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Restaurant Eugene


Voodoo
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I had heard a bit about Restaurant Eugene on some message boards before finally giving it a go tonight. A couple of things spurred me to go. First, Restaurant Eugene Executive Chef Linton Hopkins defeating notable chefs Kevin Rathbun, Anne Quatrano and Gary Klaskala in an Iron Chef America Competition piqued my curiousity. Second, Linton Hopkins professing his affinity for homegrown, fresh ingredients in a recent Creative Loafting article. I finally gave it a shot as it seemed to be a restaurant on the rise and one that seemed willing to compete with ANYONE in town. The standard menu is short, consisting of only around six appetizers, three salad choices and eight entrees. There are also four tasting menu options - 5 courses ($65), 6 ($85), 7 ($105), and 8 ($125). We opted the six course tasting menu. Here's my amateur take:

Atmosphere - Smaller than I expected, Restaurant Eugene seats only 50 or so in the dining room and perhaps 12 at the bar. It's a tiny place. That said, I enjoyed the deocr and it was far trendier than I expected, especially for a place that serves "Sunday Supper" or whatever it's called. Nice ambience, though I did not enjoy waiting 15 minutes for a 9:15 reservation, even though the bartenders where incredibly skilled and quite friendly.

Amuse bouche - Kumomoto Oysters on the Halfshell - Pickled Ginger, Lime and Vodka Granita - Very good. I dont't usually care for oysters, but this dish had me lapping in the empty oyster shells. Served on a bed of rocks, I found the presentation very pleasing.

1) Collar bone of hamachi with ponzu sauce - served in dishes that are split to two diners, this is apparently only available via tasting menu. So worth it. The waitress cut and served the relatively difficult to carve collar bone. The flesh with the always delicious ponzu sauce and lime was a big hit. Very memorable dish. Superb. The yellowtail was rich and buttery and the ponzu was a wonderful complement.

2) Vegetable arrangement - Featuring scalloed-like potatoes, this dish had baby leeks, radishes, a beet, and a vanilla sauce and parsnip sauce of some sort. Perhaps I buthcered the description, but I must say that this dish was excellent. You know a dish is good when it is the best preparation of an ingredient(s) you've ever had. This was the case with this dish. Second best dish behind the hamachi.

3) Wild Striped Bass - It would be somewhat insulting to call this dish forgettable, but that's exactly what happened what I tried to remember the dishes from tonight's meal. It was served on top of brussel sprouts, I believe. Good, but not memorable in the slightest. I must say, that though this was the "worst" dish, it was better than many dishes I've had elsewhere.

4) Hen - Two different preparations of hen on top of a sweet potato dish. Very good, but nothing spectacular. I suppose chicken can only go so far. For some reason, I got the impression that Hopkins was limited by the chicken and not the other way around. Served on some sweet potato dish that was great, but not memorable.

5) Cheese assortment - consisting of a goat cheese, sheep cheese and a cow cheese, this array was excellent as each cheese featured a nice fruit complement. I found the jelly complement to the goat cheese to be overwhelming to the flavor of the cheese, but the Roquefort/honey comb combo was outstanding. Oh, it was good. I passed on the port/dessert wine offer prior to this course, though it may have been a mistake.

6) Poppy seed pound cake with lemon ice cream and cinammon churro with ganache chocolate dipping sauce - Dessert is hard for me to judge since I have such a sweet tooth. Though I probably will not remember either dish, which were served on the same plate, I did think both were very good and capped off a fine meal.

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All in all, I'd have to say that my meal at Restaurant Eugene ranks comfortably in the top three meals I've ever had in Atlanta. Given that it was the most expensive by quite a bit ($140 after tax and tip - two drinks), it better be. I think Bacchanalia's service exceeds Eugene's but a good bit considering they offer several intermezzos and always seem prompty in bringing and taking away food from the table. That said, the food at Restuarant Eugene is every bit as good as Bacchanalia's, which I consider the gold standard in this city. Hopkins certainly knows what he is doing in the kitchen, and I look forward to making a trip back. Restaurant Eugene ranks in the highest tier of restaurants for me with now defunct Soto (coming on top) and Bacchanalia, and with Aria, Bone's, One.Midtown.Kitchen (with Blais' tasting menu), Canoe, Tamarind, Nan Thai, Floataway Cafe, Rathbun's, Taka, La Grotta, Sotto Sotto and Kyma falling in well behind. In my opinion, of the restaurants I've been to it is:

First tier:

Soto

Bachannalia

Restaurant Eugene

I hope to return to Restaurant Eugene soon.

