I’ve been reluctant in doing more Atlanta based restaurant reviews for one reason only. After reading some discussion on proper reviewing and what qualifies a formidable write-up, I felt I wasn’t adhering to those “journalistic standards.” As a trained writer, I’d be doing myself and readers a disservice if I didn’t report properly.
Of note is Meridith Ford, the ubiquitous AJC food critic, whom few recognize when she’s out dining. She reviews those places only after having visited a few times. I started to agree, simply on the basis that a one time go could be so unpredictable: good or bad.
But then I started digging into my catalog of one-time successful hits, regardless of the media treatment I’m offered. True, if management is privy to my visit, then all is taken care of. All T’s are crossed, all I’s dotted. That’s not to say that it’s always going to be perfect. Trust me, there have been some major media dinner fails. At the end of the experience, what matters is that I like it. If the food is good, then it’s good. Enough for me to talk about it.
My new approach, filled with confidence in what I do, brings me to share with you the magnificent dinner at Parish: Foods & Goods. Table-talk from other media gave me the impression I wasn’t in for anything spectacular. Complaints and less than mediocre accounts of the food left me unexcited about the gastronomic options. I was in it to mingle with Atlanta’s chicest foodies, really.
But, as soon as I walked in, I was transported. I felt as if I had just walked in to a government-funded paladar in Havana, post duo-Castro regime. It was instantly warm and inviting, with a chic sense of décor. The imperfect exposed brick walls, all original, are very reminiscent of what any run down building looks like in my home island. The colorful chandeliers offer a brightness, not to be confused with modern interior lighting design. The effect was very ambient. While the base colors and rustic looking tables were natural toned, one smart decorative move changed the aesthetic: green apples. A green apple on each table and unstrategically placed throughout, definitely became conversation pieces.
So now that I’ve googoed and gagad over the décor and sexy feel, I was curious if the food would play its respective part. I assumed not much changed since my media colleagues’ last uneventful date. I discretely mention the notion of being at an average restaurant, when I’m advised there’s a new Chef holding down the kitchen. I didn’t recognize the name, so it really didn’t matter.
These media dinners come with fixed menus; not much leeway in what we can order. Though, generally speaking, the selections are the best ones from the house menu. I sat at a cozy round corner table with Fox and NBC news personalities, ironically sporting a very Havana-esque fedora; perfect for the venue. Completely delighted in my company, we all decided to order everything off the menu and just share. Worked for me.
The way in which everyone devoured the seafood appetizer platter in front of us, left me wanting to abandon my religious beliefs for the moment. But, I took simple joy in watching them fight for the last piece of crawfish remoulade. I opted for the ponchatoula strawberry salad, which I found easy enough to make at home, if I figured out how to reverse engineer the champagne buttermilk dressing that topped it. Silky smoothness for sure. For our main course, it seemed though there was only one thing on the menu, as everyone except for two of us went for the country fried chicken. Being from DC, that’s not something so akin to our palates, so again, I entertained something more familiar. Call it boring, but I’m always good for some fish. The gulf fish panzanella was juicy to point and light enough to make room for my favorite part of dinner: dessert. But, I had to have grits, too.
Parish has seemingly gone through managerial changes, leading up to what is now a must go-to spot in the Va Highlands district of Atlanta. It offers bar, dining and the quaint Market place. Go downstairs, below the main dining room and order gourmet sandwiches and soups. If not in a hurry, sit at the 20-head communal table and sip on hops paired with cheese and homemade bread. There are sundries for you take home if you’re eager to experience a bit of Parish at home. Having no basis for comparing the old Parish with the new and improved, I’m glad I didn’t experience what was there before. Anything less than what I sensed, would have required a second visit before I penned this review. The general vibe is to offer great food and allow the diner to leave with a sense of life! Very much like my Latin at-home culture! The culinary point of view (cheesy, right?) is what I consider American fusion with a cajun twist, though coupled with their mission and aesthetic appeal, it felt far more like an upscale Cuban restaurant than old Southern. I met the new Executive Chef, Nick Melvin, a New Orleans native. Young and bashful, he accepted the accolades dished to him. It was obvious his is a passionate and honest approach to using fresh and locally grown food.
(Troy Wells and me)
(Top down clockwise: savory crawfish & chicken cheesecake, bbq shrimp, Marketplace wine & cheese, Market communal table, Creole steak, round corner table where I sat, bar interior. Photo credit: Our Labor of Love for Reynolds Group)
There was not a disappointing element on that Tuesday night. I made one big mistake, though. Staying consistent with my ordering practices, I went against the tables’ choice and had the strawberry rhubarb crisp, while everyone else indulged in the banana foster bread pudding. Major fail. I hastily bit into my sweet decadence amidst everyone else having oral explosions. I took a spoonful of my friend Evelyn’s share and was done. I gently scooted the bitter rhubarb to center table and hailed the server.
Morning table-talk at my place has never been so sweet!
|240 North Highland Avenue: Atlanta: GA 30307|
P: 404.681.44324 | web:parishatl.comDinner: $12-$27; Dessert:$7
Wear jeans and a loose top with open toe shoes. Fedoras and cigars are very appropriate.
What NOT to wear: Over the top dressy. Sweats might be pushing it, too, though flip flops for the Market are acceptable.
Last Visit: July 2009
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.