Located in the heart of Emory Village, Ink & Elm is an ambitious project with two distinct, yet complimentary, restaurants under one roof. The cozy Tavern serves upscale bar snacks and comfort foods like chicken ‘n’ dumplings, while the elegant dining room prepares more extravagant dishes like Wagyu beef tartare. For indecisive folks like me and LC, seats at the bar in the centrally located lounge are ideal…customers there have the advantage of choosing dishes from both menus.
After scoring a rockstar parking spot directly in front of the restaurant, we entered through the dimly lit tavern and were promptly greeted by a friendly and helpful hostess who escorted us to the lounge. The inviting aromas of roasted meats and vegetables lingered in the air, promising a marvelous meal to come.
Designed by Ai3, the lounge reminds me of a 1920′s speakeasy, with black and white tile floors and handsome brown leather wingback chairs. We chose seats at the white marble bar, despite the barstools being uncomfortably short. Ever since I introduced him to Moscow mules at There Brookhaven, LC has been ordering this refreshing vodka cocktail. At Ink & Elm, the drink has the playful monicker wobbly mule, and is mixed with their housemade ginger nectar. I tried a champagne cocktail made with ginger and pear, as we enjoyed our view of the elegant dining room, with ivory chairs and a backlit floor to ceiling curtain.
Although I’m no fan of oysters, I allowed LC to choose our our first course from the Tavern menu, bruschetta topped with fried oysters, crushed egg, and local radish. The combination of fried oysters and egg was too rich for my taste, making the generous portion difficult to finish, but a great value for only $7 if you like fried oysters. We also tried an appetizer of Georgia shrimp in a delicous ham broth with pickled peppers from the regular menu for twice the price of the bruschetta.
LC and I often share an entree, however this time, we couldn’t agree, so he ordered the Tavern’s beef cheeks ($18) and I decided on the duck breast ($30). A side of roasted wild mushrooms with fromage blanc bread pudding sounded too good to pass up. We ordered another round of cocktails.
His slow cooked beef cheeks were fork tender and served with champignons, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and gnocchi verdi…a very successful dish.
My duck, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointing. Before I ordered, I asked if the skin was crispy. Our server (bartender) said it was one of her favorite dishes and that the duck confit dumpling served with the breast was, in fact, a terrific empanada. She requested the skin crispy, but apparently it wasn’t possible as it arrived with a thick layer of unrendered fat beneath it. So many components were mentioned on the menu…sauerkraut, verjus grape puree, curried ramps, crispy sweet potato, and duck fat caramel, yet all but the sauerkraut turned out to be garnishes, and the kraut was actually red cabbage. The empanada was perhaps the best part of the dish, full of confit duck meat. Crispy sweet potatoes were remarkably similar to the sweet potato chips I buy at Whole Foods, and were scattered over the finished dish.
Unfortunately, the same was true for the mushrooms. It was the fromage blanc bread pudding that enticed but it was nowhere to be found as the ramekin was simply roasted mushrooms with some cheese scattered about.
For dessert we tried the buttermilk pot de creme, served with a sweet corn cake, blueberry compote, honey creme fraiche, and toffee dust, plus a scoop of Honeysuckle gelato, a local brand that I adore. The subtly tangy buttermilk pudding was served in a tiny Mason jar, topped with a little blueberry compote. I would have loved a larger corn cake component with more of that sublime honey creme fraiche! Our addition of the bourbon cornflake gelato was brilliant.
My minor complaints aside, service, presentation and atmosphere were fabulous…so fabulous that I hope this neighborhood, which is predominently college students, can sustain it.
1577 North Decatur Road 678-244-7050