First Look: Little Bacch

The newest Anne Quatrano eatery serves up elegant bistro fare in an intimate setting

Wednesday August 12, 2015 04:00 am EDT

Paces away from JCT. Kitchen in the former Quinones Room location, Little Bacch is hiding in plain sight. The charming maître d' opened the door for us as we approached. "Good evening," he said. The exchange felt like something out of The Great Gatsby, foreshadowing sophistication and elegance to come. The aptly named eatery, which opened in May, is the newest from Bacchanalia's Anne Quatrano. Executive chef Joe Schafer, who previously helmed JCT, King + Duke, and now-shuttered Abattoir, oversees Little Bacch's kitchen.

Entering the intimate, somewhat hidden dining room is like uncovering a speakeasy: secretive and rather fun. The room is small, its marble bistro tables and soft leather banquettes seat less than 60. Dangling art deco fixtures overhead cast a soft light. So soft, in fact, diners use cell phone lights to read their menus. Farm paintings adorn the vibrant teal walls and hint at Quatrano's Summerland Farm, where much of the restaurant's produce is sourced.

After shuffling around Atlanta kitchens for the last several years, it seems like Schafer has found his footing at Little Bacch. Solid, reliable bistro dishes anchor the menu. Unlike the tasting menu-only Quinones Room, Little Bacch's brass-backed à la carte menu is comprised of 13 items including dessert. While deciding on whether to order traditionally — app then entrée then dessert — or a more family style approach (we went with the latter), bread service with handmade cultured butter appeared on our plates.

Dinner began with six northwest coast Kumamoto oysters nestled in rock salt atop a wooden block from a tree felled on Summerland Farms. The deep-cupped beauties are served warm topped with a Rockefeller-style gratine of garlic herb butter and a wafer-thin bread crisp. The preparation is subtle, allowing the oysters' sweet clean flavors and gentle brininess to come through. Schafer's twist on the classic shrimp cocktail came in a bowl with colorful heirloom tomatoes and salted baby cucumbers in a delicate tomato-horseradish-herby broth with a dollop of tomato sorbet on top.

A heaping, lightly-dressed salad with robust and tangy green goddess dressing, was chock-full of Quatrano's garden greens, celery, carrots, house-made ricotta, and butter-fried croutons. It is large enough for three people to share.

Much like choosing your dish at a (very nice) reception, there were three entrees listed: roasted chicken for two, snapper, and a New York strip. The heritage breed chicken ($52) is air-dried for four days, brushed with herb oil and has foie gras stuffed beneath the skin. The process allows the chicken's outer layer to reach peak crispiness. It comes in a beautiful white casserole dish overflowing with all the pieces: legs, talons, and even the head. A chicken face staring up from your dinner plate was a conversation starter to say the least. Pro tip: Order the chicken upon arrival. It takes at least 45 minutes to prepare.

Fully embracing the grandeur of our environment, we ordered caviar service. The menu reads "Petrossian," but gave no clue to species or size. It was Tsar Imperial Transmontanus Caviar from farm-raised white sturgeon native to California. An ounce of medium black beads cradled in a decorative glass bowl over crushed ice was served on a fluted metal tray. The caviar came with accompaniments such as chopped boiled egg, chives, crème fraîche, capers, chopped onion, and quarter-sized Johnny cakes.

There were three dessert choices on the menu; four if you count A Zingerman's Lincoln Log of goat cheese. The powdered sugar-dusted chocolate soufflé ($16) was warm and puffy, and tasted decadent but still light. Warm canneles ($10) served with espresso cream for dipping were caramelized and crisp on the outside and spongy, almost bouncy on the inside.

Little Bacch's carefully chosen wine list offers more than 10 choices by the glass, and many bottles are available by the half bottle. Service here is impeccable. Servers glide through the room effortlessly anticipating diners' needs and rarely interrupting conversation. Throughout the meal, seemingly invisible hands refill water, whisk away platters, and routinely replace used share plates and silverware.

Little Bacch pairs its refined ambiance with beautiful, well-executed food. Like everything Quatrano has a hand in, attention to detail is principal. Schafer's menu radiates polished simplicity and lends credence to the old adage "good things come in small packages."

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