Miller Union

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Miller Union
999 Brady Ave, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(678) 733-8550

This was another heavily anticipated dinner with all the accolade between being considered among the best new restaurants right now from both Bon Appetit and Esquire, and I was curious to see if they would be able to live up to their reputation.  My only previous experience with this place was their representation was once more at the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival last year where I took note that they were trying to bring the aspic back.  A commendable accomplishment even if I wasn’t too crazy about the results.  Aspic is sadly a hard sell for me, so I am not the best of judges.  This is another place known for its excellence in mixology, so I happily began my adventure there with a cocktail.

Boulevardier (traditionally whiskey vermouth and campari; left)
Perfect Start aperol, cocchi americano, orange juice, sparkling wine (center)
Pushing Up Daisies gin, drambuie, lemon, house grenadine, soda (right)

The Boulevardier was a little Campari-heavy and certainly bitter-leaning, but that is of course the purpose of this drink.  Pushing Up Daisies was a bright, refreshing lemon floral mildly fizzy drink finished with a note of what reminded me of black cherry and pomegranate.  A lovely springy porch-sipping beverage that was rather enjoyable.  The Perfect Start was my personal choice and I’ll certainly return for it if it’s still there.  It was lightly bitter with bright citrus cutting through amid tingly bubbles.  A clean, crisp, interesting twist on a mimosa.

buckwheat blinis, fresh chevre, shiitakes

As soon as I put a small piece of the buckwheat blini in my mouth and it effortlessly melted away, I knew that I was in for some major execution successes on the part of Miller Union.  The bilini was light in both texture and flavor and served as a vessel for the woody mushroom realm with a creamy chevre tang.  Very simple and good, but it did manage to get overshadowed by the flavors of the other dishes on the table.

country pork & chicken liver terrine with pickled vegetables

The rustic beauty of this dish reminded me instantly of the time I went to Germany when I was much younger and ate similar fare in the pubs there.  The ample portion of cool terrine was very smooth and lightly greasy and subtly changed notes as it transitioned to the even creamier liver in the center.  The bread was a toasted variety of the same beautiful sourdough served on the table that had a remarkable artisan crust that was lightly dusted with a welcome hit of salt.  The housemade stone ground mustard had a nice textural pop that harmonized with the lightly pickled vegetable crunch that cuts through on the creamy, fatty terrine and crusty bread, and it was enjoyable tasting all the flavor components individually as they all stood well on their own as well as in various combination with each other.  This was a nicely elevated classic where once again everything was executed perfectly.

farm egg baked in celery cream with rustic bread

This dish doesn’t appear like anything particularly exciting, but it was the clear favorite and considered an “iconic” Miller Union dish.  Just like a perfectly balanced broth, there is an unmistakable  brilliance in the flavoring of the cream as it melds indistinguishably into the natural flavor of the egg and draws out that flavor note only to enhance it to new, delicate levels.  Sublimely silky and creamy, the flavor is so gentle that your palette awakens to experience its nuances.

flounder fillet, sauteed spring peas, & vidalias

The flounder was dish that let the beauty of the fresh ingredients simply be the star with the addition of more fantatic execution.  The texture of the fish was the real brilliance.  There was a mildly crispy crust that melted into a downy, pillowy soft inside unlike I’ve experienced with a cooked fish before.  Lightly minted, buttery sauce, and bright moments of beautiful peas and creamy soft, lightly sweet vidalias were quiet accompaniments that did not overwhelm the subtle fish.  A very elegantly understated bright dish with light, mild flavors.

skillet ny strip, mushroom farrotto, parsley salad

Once again the magic of the kitchen at Miller Union did something unexpected–they made this NY strip very light in its soft, mildly chewy texture under a light woodsy mask of char.  The overall flavor profile was smoky and earthy with some salty bursts of capers and some tangy moments of pickled red onion.

duck confit, wild mushrooms, spring onion, fennel, poached egg

I first tasted the bit of broth soaking through the elements on the plate.  It was lightly, naturally sweet in a way onions can be and tangy and rich in flavor despite its visually perceived wateriness.  The textural journey of confit ranged from fork-tender falling-apart  threads to the different sort of melting of perfectly rendered fat and salty flesh. The combination was a fantastic one as the thinness of the broth allowed it to soak its flavor in varying degrees across all elements on the plate.  Another added bonus were the additional notes of the mushrooms and the al dente vegetable crunch of fennel.  There was a borderline Asian subtle play that was reminiscent of fatty, crispy-skinned scallion-cloaked Peking duck.  If the textural layering of duck weren’t enough on its own, the poached egg leaked a sublime creaminess across its surface.  This was utterly divine by virtue of the perfection of the duck and the amazing broth and will no doubt secure its place in my mind as one of my top food memories.

olive oil pound cake with rhubarb and ice cream

Easily one of the best pound cakes I’ve ever had.  It was simultaneously light and dense creating the perfect texture for the quiet vanilla-lemon flavor.  The rhubarb was the selling point for my decision to choose this, and the firm, earthy tart pieces were a lovely contrast to the texture of the soft pound cake.  I wasn’t particularly crazy about the ice cream despite our server telling us it was something they were known for.  It wasn’t particularly smooth and just tasted kind of buttery.  I’ll take Morelli’s any day, but that’s an entirely different review.  The butter pecan ice cream pictured in the background was nice, but fairly pedestrian and had that same heavy buttery flavor which although made a little more sense in this context made me wonder if this is a running theme with the ice cream there.  I’d be curious to try some of their more interesting flavors–these were certainly neither memorable or ground-breaking; however, I still enjoyed the textural components of the soft pound cake, the firm bits of rhubarb, and the soft cream together.

buttermilk panna cotta with citrus

I hated ending on a weak note, but what I tasted of this dish didn’t do anything for me.  The panna cotta was light to the point of fragility which might have been fine, but the watery citrus juice broke up and muddied the texture without adding any flavor.  Perhaps if the juice had been reduced a bit, that would have helped.  The rich buttery and slightly tangy notes of the buttermilk did shine through a little bit and it was an interesting play on panna cotta nonetheless.

Final Verdict:

What wins about Miller Union was incredible execution across the board and a brilliant play on textures with very fresh ingredients.  Some dishes were a lot more subtle in flavor, and while I enjoyed those quite a bit, the more dynamic ones such as the farm egg and the duck confit really won me over.  I feel that Miller Union is deserving of its praise and I happily anticipate returning, but it’s going to be incredibly difficult not to continue to order what I consider the two greatest hits (the farm egg and the duck confit) if they are available.

Miller Union on Urbanspoon


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