Writing a blog the last few months and writing restaurant reviews the last few years has been a great experience, but it has also made some things in life harder. When it came to picking the location for my birthday dinner a ton of places came to mind and trying to narrow it down was difficult since I’ve had so many good experiences searching out all sorts of different places around the city. Atlas Eats was high on my list after our experience with their Italian Edible Atlas dinner a couple months ago, but what ended up sealing the deal for me was that their menu was covering Mexico which is one of my absolute favorite cuisines and one I’m always eager to learn more about. A few of my friends joined us for the 8:30pm dinner experience on Saturday ready to try out their food for the first time and do some celebrating for my 30th birthday.
Our meal started with a selection of three of Atlas’ fresh baked breads including a ciabatta (my favorite bread of the evening), a whole wheat and their 13 grain served with roasted garlic in oil, what seemed to be a jalapeño hot sauce purée and some Mexican gherkins from Pachamama Farm which is owned by their daughter and, from what I’ve tasted so far, producing some really delicious produce. The gherkins look like tiny watermelons and have a strong, clean cucumber flavor with a solid crunch to them. Unique and very tasty.
The actual meal started off with their interpretation of a Mexican “shark bread” which consisted of tortillas layered with cooked swordfish, black beans, a roasted tomato salsa and a ripe slice of avocado. Coming from someone who is not exceedingly well versed in fish, I enjoyed the swordfish although it reminded me of a cooked tuna with a touch of fishy taste. The tortilla stack with fish and beans was a touch dry by itself but with the salsa and avocado everything balanced out well. I enjoyed it and for me it was a good, light start to the meal.
When I saw Caesar salad on the menu, it was surprising since I’ve never thought of it as a Mexican dish but the apparent origin story lies in a restaurant in the Baja area. Gerry Brinkman, the head chef, told us the story at service and explained their version which was based on the original recipe and consisted of romaine lettuce with a creamy, lime seasoned dressing and a bread crisp slathered with a super salty and savory anchovy paste. The quarter of romaine offered fresh crunch and despite some of the imposing individual flavors, the dish as a whole was well balanced with a solid sharpness that a good Caesar salad needs to have. It’s not supposed to be ranch dressing people!
Main courses started with shrimp served with a pumpkin seed sauce. This was just one of those dishes where everything worked together in harmony and I wouldn’t change anything about it. The shrimp were perfectly cooked with a touch of fresh cilantro, well seasoned with salt and struck that difficult to achieve balance between chew and tenderness. Tortilla crisps were addictively crunchy and similar to pita chips in consistency and saltiness. They should definitely be sold separately in bags so I can chow down on them any time I want! Cilantro pumpkin seed sauce was subtly nutty and didn’t overwhelm the shrimp at all. Native american squash was al dente and mostly left to shine on it’s own slightly sweet merits. Not a single complaint about it at our table and I think it was the hit of the evening!
Our spice rubbed (achiote I think) pork loin was my least favorite course of the night due to some execution issues. The meat was well flavored inside and out with a touch of smoke and bitterness although it ended up a touch dry to my taste. Nowadays pork can be cooked to a medium with similar health issues to a steak and I think that would have been perfect in this occasion. Green rice was a touch under seasoned salt wise and could have use a bit more spice and and an acidic sauce or something to make it pop. The yucca fries were kind of nondescript and only really offered crunch to the plate. Just to clarify, the dish was still tasty, but with a few improvements could have easily been brought to the high level of the other food we were served that evening.
Closing the meal was a dessert with a bunch of elements but one that came together well. A guava empanadita filled with homemade queso blanco was topped with sweetened crema. It didn’t taste too much like any of the flavorings and the crust was very flaky and buttery. Salted almonds and rum dulce de leche were placed in between the empanadita and the tropical sorbet with mango, passion fruit, guanabana and lime zest. Rum sauce and salted almonds had more depth than a pure caramel and the salt cut through the sweetness. Tropical fruit sorbet was my favorite thing on the plate and it was perfectly smooth with a hint of bitterness from the zest. Sweet and floral with a touch of dryness from the mango. Very good stuff!
Atlas Eats turned out another memorable, creative meal and was a great selection for my birthday dinner. I’m a big fan of what they are doing there food wise and in my eyes they are one of the premier restaurants in the city and easily one of the best values in fine dining around. Get out there and give them a try either for one of the Edible Atlas meals (last weekend of New England themed dinner is this week) or hit them up for an enjoyable breakfast or lunch over the weekend!