I was fortunate enough to visit the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta last night. The head chef at Woodfire (Kevin Gillespie) was a contestant on Top Chef Las Vegas (2009). And quite frankly, as someone who hadn't tasted his food, I found his food the most interesting conceptually on that season of Top Chef. He likes smoke. He likes bbq. And he likes fun meats. Do you know anyone else like that?
I really wanted to like Woodfire Grill. But I confess, I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. I started with the wood-oven roasted honey mussels with house made chorizo, potato and spicy tomato broth with grilled bread. There's a new fad, I've noticed, to burn the bread that gets served. I don't mean leave black grill marks on it, but to full on burn the bread. I don't enjoy charcoal in my meal, I don't enjoy burned bread. This would be a minor annoyance if the mussels hadn't had grit in them and were served in what seemed a spicy Campbell's soup. This dish was a a beautiful failure.
I moved on to the wood-grilled Hudson valley duck breast with some sort of cabbage/veggie mush. I liked this dish. The duck, while simple, was perfectly prepared. The cabbage mush, while unappealing to look at, provided a nice acidic contrast to the duck. And the Pinot Noir – Van Duzer that was matched with it went extremely well.
The real success of the evening was the dessert. Banana pain perdu with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, banana crème anglaise and candied bacon - as described by the waiter, "The best thing I've ever put in my mouth." That raised an eyebrow. And, you know, bacon. Pain perdu is essentially French toast. Except the French toast is soaked in a custard. So yeah, that was tasty. The candied bacon was a nice touch, but loaded on a little heavy. Served with the Tokaji Cuvée Patrícia - Királyudvar. That was magnificent.
A final note - you know that you're in the South when you read the reviews that say, "Good restaurant, but the servings are a little small". These servings were enormous. No way I could have tackled the tasting menu. I watched a man plough his way through the tasting menu, I could only have done it if I'd skipped all my meals today.
All in all, I'm glad I went. But this restaurant isn't Genius. It's merely a good meal.