Open just over a month, Joey Riley’s new bistro in Brookhaven has quickly become the neighborhood hotspot, with its casual atmosphere and fusion menu. The warm golden walls are virtually naked but one hardly notices beyond the well-heeled crowd.
My dining companion was BB, the obvious choice given his history with the chef owner. BB will be opening his own restaurant and bar nearby in a few months so it certainly doesn’t hurt to know the competition, friendly or otherwise.
The place was packed as we waited for a couple of seats at the kitchen counter. I love eating at the bar, but I really love eating at a counter where the line cooks’ performance is the entertainment.
A few moments later, Joey brought out a small bowl of house roasted cashews and peanuts, spiced up with Thai chili and scallions. They went well with BB’s beer. He also gave us a bowl of spicy Berkshire pork rinds, a.k.a chiccarones, that were greaseless and crisp….an ironic but weirdly good pairing with my glass of Laurent Perrier champagne.
The third small plate we sampled was the pub fries served with duck fat mayonnaise. I’ve long preferred mayo over ketchup, and Riley’s housemade mayo was particularly tasty for dipping his crunchy fries which were not at all greasy.
Riley also sent out a bamboo steamer with two Chinese steamed buns, a starter listed under “First Impressions”. It made a good one. Pork belly, pickles, and hoisin sauce on soft, piping hot buns could have only been improved by adding cilantro.
Both of us enjoy a good glass of red wine so we decided to get a bottle of Syrah called 6th Sense. This is one of the best wines I’ve tried in recent memory….vanilla and nutmeg on the nose and smooth despite a peppery kick. I’ll be looking for it at retail, should be affordably priced around $15.
As we sipped our awesome wine we watched as the line cooks put up dozens of burgers, many of them doubles. You may remember chef Riley won the Battle of the Burgers a few months back before the restaurant’s doors were even open with a pimento cheese, slaw, and green tomato chow chow topped burger, now available all the time at Kaleidoscope.
We could have stopped there but decided to continue through the menu, ordering the Thai style beef jerky, pieces of lean dried beef enhanced by a zingy dressing made with fish sauce and lime juice.
There’s a good bit of Asian influence on Riley’s menu. Rumor has it he studied in Asia prior to landing at The Buckhead Diner. There is also a strong dose of good ol’ Southern cooking. Start with the ahi tuna tartare and follow it with shrimp ‘n’ grits. Why not?
Following our array of appetizers, BB and I decided on two entrees, the sage roasted pork porterhouse and the skillet fried chicken breast, mainly because I wanted to try all the sides that came with them.
The pork porterhouse, an enormous slab of swine, was cooked to medium at the chef’s recommendation. Some folks might be squeamish about undercooked pork but it doesn’t really phase me, as long as it is a quality sourced meat such as Berkshire pork used by Kaleidoscope. It was served with fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
There’s an ongoing drama with Brussels sprouts dating back to an experience we had at Bocado. Prepared with pine nuts, parmesan, tiny croutons, and a good dose of vinegar, the flavor of their Brussels is fantastic. They are, unfortunately, al dente, and I prefer most of my veggies cooked until soft. I’m from the South after all. BB, on the other hand, is a Yankee and likes them al dente. And that is how they are at Kaleidoscope. I didn’t care for them.
I rarely order fried chicken. By rarely I mean never. However, chef Riley serves his with local collards and baked mac ‘n’ cheese, both of which I insisted on trying. The airline breast had a good amount of breading but it needed a bit more seasoning. Some portions had become slightly soggy, others slightly greasy, but the chicken beneath the crust was seriously tender.
I may not be an expert on fried chicken but I damn sure know my collards. You might even say I’m a collards sommelier! The collards at Empire State South were perhaps the best I have ever tasted, but these were a close second, simmered in chicken stock (according to BB) and flavored with pancetta.
The mac ‘n’ cheese was not quite as stellar. Although it is finished in the oven with some crisped breadcrumbs on top, the sauce that coats the corkscrew pasta is rather thin.
Dessert? Of course. Our server rattled off at least ten options. It’s hard for me to remember a verbal listing, but luckily we both fixated on the same one….the s’mores brownie. Toasted marshmallows are good on just about anything.
I’ll be back for the burger.
1410 Dresden Drive 404-474-9600