it, but was completely forgettable like pretty much the rest of the meal.

Final Verdict:

I got the sneaking suspicion once I saw the prix fixe menu that this was dialed in and watered down for restaurant week.  The subtle flavor plays of the one thing that wasn’t on the prix fixe and the memory of their soup dumpling offering at the tomato festival confirmed that they are capable of the praise that I’ve associated with them.  I even felt rushed and not well taken care of as soon as they saw we were planning on ordering for restaurant week which left a bad taste in my mouth after we left.  The problem is with this generally poor experience that still cost $50 per person with wine and the additional appetizer, I don’t know that I’ll be rushing to come back to give them another chance any time soon considering all the other intriguing restaurant options that this city has to offer.

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