Walking into the dimly lit restaurant it was instantly clear. Underground cool, accidentally refined, The Lawrence epitomizes the style of its owners Darren Carr (of Top Flr, Sound Table, and Dinner Party Atlanta) and Patrick La Bouff (Dinner Party Atlanta).
Having already popped the cork on a bottle of Veuve at home, LC and I continued our 2nd anniversary celebration with a glass of prosecco as we settled into a table by the window. There are no signs that the space once housed Cuerno, then Lupe. Slate and wood dominate, with chalkboard menus decorating the inviting bar.
Executive chef Shane Devereux creates dishes that sound both intriguing and weird, but knowing his work from Top Flr, Sound Table, and Dinner Party, he rarely disappoints. Having said that, I hesitatingly ordered the fried green tomatoes to start. You know how I feel about fried green tomatoes. The plate arrived with three big slices decorated with delicate pickled baby shrimp and watercress. Beneath the tomatoes was a heavy, spicy sauce chef described as a “deviled gribiche”. To the side was a poached quail egg in a little pool of a different, more subtle sauce. Despite the somewhat cumbersome breading, the combination of flavors and textures worked.
A bowl of littleneck clams were next, in an intricate broth flavored with serrano ham, pickled scallions, roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley, thyme, and jalapenos. LC loved ‘em. I asked Patrick for a taste of the golden rice porridge so he delivered a bowl, adorned with feta and baby rye croutons. I thought I tasted oregano, but the menu says marjoram….perhaps there’s a bit of each?
Which pork dish should we try, the belly or the cheeks? I chose the smaller plate of braised pork belly on cornbread puree with smoked sweet tea jus, garnished with crispy julienned pig ear. LC swore he wouldn’t try the pig ears but ended up enjoying them by accident.
I would never have ordered the fish ‘n’ chip salad but the couple dining next to us were fawning over it, nearly orgasmic. The menu description sounds disjointed: trout, lady pea, malt, pickled ramp tartar, fingerlings. What the f*ck? It’s the unexpected handling of each ingredient that make create the wow factor here. For instance, the fingerling potatoes are cut into strings, providing a crispy topping to the fried strips of trout and tender peas.
A textural theme had emerged throughout our meal, each dish (except the clams) had a crunchy element. Some food critics in Atlanta seem to have an issue with this, but I applaud Devereux’s creativity and attention to detail.
For the finale, I was thrilled to see pecan bread pudding with dried cherries on the menu. I’m a self-proclaimed bread pudding expert and found this to be the best I’ve had in years, full of plump, chewy cherries….a sweet ending to a sweet evening.
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