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Blais reignited


Gifted Gourmet
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The story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Looks like those people who were sad to see the demise of Richard Blais former restaurant just a month or so ago, will be heartened to see him back in business! Talent will out and this chef is certainly one who will add gravitas to the Atlanta dining scene:

Now Blais is back. After fielding offers and options, Richard Blais debuts a new menu tonight in a soft opening at Bazzaar, the tapas lounge next to the Fox Theatre ... once again he has to pose the question: Is Atlanta ready for the food he wants to cook, gelatinize, render into foam and freeze into the most unlikely ice creams?

The chef certainly believes so. "I think what I'm doing fits into the whole Midtown area better than it ever did in Buckhead," says Blais, "It's a better investment for me, and a lot more care and effort is going into showcasing my [style of cooking]."

The menu will consist entirely of small plates. Diners may choose to eat them tapas-style at communal lounge tables downstairs or in courses in the more formal dining area upstairs. Prices will be "much, much lower" than those at his previous restaurant. "This is really much [closer] to what I wanted to do at Blais."

Much of this article is about Greg Koetting, eG's own "Champagne Riddler", who adds his wit and wisdom to the Wine and Spirits Forum here.

Well worth the read! Kudos to Blais for his reappearance and enthusiasm! :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I went to opening night. This is a copy of my post on AtlantaCuisine.com about my experience. I didn't attend the opening party upstairs though, as I wasn't invited.

So I went to Bazzaar, which I'm sure Blais has knowledge of by the end of this evening, since I was recognized by his lovely hostess as I walked in the door. I opted to sit at the bar, order an appetizer if possible, and have a beer so I could check out the scene.

I ordered a moretti, noted that they don't have domestic beer, and struck up a conversation with my neighbor. The downstairs wasn't exactly crowded at 9:30, but the dining room was full of people who had reserved in advance, so the kitchen was unquestionably swamped. I looked at the brief menu and asked for 2 items - the chicken-fried tofu and the halibut - and I was initially told that orders weren't being taken, or were being delayed. I explained that I'd take the food if it could be made, or I'd wait for it, or accept that it wouldn't happen at all, and that would be fine.

And I talked and drank a bit, noticing that the room was buzzing with people talking about the new chef. And suddenly, my 2 dishes appeared, with a little confusion involved. It was a very nice surprise, since I'd already realized that I didn't need to expect to be fed at this hour on a Saturday, with everything taken into consideration.

I shared a bite or two with the stranger to my left, and it was certainly wonderful food. The fried tofu came with an english pea puree, some sweet chili sauce and fresh basil leaves. Dragging the tofu bites through everything, I initially avoided the leaves, looking at them as garnish, but knowing Blais, I went back and ate them with everything, since I knew it would pull it all together. Nice.

The halibut is probably the most I'll ever enjoy halibut, truthfully. It's not my most favorite fish, but Blais' light touch makes it stand out, with that perfect moist texture. Anyway, I turned to my new friend and said, "You know, what makes this dish great is that the linguini are made of squid, and yet they're perfectly tender." I gave him a bite, and he simply said it was amazing.

He then lamented that everyone will now be packing into his favorite bar.

Yes, Blais will get along famously here. 

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For those of you still interested, I went to Blais' new place again last night. Here's another post from the same site. linehog is my boyfriend, and we both work at restaurants in Atlanta.

Since I knew linehog would be somewhat jealous that I had staked out Blais' new place, I suggested we go there tonight for our shared night off, or "date night" so to speak. He was very enthusiastic about the idea, and we dressed in casual (very casual) attire to go and have a few bites.

Upon reaching the location, we noticed that event parking was packed at $15 a car for some big deal at the Fox, and I was slightly dissuaded, but I found some cheaper parking and was later informed that they do have parking available, with validation, at the Georgia Terrace, for the restaurant.

As far as the space for the restaurant, there is an obvious draw for people attending an event who have a little appetite and time to kill before a show. There will be huge crowds to deal with some times, with the restaurant emptying suddenly for some event or other, and the resulting "crush" would be something I'd suggest working around if you're there for the food.

