I love the anticipation of visiting you for the first time, the thrill of being among the first to try your signature dishes. I want to give a glowing report, be your cheerleader, recommend you to my readers and friends.
Sometimes, however, sh*t happens. Like the torrential downpour with thirty diners on the patio that disrupted service during our first visit to King + Duke. I know you can’t anticipate freakish weather events, but it doesn’t explain a surly server or an inedible entree.
LC and I pulled up to the valet just as the first few enormous drops fell from the sky, an ominous prelude to the impending deluge that would require an extra large umbrella and a lengthy sprint wearing heels (the valet is conveniently located about a quarter of a mile from the door, just like it was when Nava occupied this space).
Once inside for our 9pm reservation, we waited about fifeen minutes for our table due to the influx of patio diners. We understood as the staff tried to accommodate everyone and get back on track. LC noticed the space was reminiscent of a library, with black shelves of vintage books decorating the sides of the bar and a row of poufy brown leather barstools lined up like sexy libriarans in front of it. Unfinished wood floors and painted brick create a rustic chic look.
We were escorted through the packed dining room to the upstairs seating area. Two-tops made of thick blocks of pecan or oak (I’m no wood expert) were crowded side by side, with large round tables anchoring the ends. Banquettes and custom chairs were smartly upholstered in tweed, herringbone, and dark teal leather. Guests can find the full wine and cocktail list inside book covers of classic novels.
After finishing up the neighboring table, our server stopped by. I ordered a glass of cava and LC requested a vodka martini, which seemed to annoy him, after which he abruptly turned us over to another server from whom we ordered deviled eggs to start.
A fellow blogger’s postive review mentioned the amazing bread service. Two rolls were delivered on a wooden block accompanied by a silver creamer filled with softened butter sprinkled with a bit of kosher salt. It was getting late so we devoured them instantly with much delight. Shortly after, three (that would be three halves) deviled eggs topped with Virginia ham and pickled celery arrived, a medley of salty and sour.
Nothing seemed amiss when our entrees arrived. LC’s lamb saddle chops were paired with crispy potatoes and an herb salad with roasted olives and the ubiquitous mint. The meat was medium, cooked to order, and apparently edible as LC ate it without any assistance. My one bite tasted of mint so it was my only bite.
We had grappled with sides, finally deciding on the mushroom “wood roast” robiola. At $12, I was imagining a family-style dish of roasted assorted fungi like the rustic version at Tom Colicchio’s former Craft, but instead received a few gigantic slices of unpleasantly chewy mushroom, with a chewy slice of melted cheese in the middle, a poorly executed dish at an unsavory price.
And then there was the duck. I was either given an incredibly dull knife or a terribly tough duck. Prepared in their open hearth, the end piece of the breast was so charred I thought it was a burnt potato. Having ordered it medium, the meat appeared pink but was strangely cooked through, requiring much sawing to cut a single sinewy bite. I can’t help but compare it to the tender and delicious breast I was served just two weeks earlier at King’s Buckhead neighbor Watershed where it was considerably less expensive. The crispy leg was even worse than the breast, impervious to my dull knife. I tried to pull it apart with my fingers, finally managing a few disappointing bites. Uncooked mustard greens did little to elevate the dish but the roasted plums were the perfect accompaniment…I would have liked more than a half of one. Why didn’t I send it back you ask? Our server didn’t return for twenty minutes by which time I had simply given up.
I was actually hesitant to order dessert in light of the missteps throughout our dinner, but we forged ahead with a dessert called “Dates + Ale”. Described as warm toffee pudding with Sweetwater IPA cream, I was imagining an English pudding with dates. Once again, high expectations dashed.
Remember when Kevin Rathbun was the chef at Nava and his wife ran the front of the house? I do. I miss his lobster soft taco starter and the caloric and spicy shrimp entree with black bean enchiladas. I miss Nava.
So, new restaurants, your celebrity chefs and million dollar renovations won’t win you any accolades if you’re not consistently serving delicious food. Chef Ford Fry will likely overcome the kinks at King + Duke quickly…I look forward to giving him another chance.
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3060 Peachtree Street 404-477-3500