Staplehouse: must-taste un­con­ven­tional din­ing

GA Voice - - Columnists -

Staplehouse, six years in plan­ning, has fi­nally opened in a 100-year-old brick build­ing in the

Old Fourth Ward (541 Edge­wood Ave., 404-524-5505, www.staplehouse.com).

The restau­rant is a ground­breaker in sev­eral re­spects—from its heart­felt pur­pose to its bril­liant cui­sine and un­usual busi­ness style.

Let’s start with the lat­ter. Staplehouse of­fers two ba­sic din­ing op­tions. The big at­trac­tion is a prix fixe, five-course tast­ing menu for $85 in the main din­ing room. There’s a sep­a­rate (con­sid­er­ably cheaper) a la carte menu served on the restau­rant’s shel­tered pa­tio. You can or­der ei­ther way in the bar area. Fi­nally, to re­serve a seat for the tast­ing menu, you have to go on­line and buy a “ticket” from Tock (www. tock­tix.com). No reser­va­tions are ac­cepted for the bar and pa­tio. It’s strictly walk-in.

Staplehouse is owned by Chef Ryan Smith, his wife Kara, and her sis­ter Jen Hidinger, who orig­i­nally planned the restau­rant with her hus­band Ryan Hidinger. He was di­ag­nosed with can­cer in Jan­uary 2013 and died a year later. In the in­terim, the restau­rant com­mu­nity ral­lied to sup­port Hidinger, cre­at­ing The Giv­ing Kitchen, which pro­vides fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try employees in cri­sis. The net prof­its from Staplehouse ben­e­fit The Giv­ing Kitchen.

So this is an in­no­va­tive restau­rant with a big heart. Chef Ryan Smith’s bril­liant ap­proach will seem hellish to some and par­a­disi­a­cal to oth­ers. The five-course tast­ing menu, which changes bi­weekly, is in­ter­spersed with sev­eral amuse-bouches. One, which I think is par­tic­u­larly char­ac­ter­is­tic of Smith’s wit and ge­nius, was a “soup dumpling” that was ac­tu­ally some grilled bologna streaked with mus­tard seeds and pureed white bread. Pop it in your mouth and get a blast of bologna broth.

A typ­i­cal course was my first one. Imag­ine sun­choke cus­tard and smoked sable fish, chips of fried sun­choke peels and fish skin, aro­matic with ju­niper and glis­ten­ing with a foam made of the whey from house­made ri­cotta. Dig into a plate of shelled ra­zor clams about a dark globe of kale filled with gold rice and fer­mented bok choy. That licorice fla­vor is fen­nel pow­der. Those puffy crou­ton-sized crack­ers are benne. Meat eaters will swoon if they get a chance to sam­ple rib­eye cooked sous-vide and sur­rounded by two va­ri­eties of sweet pota­toes. Look for nas­tur­tium pe­tals on your plate of car­rots and duck con­fit. Dessert might be a com­po­si­tion of candied squash and ap­ple, sor­rel leaves and milk jam.

Each course is gor­geously plated, brought to the ta­ble with a flour­ish by well-in­formed, per­son­able servers. You really need to try it. If you don’t want to spend $85, you can dine re­mark­ably well on the pa­tio for less than half that.

No­table restau­rants

Calavino Donati and her wife Do­ria Roberts have opened

Madre + Ma­son (560 Dutch Val­ley Rd., 404-748-1498)

Ur­ban Can­ni­bals (368 5th St., 404-230-9865).

sec­ond in­car­na­tion of

and the

Both are killer. I es­pe­cially keep crav­ing an as­tound­ing car­ni­tas sand­wich I had at Can­ni­bals ... I fi­nally got to try in­side the

O4W Pizza Ir­win Street Mar­ket (660 Ir­win St., 678-515-3388).

We have sev­eral fan­tas­tic pizze­rias in At­lanta, and this one be­longs in the top five.

Cliff Bostock, PhD, is a long­time At­lanta food critic and for­mer psy­chother­a­pist who now spe­cial­izes in col­lab­o­ra­tive life coach­ing (404-518-4415), www.cliff­bo­stock.com.

Staplehouse’s tast­ing menu of­fers smoked lamb, root veg­eta­bles and cel­ery. (Photo via Face­book)

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