Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pacific Kitchen

Christine and I had the pleasure of an evening out on the town last Saturday night as her aunt wanted to watch the li'l ones. It really worked out nicely as we were able to go to a wedding early afternoon, watch the Irish crush Air Force late afternoon, enjoy dinner and finish off at the wedding reception that evening. While I won't bore you with my thoughts on the wedding or the game, I will discuss our mostly positive experience at Pacific Kitchen. This restaurant is located off of North Highland in the Inman Park area. It actually abuts Freedom Parkway, which by the way is my favorite road in Atlanta. It used to be Dekalb Avenue, but they have ruined that now too with too many unnecessary stoplights. It was a cold rainy evening so we were unable to sit outside which would have been pretty nice as it looked like about half their seating is outside. The menu is supposed to inspired by California kitchens and it shows in the amount of seafood on the menu. Don't fret however, if you don't like seafood as there was plenty for the meat eater as well.

Once inside, we were escorted immediately into a decent size room which was about 2/3 full at 8pm. Since it was not real busy on a Saturday night, you would have thought the service would be fantastic. Unfortunately, it was merely average at best. We sat a good 10 minutes before our water guy (who turned out to be the waiter) finally inquired about cocktails. Since I had already had a few while watching the game, this was quite annoying and I was starting to get the shakes. He mentioned no specials and didn't really seem to be all that enthused about working. That being said, he didn't mess up any orders and he did bring everything in a fairly timely fashion. As such I will give the service a solid C. (note I grade on the old style of grading which says average was a C. I believe in today's realm of grade inflation that would translate to a B)

Anyway, once I got my beer and Christine her wine (a tratorino or whatever it is that Myra is really into right now) we ordered up several items. I ordered some oysters and a cioppino and C ordered a Brie dressed salad with a side of risotto. Christine thoroughly enjoyed her wine and I must admit I was a little disappointed in the beer list. It only had about 6 choices and 5 of them were of the Bud/Miller/Michelob variety. I ultimately decided on Sweetwater 420. I like Bud, but why does a "fancy" restaurant even offer Bud?

When the oysters arrived at the same time as Christine's salad and risotto, we were a bit perplexed. This was great because it meant C could eat her food and then have plenty of time to watch me eat my entree. But again, that is what helps bring down the service grade. The oysters were pretty good. They were slightly grilled and had bacon and butter on three and three others had some sort of a jalapeno-champagne sauce. Christine was not a big fan, but then again she doesn't enjoy oysters. The bacon flavor was quite good and added a nice contrast to the fishiness of the oysters. The only problem is that with bacon flavor in my mouth I really couldn't taste the other three so good. They just all ended up tasting bacony. Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing on this earth finer than bacon. However, I don't think that was what they were going for. All in all they were good but not fantastic. I probably would order something else to start next time.

C's baby arugula salad continues her recent fascination with arugula. This salad was fantastic. Oven dried cherry (?) tomatoes with bacon and carmelized onions and topped with melted Brie and little splashes of a tomato vinaigrette. All in all what other salads aspire to be. It was not overwhelming and yet mixed the flavors of the dried tomatoes, peppery-ness of the arugula and the creaminess of the Brie. I really enjoyed the tomatoes. I am something of a tomato freak. I generally find that they are either outstanding (crisp and juicy) or repulsive (mushy and mealy). It usually has to do with the freshness of the tomato. These were on the outstanding side.

Her risotto was also quite nice. It was fairly simple, just garlic, and maybe some mushrooms. However it was cooked the way it should be and mixed quite well with her salad. I thought it was a tad oily (not greasy, but oily), however, C thought it was just right.

The hit of the meal arrived next, a San Francisco cioppino. I believe this is one of those old recipes like brunswick stew where you take a bunch of leftovers and put in a big pot and let it cook. I had never actually had cioppino before (so I have little to compare to), but I must be the first to say it was fantastic. PK's version included mussels, shrimp, scallops and monkfish served in an excellent chardonnay lobster broth. Everything was cooked perfectly. The fish was flaky and moist, the scallops would have been perfect served by themself and you could have served the broth as a soup with crackers. The mussels were a bit small, but that is the only thing I could possibly complain about. Christine agreed it was definitely the highlight of the evening.

We finished the evening with a pumpkin cheesecake with blueberries and a red sauce on top. It was good, but not too exciting. The pumpkin cheesecake had a good nutmeggy flavor but the blueberries were totally unnecessary. Not sure the red sauce was really needed either. I think this would have been better just as a cheesecake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

That is about it. All in all, I would probably give the place a "high-fiver". Not quite a chest-bumping collision, but better than the slightly condescending ass pat. We would definitely go back, but probably wait until the summer time or spring so we could sit outside and enjoy the fresh fish on the menu. While the service was adequate, the food was well prepared and overall quite good. I think two hits and three adequate's make for a pretty good meal.