Edited by Voodoo (log)
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Notably absent from your list is The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene are both excellent, but The Dining Room nudges ahead of both of them on both service and food.

That said, I really like Hopkins approach to food, particularly his emphasis on local ingredients as well as his cooking style.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I had a remarkable lunch recently at Restaurant Eugene .. some visuals:

Crispy Organic Chicken Liver on Soft Polenta, Baby Onion Marmalade, House Cured Guanciale and Aged Balsamico

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Florentine Gnudi with goat cheese filling with Toasted Walnuts, Lemon and Sage

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Sautéed Monkfish Tail with DOP San Marzano Tomatoes, Fennel and Black Olives

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Sauteed skate wing over lentil/corn succotash

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cheeses, fruits, matching port wines

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Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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5) Cheese assortment - consisting one of a goat cheese, sheep's cheese and a cow cheese, this array was excellent as each cheese featured a nice fruit complement. I found the jelly complement to the goat cheese to be overwhelming, but the Roquefort/honey comb combo was excellent.  Oh, it was good.  I passed on the port/dessert wine offer prior to this course, though it may have been a mistake.

I have to agree that it (the port/cheese pairing) was good, wonderful in fact .. the port-pairings were top-notch and not to be missed! I think that much thought goes into each item served at Eugene and how and which items it best pairs with ... I think that this place absolutely is on par with Bacchanalia in every respect .. Atlanta is coming of age in restaurant offerings and, as a lontime resident, I am most gratified to watch this happen ...

and I have enjoyed the tasting menu at The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton and was enormously impressed with their offerings as well, therese ...

Edited by Gifted Gourmet (log)

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Notably absent from your list is The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. Bacchanalia and Restaurant Eugene are both excellent, but The Dining Room nudges ahead of both of them on both service and food.

That said, I really like Hopkins approach to food, particularly his emphasis on local ingredients as well as his cooking style.

I should have clarified...those were my personal rankings. I have not been to either Dining Room or Seeger's, though both are regarded as well or better than every other restaurant in the city. Thus, I did not include them.

Edited by Voodoo (log)
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Nice photograph, Voodoo! The room is somewhat small as you mentioned but it is elegant and very contemporary ...

Our amuse-bouche, which I did not photograph, was a Jerusalem artichoke vichyssoise ... an unexpected and truly creamily delightful intro to a sublime meal ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I should have clarified...those were my personal rankings.  I have not been to either Dining Room or Seeger's, though both are regarded as well or better than every other restaurant in the city.  Thus, I did not include them.

Exactly. And I pointed it out by way of encouraging you to visit The Dining Room. I've got a bit of a love/hate relationship with Seeger's, and can't bring myself to recommend it wholeheartedly, but it is an interesting experience if you happen to have a whole lot of extra cash lying around.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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  • 1 month later...

I'm back, this time with better pictures but with the same mostly butchered course descriptions. I went to Eugene a few weeks ago for my birthday and opted for the five course menu this time. Instead of eliminating a course entirely, the waiter proposed that we combine the cheese and dessert courses - half the table gets a cheese plate, half gets dessert. We went with that. Two of my family members also chose the foie gras supplement. Here we go.

They started us out with the same amuse bouche that I had last time: Kumomoto oysters on the halfshell with pickled ginger, lime and vodka granita. Not quite as amazing as last trip, but still really good.

