The List: Cooks & Soldiers
If you follow the Atlanta restaurant scene, chances are Cooks & Soldiers has hit your radar. This Midtown restaurant is part of the Castellucci group (Double Zero, Iberian Pig) specializing in Basque cuisine and is a hot spot. As you know from earlier posts, I am most definitely a fan. So, when Creative Loafing came out with their new Best Dish List this year, I was thrilled there was not one, but TWO items. Unfortunately on this visit I couldn't actually eat both items because I was simply too distracted by everything else on the menu.
Just wait and see... but first, the list item, the Tomato Tartare with a carrot "yolk."
I think this dish is worth ordering if only for its appearance. Doesn't this look exactly like a beef tartare? I had to swear to my friend this was not raw meat before she tried it. We loved the texture and taste, and while the dish is list worthy, it wasn't my favorite of the night. My favorite dish was the Almejas which is Sapelo Island clams, bacon, feta, and green apple. The reduction sauce was scrumptious, and I may or may not have sopped every last drop up with bread.Billy's favorite was the grilled octopus with chickpeas, chorizo. This was even better than the Gypsy Kitchen version. If the idea of eating octopus makes you skittish, THIS is the version you need to try. The smoky flavor and chargrill perfection makes this a terrific "gateway" bite to eating octopus.
But perhaps I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Basque food, which is mostly Spanish influenced (with a touch of French), usually starts with assorted toasts. We ordered the traditional grilled bread with tomato and ham. YUM. However, you may want to go a little fancier, especially if you're not with a crowd (and trying lots of samples) and order the Caña y Frutas with apple, cheese, mango, and blackberry. I loved the slight sweetness and unique take on the toasts.
However, if you want a more savory toast, try the Hongos y Setas which apparently is Basque for "crack." What's not to love about roasted mushrooms, goat cheese crème fraîche, topped with a little black truffle. I may have not divided these toasts evenly between the table... (ssshhh - let's keep that between us!). Aside from the toasts, we spent most of the meal sampling "small plates" from the menu (from which the clams, above, reside). This is where you'll find the odd mixture of shrimp, corn, English peas rolled into a fritter and fried. Strangely enough, these ugly dough balls taste delicious!The small plate of seared tuna with heirloom tomato, melon, and jolly ranchers um port gelée was the only real miss of the evening. The tuna was fresh and seared perfectly, but I was expecting more than two paltry slices of tomatoes. Skip this one.
One of my friends said the Pisto a la Bilbaína was his favorite dish. The soft scrambled eggs, with mushrooms, truffle and toast was SUPER rich, but the flavors were addictive. Loved it!The funny thing is how well Cooks & Soldiers "re-imagines" ordinary dishes from circa 1950. The first is pigs in a blanket. I don't know about you, but my Pillsbury Dough Boys never turned out like this. Then there were the french fries with queso which we had NO business ordering. How much food could 4 people eat?!! (Note - C&S gave some crazy name to this dish, but whatevah...)Then there's the grilled cheese sandwich with Iberian Ham which C&S calls the "Bikini." Ha!
Even if you don't appreciate irony, you'll like this sandwich.We "only" ordered one thing from the meat menu: the head-on prawns, charred onion and cabbage. Messy, yes. Tasty, I assume. I was really full at this point...Are we done yet? No. Of course not.
We had a dessert pocket to fill and we did so with a lemon goat cheese cheesecake. Just when you thought cheesecake couldn't get any more decadent. Our waiter convinced us this was a light dessert and in terms of flavors, he was right - especially with the peach granita, but I don't think the calories were light.
Oh well. It was delightful.
What a meal! Definitely hit this place with friends because sampling is the name of the game!!