We were fortunate in that we arrived after the crush and, in fact, had the entire dining room to ourselves. We didn't think we were noticed coming in, but Blais did find us, and I can't help commenting that he's lost so much weight in the time I've known him. He's literally half the man he used to be. Blais has been working very hard, and the stress must be incredible.

We started with the salmon, which was the least impressive dish we tried this evening. I was happy at the pairing with white and red watermelon, and it was perfectly prepared, but it was not the eye-popping experience that I'd say is his signature. Granted, that's a very hard standard to live up to, and this was certainly good by other standards. He's just got so much talent that it's hard to judge him.

Anyway, our absolute favorite dishes were 3: scallop "couscous" with corn chowder, huitlacoche and crisp hominy; halibut over squid "linguini," and a shrimp dish with inflated edamame. 

The couscous and linguini are what our server described as "im-pastas." Cute. Seafood pretending to be pasta, yet with a tender texture that you know is not pasta, and which holds the flavor of the seafood. I also greatly enjoyed the crunchy hominy in the chowder, as well as the corn smut flavor of the huitlacoche.

The shrimp, however, was a revelation. There were so many flavors going on, but all synchronized in some way, and it's kind of hard to describe. I noticed a couple of new trends in Blais' cuisine tonight: One is that he is using some spicier flavors, like the cumin honey with sesame in the shrimp, to accent the tapas theme. The other is that he is playing with plate presentation by swiping the dishes like an artist's pallette. Both of these are very nice for people who appreciate the type of food he is putting out.

I spoke with Blais for a while before I left, and I see a lot more practical aspects in the things he is working toward right now. It will be interesting to see the next place in the works, but he's definitely doing some nifty things to taste and observe at the moment. 

Our server, Ben, was possibly the most enthusiastic person I've had wait on me. Blais seems to be drawing these types, or cultivating them, so he's certainly doing something right in that respect. You won't get fine dining service at this place, in this stage, but you will see some really nice people who are excited about food.

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I was visiting Atlanta last week from Chicago and had a chance to stop by Bazzaar since my friends work right next door at Churchill Grounds(which I also recommend.) I had the salmon bathed in lime juice with watermelon which was a great balance of flavor. I also had the halibut and thought the squid linguini was one of the best things I have had in a long time (I've done something similar with lobster, but the texture with squid is better.) Had the scallops, which had good flavor and the huitlacoche showed through just enough. Blais sent out a caesar salad, which became my surprise delight. The pickled boquerones on the plate were unbelievable. I am the chef at a Latin-fusion restaurant in Chicago and have never had boquerones prepared this way. All this food and five glasses of wine, plus one beer for my friend adter he got off of work and my tab was only $85 or so. Great deal and great food.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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I was visiting Atlanta last week from Chicago and had a chance to stop by Bazzaar since my friends work right next door at Churchill Grounds(which I also recommend.) I had the salmon bathed in lime juice with watermelon which was a great balance of flavor. I also had the halibut and thought the squid linguini was one of the best things I have had in a long time (I've done something similar with lobster, but the texture with squid is better.) Had the scallops, which had good flavor and the huitlacoche showed through just enough. Blais sent out a caesar salad, which became my surprise delight. The pickled boquerones on the plate were unbelievable. I am the chef at a Latin-fusion restaurant in Chicago and have never had boquerones prepared this way. All this food and five glasses of wine, plus one beer for my friend adter he got off of work and my tab was only $85 or so. Great deal and great food.

Have not yet taken advantage of the re apperance of Richard Blais on the Atlanta dining scene but your comments are making me want to change that condition sooner than later.When an out of towner(read unbiased) expresses an opinion ,I take notice.You have no ax to grind;no one will long note or remember the things you say or do .At least not on the local foodie boards.That you identify yourself as a chef,in a major food town no less,adds a little more weight to your comments,at least for me.So,I will make a definite plan to go see the wizard,sooner than later.Thanks

100% right 50% of the time.

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Here and there today in the Atlanta Creative Loafing an update:

Richard Blais has resurfaced as chef at Bazaar Urban Bar (654 Peachtree St., 404-885-7505) next to the Fox. The former chef of Fishbone enjoyed a six-month run at a restaurant in Buckhead bearing his own name and a menu of kinky small dishes in the style of Spain's El Bulli. Although I did not share other critics' orgiastic response to the restaurant, I was certainly sorry to see it close. In his new incarnation at Bazaar, Blais (who is also a partner in the venture) will focus on more accessible tapas dishes, though his infamous foie gras milkshake will be a mainstay on the menu.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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This place is #1 on my list when I get home. Right after getting my Thai/Vietnamese/Japanese/Chick-Fil-A fix.

