Monday, March 1, 2010

A PLACE TO GATHER, DINE, AND SIMPLY RELAX- ECCO

To take a run-down building that once housed the Atlanta Fencing Club and transform it into one of ATL’s premier happening food spots is astonishing. At Ecco it is so easy to be swept away by its electrifying energy. From its ultra-friendly staff, to the chic décor, and open kitchen, Ecco knows how to bring out the best for those that walk through its door. This Fifth Group Restaurant’s Midtown eatery showcases the simplistic old world European cooking style of Executive Chef Micah Willix (Seasons 52), which confirms that high quality, fresh foods don’t need to be overly prepared to achieve excellence.

The ultra cool bar and its talented mixologist, Seth Shindeldecker has created some novel cocktails. Try any, but I really enjoyed the refreshing floral Long Live the Queen- Bombay Sapphire gin with a splash of elderflower liquor, lavender syrup, peach bitters and mint. But the real strength of Ecco’s beverage program is it’s the extensive, well thought-out wine list, which is driven by Varja Stratigos. Its depth represents the best quality-to-price point of any restaurant in Atlanta. There are many boutique wines that are exclusives and only offered at Ecco. Enjoy searching through the wine list as there are many unique finds awaiting you.

If food is the energy source of life, then Ecco has much to get refueled on. Rosa Cruz, our “spot-on” server jump-started the evening with a Meat and Cheese board which consisted of French saucisson sec (dry sausage) that’s pure pork goodness from Avondale Estate’s Pine Street Market; a “melt in your mouth” organic prosciutto style ham from the artisan Iowa producer, La Quercia, and a savory 6 week house-cured organic beef eye round. These tasty morsels were coupled with a firm aged Gouda, a mild blue Pecora, and Georgia’s own Thomasville Tomme. The soft floral aromas of the crisp, yet lively Laetitia Brut Rose cleansed the palate nicely to enjoy the tastes of each of these distinctive treats.

The Taste and Share dishes spark sensory overload, the presentation as well as the flavors are breathtaking. The mouth-watering fried goat cheese with coarse cracked black pepper and clover honey is a heavenly delight in every bite. Likewise, the sweet yet spicy Spanish Piquillo peppers stuffed with a braised short rib that’s roasted in the wood-fire oven is absolutely divine. The scrumptious oak-grilled white asparagus and marinated cherry tomatoes are a perfect blend of juiciness and crunch with a slight hint of smokiness. Don’t overlook the Pan Bagnat, which translates as “wet bread”, a freshly made ciabatta with stacks of marinated zucchini, olive tapenade, anchovy, and dressed with a peppery olive oil. The harmony of these simplistic flavors is stunning. The versatile Paso a Paso Verdejo from La Mancha Spain with its tangy, citrus flavors matched well with these oven-roasted foods.

Seems like the elegant Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot with its rich spices and earthy aromas was made for Ecco’s signature dish. The comforting chili-braised pork shoulder in a rich tomato sauce with garlic, basil and house-made pappardelle pasta is awesome; this is a must! As well, the chicken livers with veal sweetbread and pancetta roasted in a Marsala wine sauce is tasty with this fabulous Pinot. Try the sautéed Swiss chard with pickled Fresno chilies, or the roasted cauliflower in a garlicky Bagna Càuda sauce as these sides are loaded with wonderful flavors.

Ecco hits the mark with its not too sweet but tantalizing after dinner indulgences: the dark chocolate truffles made with Raynal VSOP cognac, and the delectable olive oil ice cream with bits of chocolate and sea salt are quite yummy. This Midtown restaurant is a perfect place to get recharged from life’s stresses in a relaxing setting with friends where the sounds of happiness echo throughout. Ecco, vita è buona!

LGTG FRIENDLY ***** (Happy Lively Chatter)
FOOD ***** (Fresh Quality Ingredients)

PRICE ***** ($15 Sunday Specials)
AMBIENCE ***** (Chic / Cool Patio)
DRINKS **** (Classy Bar/ Outrageous Wine List)


WHERE WOMEN COME OUT | www.labrysatl.com


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