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When we put our order in for the tasting menu, I asked the waiter specifically if the hamachi collar bone was on the menu that night. He laughed and said he knew where I was coming from and would ask the chef. We did get a hamachi collar bone thanks to my asking, but it was not the featured dish and was more of a throw-in as it was not served with ponzu and lime like last time and there was one collar bone for the entire table of four rather than one per pair. The feature dish was hamachi tartare with some sort of gelatin square on top served with soy sauce. I must say, Chef Hopkins gets very, very good fish, and his preparation of these dishes rivals the best Japanese restaurant (Soto) I've been to. Very nice course featuring both excellent raw and cooked hamachi. That hamachi collar bone is to die for when it's served with the proper condiments.

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Hamachi collarbone with ponzu

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The second course for me was a small pot of scallops with Benton bacon and a small onion served over some Italian barley-like pasta, whose name I forget. It was rich and delicious. Hard to miss with scallops and bacon. Very hearty.

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The second course for others at the table was seared foie gras served with pineapple and some sort of pomegranate sauce. Very interesting. Didn't try it, so I can't tell you how it was personally, but they both seemed to enjoy it, especially when the foie gras and pineapple were eaten together.

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The next course was the fish course. Last time, the fish course was by far the most forgettable course. Not the case this time. Grouper served over brussel sprouts. Perfectly cooked, the fish just cut so beautifully. My parents both thought this was the best course.

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The third course was followed up by a palate cleansing bowl of green apple sorbet. Not a big of green apples, but I'd have eaten a lot more of this stuff had I not started getting full.

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Steak with jus served with potatoes gratin and bok choy. Yum. The steak was sooo tender and the potatoes were so buttery and tasty. The bok choy was a simple, nice vegetable compliment, but clearly this dish was all about the meat and potatoes, and it delivered them most excellently. I think this was my favorite course. The hamachi would have been the best had we gotten just collar bones.

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On to the final course. As I did not have the cheese plate, I cannot really comment on it much, but Chef Hopkins did stick with the blue cheese/honey comb combo which I absolutely adored last time. It was not Roquefort, though, unfortunately.

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And my dessert. The plate got a little bit bloodied by the melting raspberry ice cream, but it was nice of them to acknowledge my birthday (even if they did give the dessert plate to my brother instead of me). The dish on the left was chocolate chunk espresso ice cream served over some really rich, warm brownie. Oh man, that was good. The dessert on the right was a raspberry sorbet served over a pound cake and , I think, a pinneaple something or other. Also good, but I am a bit of a chocolate addict so it could not compare.

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They wouldn't let us get away without giving us some homemade French gum drops (they didn't call it that, of course).

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I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, but after my second experience at Eugene, I am going to recrown Bacchanalia as my current city champ as this experience at Eugene was not quite as awesome as my last trip, which I considered on par with Bacchanalia food-wise. Service-wise, Bacchanalia wins easily, since Bacchanalia's service is top shelf and Eugene's is just good. That said, I am ready to go back to Eugene at the drop of a hat. I want to try this Sunday Supper they do. Looks good.

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  • 2 months later...

I've been meaning to post this for a while. I had dinner at Eugene a couple of months ago with a friend and was very impressed with both the food and the service. We did have to wait for 20 minutes or so for our table, but that gave us a chance to try a cocktail in the bar and chat with the bartender, so it wasn't a waste of time. The cocktails are a good mix of "classics" and solid new creations and were well executed.

Dinner was uniformly good. We started with the oysters that Voodoo mentioned; I loved the granita. My favorite dish of the night was turbot with cippoline onions and wild mushrooms; the fish was done perfectly and wasn't overpowered by the vegetables and sauce.

The service was professional, although not particularly formal, I thought. Other than having to wait, I had no complaints at all.

I'll definitely return; I'd like to try the tasting menu.

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  • 1 year later...

After evacuating from Gustav, I thought a nice dinner would take the stress away. I could hardly have been more right.

My girlfriend and I arrived at Eugene about 35 minutes early, planning on having a cocktail before dinner. We ended up with three each. The bartender was so enthusiastic (and did his job so well) that we couldn't possibly stop at one, and we didn't sit down for dinner until 20 minutes past our reservation time.