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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  • 1 month later...

Quick update: went to Bazzaar, ate everything on the menu once, and 4 of the things twice. Absolutely outstanding.

We sat at the table closest to the pass (and by table I mean couch, armchairs and coffee table, which was an amazingly comfortable way to eat), and were able to watch Chef Blais all night. He delivered many of this dishes himself, and was really enthuastic about of a lot of them. Actually, our waiter (who was only on his 4th night, but seemed like he had worked there since opening) was incredible. Not only did he do his job perfectly, but ended up talking with us about half the time. Only one of my questions about the food required him to turn around and ask Chef Blaise. He knew everything else down cold.

More full review coming later!

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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Thank you so much for the latest "update" on your impressions of Blais' new restaurant, Bazzaar! It means a great deal because of your own personal knowledge of cooking techniques and experience .... looking forward to more such terrific insight on local Atlanta food, Andrew!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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had dinner at bazzaar on friday night..............

one of the best meals of my life........chef blais is hitting on all cylinders for sure....

easily one of the countries most creative chefs and a hell of a good guy to boot.....i look forward to going back as soon as possible.....definitly worth the drive from nashville.....here is the menu

-beau soleil oysters with green tomato, speck ham and coriander ice

-kobe beef tartare, asian pear , injected egg, chili

super good course it had a spoonful of ketchup and garnished with a funyon right out of the bag.......

-prosciutto ravioli, whipped parmesan, figs, and micro arugula

a classic dish executed in an avante garde fashion....which is what chef blais does best.....this was one of the three "impasta" courses that cracks me up everytime i think about it

-salmon bathed in lime juice, watermelon, avocado, horseradish foam.....

one of the most refreshing things i have ever tasted......wish i could eat this dish right now

-crispy calamari, exotic spices, harissa, papaya, spearmint....

super good i am crazy about fried squid and this was the best preperation

i have ever experienced

-scallop cous cous, corn chowder, truffle, dried hominy, cilantro

a very cool technique where chef blais uses scallops to achieve the texture and mouth feel of cous cous, part two of the "impasta" series, this dish worked very well and the texture was amazing

-cheeseburger with foie gras milkshake.....

chef blais' milkshake brings all the girls to the yard!

-squid linguine with north carolina prawns and a scampi style butter sauce that kicked ass, this was part three of the "impasta" saga

-roast chicken, basted with maple, potato puree, crisped skin, peach sorbet

another very classic dish with very classic flavors presented in an avante garde fashion....the chicken skin was like the best pork rind you will ever have....there was also mustard caviar on the plate that for a minute after examining it i thought it was actually caviar???? chef blais is mighty tricky

-foie gras, lobster, grits, blueberries, coffee

the best dish of the night, i couldn't believe how good this was, the lobster was poached in amaretto and blew me away

-beef, short ribs, foie gras, huckleberries and blue cheese

super good dish and the short ribs were served on a spoon with beet jelly, two words.......holy shit

-deconstructed key lime pie........worked really well and the plate had a honey powder that was awesome with the other components

-chocolate tart with mango and beets

i love the combonation of beets and chocolate

once again this meal was incredible.....if you live in atlanta and haven't experienced chef blais' food, shame on you, richard is one of the most hyper creative chefs in the country and he is right here in the south for christ's sake.....take advantage of this oppurtunity and go eat some badass food

Edited by chefseanbrock (log)
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  • 1 month later...
Bazzaar Review on my site Edited by agbaber (log)

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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ohmygod, that dish was unbelievably good.

He told us how much he loved breakfast, and thats how he got the idea for it.

Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?

The Gentleman Gourmand

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Will reportedly be working on a project with the One Midtown Kitchen and and TWO Urban Licks guy (or guys---seems like it's Bob Amick, but I don't recall). Might be already working behind the scenes in one or both of these establishments.

You could try PM'ing him here on eGullet---he does have an account here, though I don't know how often he checks it.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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