Wisteria

April 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wisteria
471 N. Highland Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 525-3363

http://www.wisteria-atlanta.com/

Wisteria was another restaurant that I’d heard good things about and was eager to try.  I took advantage of their Inman Park restaurant week offerings as my first experience with them.  There was a $25 prix fixe menu as well as a $35 prix fixe menu, both of which were generous in their variety of offerings.  I became aware of how much business restaurant week was bringing them as we waited about twenty minutes past our reservation to be seated and our waiter seems a little frazzled and not particularly helpful.  I assume the influx of additional patrons is going to do that to any restaurant, and I cannot fault them for that, but I took subtle note of this.

One nice addition to our meal was taking advantage of their wine flights and had them bring out what felt like a generous wine pairing of our choosing with each course.  I figured it was worth the extra money to try some of the more extravagant menu items, so we opted for the $35 menu.  I would like to go back and try more of their vegetarian options at some point as well.

Kobe Beef Carpaccio with arugula tossed in a horseradish vinaigrette and aged parmesan

This was pleasantly light and tender, yet perhaps overly mild.  I was straining to pick up the vinegar much less the horseradish element of it.  I suppose that’s a fine line to tread with such a delicate course, but I would have liked to have seen more especially since I think it could have held up better against the bitter arugula.  The best part was the oily salt crunch of the fried capers.  This dish was good, but not particularly memorable.

Prince Edward Island Mussels in a charred vine-ripened tomato and herbed garlic broth

There is such a magic that happens with a perfect broth where the flavors meld into something delicate and beautiful.  These tender mussels were fortunate enough to be bathing in such a broth for my pleasure.  The charring of the tomatoes that went into the broth really heightened the beauty of the ingredient, and the garlic was nicely present and yet not overpowering.  Simply fantastic and became increasingly so with each bite.  My only meager complaint was that I thought the toast was too hard to sop up the broth with, but after letting it soak in the broth for a while, it became lovely.  Still, I found myself reaching for the non-toasted bread on the table to ensure my ability to sop up every last drop.

Pan Roasted Nantucket Sea Scallops over orzo with sweet corn, roasted tomatoes, Grana Padano and arugula almond pesto

My first bite into the scallops unfortunately was the sole bite into a bit of grit.  Even more so unfortunate was the fact that they were also really srawny and thin,  distinctly oversalted and garnished with a thin flavorless fried strip that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the dish.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed all of the other elements of the dish.  The pesto was bright and clean melting into the orzo with little bits of thin subtly nutty and slightly salty cheese, and the moments of crisp corn were perfectly farm-fresh.  As much as I loved the orzo part, I’m not sure that it had any sort of clever harmony with the scallops.  They might as well have been on two different plates.  I certainly would have preferred it that way.

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb – 2 chops – 14oz whipped potatoes with roasted asparagus, wild mushrooms and red wine jus

The first fine dining memory I had was some life-changing lamb for my little palette at La Provence when I was 12 years old.  That was when despite all of my interesting ethnic food experiences I’d had up until that point, I realized that there is a whole other level that food can be taken to.  As a result, I think I generally gravitate towards lamb when I see it on a menu and I am always out on the search for incredible lamb experiences.  This lamb at Wisteria read from the menu as very straightforward and classic, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I ordered rare as I often do and am aware of the chewy implications.  I don’t mind, however, this piece seemed a little gristly and a bit fatty in an unrendered sort of way and I felt like I struggled to wrest bites of meat from the bone.  The chops had a nice grilled char taste with a light hint of rosemary.  The woody mushrooms were a nice classic touch but once again I wished they had been cooked down a tiny bit more.  The potatoes and asparagus were merely there for comfort, and I happily obliged since they were a vessel to soak up more jus.  I was not in a position to argue with the beauty of the jus and did my best to retrieve as much of it as I could from the plate.  Lovely elements of classic flavor, but I cannot say that the execution on the chop itself was perfect.

Granny’s Carrot Cake with Bourbon Sauce (left)
Warm Fudge Tart with Swiss Chocolate Orange Ice Cream (middle)
Sweet Potato and Praline Cheesecake with Whipped Cream (right)

One lovely thing about Wisteria is the three small dessert samplings that they offer, so this was a welcome treat.  The carrot cake was good if not a little bit too sweet for me personally.  It did have a nice sugary textural crunch, and the bourbon hint was welcome even if it meant more sugar.  The fudge tart itself was really moist and rich and texturally wonderful, but it was in competition with the ice cream to the point that I couldn’t really pick up much about the ice cream’s flavors even if the textures were a nice contrast to each other.  The sweet potato cheesecake was easily my favorite.  It was mild and balanced with a creamy texture on a mildly buttery crust with little nuts adding a nice bit of additional texture to the occasional bite.  Lovely.

Final Verdict:

Overall, the meal was good, but I wasn’t entirely overwhelmed with the exception of the mussels.  What’s good about that is that on Mondays they offer a mussel special:

Bar Dining Specials
Mussel Mondays – $15.95
Endless Bowl of Mussels and
a Glass of our House Wine

I will return for that without question.  It’s a great deal on something that was particularly memorable and fantastic in my opinion.

What makes Wisteria a nice option and drives me to experience it again is the fact that they have a wide variety of menu that will cater to picky groups and seem to have some really lovely vegetarian options.  The vegetables I experienced were all very fresh and well-prepared.  In general, I thought their simple, fresh flavor profiles were lovely–the orzo portion of the scallop dish was really great and the flavors of the jus were good too.  There just happened to be some errors on the part of the scallop and lamb execution that do not work for me especially at the normal menu entree price of $28 each.  Maybe these errors were linked to being slammed at restaurant week, but I won’t know unless I go back.  I anticipate returning, but it will be for mussels and some other, probably vegetarian-based options.

Wisteria on Urbanspoon

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