Hidden beneath Victory Sandwich Bar in Decatur, this place is part speakeasy, part restaurant, a black door with a white stenciled paper plane your only clue, with a witty caption reading “members and non-members only”.
LC and I were discussing whether or not our dining companions RB and his wife SB would be able to find Paper Plane as we opened the door and found them already inside.
The tiny space holds only five curved black leather banquettes against the exposed brick walls, and ten swanky high-back barstools at the bar. Arrive early, as we did prior to Tuesday’s winter storm, and you will see Paul Calvert, mixologist and bar manager, prepping his staff for the evening.
My first order of business was to get an El Diablo, Calvert’s concoction of reposado tequila, lime, ginger beer, and creme de mures, plus a dash of something spicy. LC followed suit, and our guests tried a couple of specialty cocktails as we chatted about the impending snow and ice.
Unlike my first visit here, the menu was very brief. There were four starters, six entrees (three of which were steaks), and four sides to mix and match. Luckily, two of the five dishes I was craving were available, the smoked chicken and root vegetable gratin. With no octopus terrine or lamb belly with plum, I would try the winter salad to start.
LC ordered the kabocha squash soup, followed by the black grouper with romesco, Brussels, and meyer lemon. SB and RB ordered those dishes as well, but to share, along with a few sides. The soup, decorated with whimsical dots of cranberry and soy, was smooth and hearty, perfect for a cold winter’s evening. My salad, on the other hand, arrived undressed, a tangle of butter lettuce, frissee, mushrooms, carrots, pecans, and flavorless shaved raw root vegetables. I couldn’t detect any pear and I’m not sure where brown butter came into play. I requested another El Diablo and dressing for the salad and was brought a very lemony one. I seriously dislike lemon.
LC and our companions raved about their fish. Although it was prepared with the skin on, I enjoyed the bites I stole from LC’s plate, sauced with romesco. A side of Brussels sprouts was braised and tossed with sliced sweet peppers and grapes. But nothing could beat the potato and root vegetable au gratin, a little dish of thinly sliced root vegetables layered and baked with bechamel.
It was time for dessert. I was sad to see the roasted pear had been replaced by grapefruit pie, but we decided to try it and the pecan financier to share. The pie was no pie at all, but rather a compilation of the ingredients in a pie. Although I usually steer clear of citrus desserts, the fanciful presentation required a few sublime spoonfuls of graham cracker, fresh grapefruit, and a sauce made with compari tempered by little dollops of yogurt. It was by far the dish that exhibited the most finesse, thanks to pastry chef Cora Cotrim.
The financier, however, was far more popular among our guests. Ice cream with a hint of banana was sandwiched between two gingerbread cookies, then drizzled with caramel.
Dinner was great but I was less impressed than on my first visit, probably due to the sheer quantity of dishes I sampled then, and the relative degree of flair I encountered in each of them. Nevertheless, we are proud to be “members” at this exclusive culinary club.
340 Church Street 404-377-9308