Sunday, May 3, 2009

Restaurant Review: Violette

I was excited to have the opportunity to attend a dinner last week at Violette, a French restaurant just west of I-85 on Clairmont. The funniest thing was, until I got the invitation, I hadn't even noticed it was there, although I'd heard of it, and I drive by it almost every day on the way to the office.

The outside isn't very impressive, but the space inside is beautiful. The main dining room is cozy, and they have a lovely tree-lined patio for dining al fresco. We were in a side room, sort of a sun-room, with tall glass windows looking out through the trees. I could see the neighboring office building's parking lot, but the space was so nice and green and airy that I soon forgot I was still in the middle of the city.

I started the evening with a glass of French Chardonnay, the 2006 Laboure-Roi (Pays d'Oc). It was easy to sip with citrus over melon flavors, and I didn't taste any oak on it. I found winemaker's notes with further digging afterward (see: just now), and they refer to fermentations in tanks, which I assume means steel. It was smooth with a nice finish.

One of the fun things about these type of events is that appetizers are typically passed. We shared a salmon cake over greens, crostini with garlicky goat cheese with more greens, and pate with a horseradish mustard sauce. The salmon cake was the best of the bunch, although we also commented on how the goat cheese was flavorful without having that funky goat cheese taste, and everyone who tried the pate liked it and agreed that it did not taste like liver. The greens that came with everything were also very good. For dinner, I had the Filet d'Agneau au romarin, a grilled lamb loin with rosemary garlic jus and served with mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. The lamb was very tender and tasty, and the sides complimented it well. I also heard good reviews of the Filet de Saumon au s├ęsame, or sesame- and peppercorn-crusted salmon with citrus soy sauce, and the Poulet Farci, a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and garlic.

Since I ordered lamb, I went for a Syrah blend and got a Cotes du Rhone from the same winery. The dark fruit of the Syrah came through nicely, and it had enough acidity to stand up to the food. I searched online for the blend breakdown, but had no luck. If anyone has any more info, I'd appreciate it because I really liked it.

Of course I chose the chocolate mousse for dessert. It was served as a soft sphere on a plate with strawberries, and I thought that it was the perfect weight, not too heavy but also with enough substance to keep its shape. And yes, the chocolate flavor was deep enough for me, which is how chocolate mousse should be, and not messed up by any interfering tastes.

Overall, I think I still like Babette's Cafe better, and Atmosphere is still my favorite French restaurant in Atlanta by far, but Violette definitely goes on the list of places I wouldn't turn down an invitation to, and if I were to find myself in that part of town and jonesin' for French food, I would happily stop in again.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Very nice and romantic
Food: Very good
Wine list: Excellent in breadth, but they fall short on selections by the glass
Wait staff: Very Good -- seemed knowledgeable, but it's hard to tell when you're part of a large group how it works on the floor
Desserts: The chocolate mousse is good; what else could you possibly need to know?
Vegetarian friendly? Not really with one appetizer, a few salads, and one entree
Kid friendly? Probably not, but worth hiring a sitter so Mom & Dad can have a romantic evening out
Would I go back? Yes

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