August 25, 2010 at 9:25 am , by Serina Patrick
When anyone asks my opinion on the best new restaurant in Atlanta, I invariably say Miller Union. Not only for its cool yet comfortable atmosphere but for its fresher than fresh local produce and chef Satterfield’s creative takes on simple Southern dishes.
I fell in love with Miller Union on my first visit with B, seduced by the fragrant broth that surrounded clams in a big white bowl, lured in by the richness of an egg baked in celery cream, comforted by the warm embrace of a rustic pear tart. Yes, every dish we had was truly stellar.
That was in the Winter. In fact, it was snowing the night we dined there. I mention this for two reasons: my folly in judging any restaurant based upon one visit is becoming evident, and I simply don’t like Summer menus nearly as much as Fall ones.
With a first meeting like that, disillusionment was sure to follow. Common sense would tell you that multiple visits to a restaurant, or anywhere for that matter, affords a more rounded experience, and therefore allows one to make a qualified assessment of the food, the wine, the service, the scene. But me, I’m the idiot that falls in love on the first date. Then I find out he is unemployed, married, stupid, or all of the above.
My second date with MU didn’t go quite as well as our first. It started off promising with an exceptional blueberry cocktail called Tangled up in Blue. Wanting to introduce my friend BB to my new love, I had high hopes that they, too, would find affection for one another.
Seasonal menus like MU’s feature local produce so naturally one finds awesomeness like apples, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts in the Fall and Winter. Likewise, Summer menus are ripe with tomatoes, corn, and okra.
There is a special place in my heart for okra. I grew up eating fried okra just picked from the garden. My grandma, who was as Southern as poke salad, taught my Mom how to make it properly. Just like fried green tomatoes, I have a real disdain for improperly cooked fried okra.
But first things first. Seated at the bar, BB and I started off with a pork terrine served with pickled okra and their fantastic toasted bread. Not terrible although BB thinks he can find a comparable terrine at Publix.
The magical farm egg baked in celery cream also awaited my lips. I took a knife and pierced its soft yellow yolk, spreading the sublime mixture on the crispy sourdough. Pure heaven.
BB and I decided to split an entree. This is where things went downhill as we noted practically every dish featured corn and/or tomatoes. Fish and tomatoes don’t work for me so that automatically eliminated all the fish dishes. As we made our way down the list, we decided upon the chicken. And God help me if it didn’t come with tomatoes too, disguised as eggplant caponata! The dish was simply prepared. Too simple.
Our side of okra literally took me aback. Chefs deserve plenty of room for creativity. I don’t expect every Southern dish to be like my Grandma’s in Tennessee, as long as it’s good. Miller Union’s okra was not good. Whole okra with a thick beige coating (only flour, no cornmeal?) was neither delicious nor authentic. As BB and I nibbled on the deep fried vegetable, he noted how the batter “skin” could be pulled off. Unfortunately I had consumed several of them prior to this discovery.
Another cocktail was ordered and consumed. BB was on his second Pimm’s Cup.
Note: check out my method for making authentic fried okra by clicking here.
Southern desserts. For me, generally unappealling like the hideous traditional banana pudding or sugar bombs like pecan pie. Miller Union offers similar atrocities: coconut cream pie, lemon layer cake. Before eyeing the dessert list I bet my left forearm (yeah, I know that’s weird) that there would be at least one peach dessert on the menu, after all, what could be more seasonal than Georgia peaches?
There was just one, peach shortcake. If I could have chosen anything made with peaches, that would not have been it. So we opted for the two homemade ice creams of the day, ginger and caramel. I found the caramel so cloyingly sweet that I could barely eat it. BB liked it, however, I preferred the ginger. Neither compared to the ingenuity of the thyme, sage, and rosemary ice creams B and I sampled in the Winter.
I’m not going to break up with you MU. But I think we need some time apart, like maybe three or four months.
999 Brady Avenue NW 678-733-8550
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