Fresh off the plane from Charleston, I was delighted to be collected by the excellent MJ for my first visit to her home patch, which would feature time on the Alabama homestead as well as much exploration of fun food and drink options across the region.
Our first stop was in Atlanta for dinner at Staplehouse. We were joined on this jolly escapade by MJ’s good friends Ashleigh and Wendy, with whom we were staying for the evening.
I didn’t know too much about Staplehouse beyond it being focussed on locally-driven, seasonal tasting menus, which is a generally appealing thing.
After cocktails on the patio to begin, our selection of food began with savoury cannoli bites with the shell made from caramelized yeast and the filling from diced apple. This was a fresh opener.
We then moved on to ribeye tartare with cashew topped with kohlrabi. The kohlrabi didn’t add much and made the dish slightly difficult to attack. The combination of beef and cashew worked very well but it was the first of a few dishes that needed some overworking trimmed.
Next we had local bay scallops with cara cara and truffle. Topped with quite a viscous foam, the scallops were of excellent quality making for a top-notch dish.
We then had a fish course of pompano – a local white fish – with sunchoke and fingers lime. This was pleasing stuff.
Next up was quite a complex dish of mushroom textures with celeriac and lemon. This was in the realms of the overworked, again.
The biggest collective hit around the table was the cabbage dish which featured charred cabbage, sake bushi and chive. It was warmly received by all.
We then had rather an odd course of salami slices with a chicken liver tarte. This felt more suited as an amuse bouche or early snack course. The tart was delicious but the salami felt a bit incoherent.
The main course brought together elegant slices of duck with beautifully crisp skin with parsnip and shard-crisp endive. It was highly accomplished use of an excellent central ingredient.
The palate cleanser of kombucha was a good fit for need and a welcome prelude to a dessert of pecan and apple textures with hay ice-cream. A final petit four of caramel miso chocolate rounded things out in stylish fashion.
Throughout, I’d sampled some really top-notch paired drinks, with an excellent saison from Creature Comforts and a fine white Burgundy the highlights.
Overall, Staplehouse showed some glimpses of real excellence, but mixed those in with some curious dishes that missed the mark. I liked the spirit and ethos, as well as the well-sourced ingredients, but think it could use a little more coherence to their menu to make the overall restaurant experience more compelling.