The service was fantastic. Our waiter, whose name I cannot recall, was superb the whole way through. Personable and friendly, but also efficient and very professional.

The food was even better. We did the 5 course tasting, and every course was memorable. We started with a Maine diver scallop, topped with julienned green apple, set over lady peas. Perfectly cooked scallop, with surprisingly complementary flavors. The next course was grilled swordfish over a deliciously vinegary panzanella. Very terroir dish, with very nice results. I want a big bowl of that panzanella. Shockingly, though, the standout for me was probably the third course: Painted Hills Farm ribeye with potato gratin. Shocking because I don't normally go crazy over a steak and potatoes dish at a fancy restaurant, but this was a home run. Flavorful charred steak with a creamy, cheesy gratin. It just worked too well to discount for perhaps being unoriginal. The cheese course was very good, with a cow's milk, blackberry, and walnuts, served with bread. I was a bit disappointed by the cheese choice, as it was a bit overwhelmed by the accompaniments, but maybe we didn't look like cheese people. Who knows? But any tiny misstep in that course was forgotten quickly with the coming of honey creme brulee, house made donut, and blackberry preserves. When creme brulee is done right it can be so good, and this was. The donut was yeasty and amazing dipped in the preserves. A little coffee and some passionfruit gelees rounded out the great night, putting us well on our way to forgetting about Gustav.

I have to add my one critique, though. Eugene emphasizes its use of local and seasonal ingredients, but gets its ribeyes, for example, from Oregon, or its scallops from Maine. Also, I didn't really get a whole lot of seasonality from the meal. My request is that if you're going to make a big fuss over it, you really should stick to the mantra. If they didn't claim to rely upon seasonality and local products so much, I would never have thought twice about it.

That said, I would wholeheartedly recommend Restaurant Eugene. All the components come together perfectly, in a way that doesn't happen often. Don't miss it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm guessing Nick was your barkeep -- he's tops.

I had the same experience with a Eugene hanger steak as you did with the ribeye. I had to check my surroundings to make sure I wasn't at Lobel's or some other pantheon of beef.

I also agree about the local thing, but if you consider scallops and steak potential components of a great meal (as I do), you're going to have to cross a few borders to get the best.

I think the donuts must be a dish shared with Holeman & Finch (across the street). They left me speechless.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Wife and I went there on a Sunday night an had the 'Sunday Supper.' The food was actually quite good, especially for the price, however the clientele was not ideal in my opinion (as clearly the low prices had encouraged the family crowd to come out.)

I have no problem with children at restaurants, it's the parties of 20 who have age ranges from 2 months to 102 years. There were plenty of well behaved children there, but two loud babies and two loud not-so-babies were quite annoying. Not to mention the older gentleman at the next table who was audibly passing wind as if it was conversation.

I will be avoiding this place on a Sunday from now on.

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  • 7 months later...

Restaurant Eugene has a new menu -- as you can read here in an AJC article by John Kessler. Eugene's chef, Linton Hopkins, has changed to a much longer list of small plates exclusively:

. . .Hopkins preferred to make a meal of small plates. A bite here, a bite there —- the meal as an open-ended proposition, ready to swell or shrink depending on appetite, timing, mood, wine.

He could blow open the menu at Eugene to reflect this new reality. Three, four dozen dishes. The old menu would remain embedded within —- there for loyalists who demand their oysters and steak.

But the new format would focus on ingredients rather than courses.

I tried a couple of the new dishes at the bar and was impressed. I've been frequenting Holeman and Finch much more than Eugene precisely because I like smaller plates, but now I'm looking forward to trying more of the options at Eugene.

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Had a great dinner at Eugene at the beginning of April. Great service, excellent food. Small plates, enough food to make both of us happy, bottle of Gruner Veltliner for $97 (!!!!) before tip. Loved the duck, she crab soup, maitake mushrooms. I'd go back in a minute. :wub:

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I've eaten at Eugene twice since the new menu has been installed. I'm a fan, with qualifications.

