When the owners of the much-loved Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park were informed that their building was slated for eminent demolition, their second location in the heart of Decatur was already serving the same quirky little sandwiches. But there’s more…
A tiny speakeasy of a restaurant is tucked away in the basement. It’s called Paper Plane. With chefs Melissa Allen and Josh Sample in the kitchen and mixologist Paul Calvert tending bar, it was opened without much fanfare, showcasing an abbreviated yet ambitious menu.
I visited the restaurant with BB of There Brookhaven and his bar manager D, on one of their regular culinary outings. A black door with a white paper plane stencil read “Members and Non-Members Only”. We were at the right place. Seated at a corner booth, the glare of the zinc tabletop made us feel as though we were under a spotlight in this otherwise dark space. Painted brick, wood paneling, and padded black leather barstools and booths reminded us of the 70’s. (note: due to lack of lighting, the interior photo is courtesy of restaurant’s website)
We began with cocktails from Calvert’s vintage-inspired list, like Dirty Boulevard for BB, a riff on Lou Reed’s favored bourbon concoction. When in doubt, I order something sparkling, so I started with a glass of the Chameroy Brut.
The feeding frenzy began with the fall salad, country pork pate’ and octopus terrine from the “cold” selections. An order of lamb belly from the “hot” section with a side of Brussels sprouts was added for good measure. A laundry list of autumn fruits and vegetables like apples, turnips, and baby beets were tossed together to create the fall salad, which paired well with the chunky, unctuous pork pate’.
BB and I swooned over the brilliance of the octopus terrine, sliced paper thin and made even more amazing by its accompaniments of seckel pear, basil, pecan, yogurt, and arugula. The lamb belly with sweet potato, plum, almond, and amaretti hit all the savory and sweet notes like a well-rehearsed song, while the Brussels sprouts provided their expected bitter flavor, tempered by the addition of roasted grapes and granny smith vinegar.
Our server magically appeared at our table whenever we needed a drink. After BB gave her careful instructions for his next bourbon drink, I vaguely mentioned that I may enjoy a tequila cocktail. Moments later she brought his drink, made precisely to his specifications, and for me, Six-Zero-Bravo, a concoction of orange bitters, maraschino, yellow chartreuse, lime juice, and blanco tequila. Strong and citrusy.
Then there was more food…cider braised short rib, littleneck clams, and two orders of the smoked chicken (D insisted on having his own plate). He also ordered the gratin and broccoli on the side. I wanted the gratin too, but since the short rib came with it, I thought it would be redundant. (Wrong!)
Sometimes, the ingredients seemed incompatible. Smoked chicken was served with rapini, carmen pepper, mango, radish, and salsa verde. Huh? Others made perfect sense like the short rib with the root vegetable gratin, kale, butternut squash, and cider jus. Turns out they both worked marvelously.
We were ready for dessert…and another drink. Trusting our server’s intuitive abilities, I asked her to surprise me with another tequila cocktail. This time it was Calvert’s El Diablo, a spicy mix of lime, ginger beer, creme de mures, and reposado tequila. Oh my! Loved it.
For dessert, we ordered the brioche pain perdu, chocolate marquise, and caramel poached pear, all imagined and executed by pastry chef Cora Cotrim. Pain perdu is French for French toast, and a culinary cousin to my favorite dessert, bread pudding. However, I’m not a fan of citrus desserts, so for me, the orange foam overpowered the other flavors making it my least favorite of the three. The guys loved it.
Chocolate desserts often bore me, but I found the dense and creamy marquise paired with espresso creme fraiche and salted caramel to be an exception. My vote for the best dessert, however, went to the indescribably delicious caramel poached pear, presented in a dish with almond cream and pomegranate.
Each dish of our meal contained at least one ingredient or technique that wowed us. For me, it was the delicate octopus terrine, the root vegetable gratin, and the pairing of roasted plum with the lamb belly. In fact, next time I’ll get my own plate of each.
340 Church Street 404-377-9308