The first visit, I was one of a party of eight. With willing companions on firsts and seconds, we got to sample a lot of stuff:

  • the oyster gratin (excellent; Hopkins has a way with oysters -- one of my top ten dishes ever is his Kumamotos with pickled ginger, which are still on the menu);
  • salmon with bok choy, shiitakes and game jus (real salmon flavor matched well with the sauce);
  • peas, crawfish, cream, green tomato (a revelation);
  • asparagus, bearnaise, lobster reduction (sounds like a ton of work for eight bucks, and worth every penny);
  • egg, peanuts, bacon, shallot (reminding me to work with peanuts more at home);
  • sweetbreads, egg, bottarga, arugula pesto (good, but not as good as the sweetbreads anywhere Richard Blais is cooking);
  • foie gras, strawberries, black pepper, balsamic (again, good, but Repast remains my go-to for foie).

In all, five out of seven dishes were close to, if not members of, best in class. The other two were really good. That's an average most restaurants can only hope for, so that's not what comprises my qualification.

I've also been to Eugene's Friday Flight, an inspired concept that I don't find compelling in its reality. It's three small plates: two savory and one sweet, paired with cocktails, which are often the creation (or the result of research by) of Nick Hearin, Chef Hopkins' bar manager. The cocktails are great, the plates likewise, and the matches are really intriguing (Nick has matched single dishes for me before). The problem is with the weight of the dishes. Two small plates and a small dessert means either you add a course from the main menu, or you scarf the dessert and leave hungry -- and course-disoriented.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I've eaten at Eugene twice since the new menu has been installed. I'm a fan, with qualifications.

The first visit, I was one of a party of eight. With willing companions on firsts and seconds, we got to sample a lot of stuff:

  • the oyster gratin (excellent; Hopkins has a way with oysters -- one of my top ten dishes ever is his Kumamotos with pickled ginger, which are still on the menu);
  • salmon with bok choy, shiitakes and game jus (real salmon flavor matched well with the sauce);
  • peas, crawfish, cream, green tomato (a revelation);
  • asparagus, bearnaise, lobster reduction (sounds like a ton of work for eight bucks, and worth every penny);
  • egg, peanuts, bacon, shallot (reminding me to work with peanuts more at home);
  • sweetbreads, egg, bottarga, arugula pesto (good, but not as good as the sweetbreads anywhere Richard Blais is cooking);
  • foie gras, strawberries, black pepper, balsamic (again, good, but Repast remains my go-to for foie).

In all, five out of seven dishes were close to, if not members of, best in class. The other two were really good. That's an average most restaurants can only hope for, so that's not what comprises my qualification.

I've also been to Eugene's Friday Flight, an inspired concept that I don't find compelling in its reality. It's three small plates: two savory and one sweet, paired with cocktails, which are often the creation (or the result of research by) of Nick Hearin, Chef Hopkins' bar manager. The cocktails are great, the plates likewise, and the matches are really intriguing (Nick has matched single dishes for me before). The problem is with the weight of the dishes. Two small plates and a small dessert means either you add a course from the main menu, or you scarf the dessert and leave hungry -- and course-disoriented.

Dave, you didn't have a single thing I had. Funny, good menu.

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Dave, you didn't have a single thing I had. Funny, good menu.

The new menu went into effect the week of 12 April as far as I can tell, so you probably got the last of the old-style Eugene. The she-crab soup and duck are still available (or were as of my last dinner visit on 28 April), but the mushrooms are not -- probably a seasonal issue.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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  • 5 months later...

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has named Restaurant Eugene its restaurant of the year:

The chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch Public House and H & F Bread Co. goes way back with pickles. Born in Atlanta, he was raised on them, along with everything else than comes with Southern cooking, from farm-fresh vegetables to fried chicken. He grew up about a half-mile from the restaurant’s location on Peachtree Road.

He and wife Gina opened Restaurant Eugene in the spring of 2004. Since then, this small, elegant spot has changed and grown into one of the city’s greatest dining treasures.

Full story here.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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