Monday, February 4, 2013


Midtown got a boost in its culinary jugular when Chef Richard Blais, the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars, decided to re-enter the fine dining scene after re-inventing the burger and hot dog for hungry Atlantans when he opened his latest venture, The Spence.  Getting its name from an old English term that means the pantry or dispensary of foods and provisions; this modern day dispensary seems more like an alchemist’s laboratory where Chef Blais transcends into his alter ego by becoming a Merlin-like figure, a wizard of the kitchen.  Here Chef Blais takes foods and alters them using somewhat unconventional cooking techniques or ingredients to create flavors and textures that brings an unexpected surprise into the meal that challenges the comfort zone in a good way. This newly opened eatery has become an overnight sensation for dinners that seek a surreal experience in a robust trendy atmosphere where foods are exciting, unique, and simply a thrill to taste.

A stimulating place to start is with one of the creative offerings from the drink list that changes as frequently as the food menu making each visit a new adventure. No matter which cocktail is chosen it will surely help to erase the day’s edge as these libations are made with a fusion of bold and exhilarating flavors. The Sangre Por Sangre is Sombra mescal with a splash of carpano antica, cynar, cherry heering, and some fresh squeeze OJ that makes for one refreshing sipper.  In addition to these hypnotic beverages, The Spence is home to one of the youngest and most knowledgeable sommeliers in Atlanta, Justin Amick, who also serves as the beverage director for the Concentrics Group.  The wine list that Justin has assembled consists of the standard varietals, but also has many obscure grapes from small production vintners that are fun to explore and compliment Chef Blais’ foods impeccably. Strongly suggest letting Justin help guide your stroll through the extensive listing, as his suggestions are spot on.  

While sipping on your beverage of the night, consider a shared table grazer with the Buttermilk Fried Sea Creatures that’s served with a lively sea urchin tartare – it’s a tasty collection of squid, shrimp, scallops, and whatever else arrives off the docks that day.  Whatever, do not overlook the beautifully set Oysters and Pearls - plump Beausoleil oysters with their distinctively refine taste are graced with frozen horseradish pearls and served with a sassy sun crisp apple champagne mignonette - when in the mouth, there’s an explosion of sensual flavors. The dish that is one of those total surprises is the Beef Bone Marrow with an Ahi Tuna Tartare and a Fried Quail Egg, which when blended together makes a luscious spread for the crisp toast points that caress the palate with its creamy texture.  There’s a velvety duck Foie Gras that’s prepared with cognac that’s simply manna from heaven, but the starter that stole my heart is the otherworldly Baby Kale Caesar Salad; this OMG salad is one of the best ever.  Thought I had tasted the best Kale salad in Aspen at Lulu Wilson but Chef Blais’ interpretation of nature’s superfood is sensation, full of tender yet crisp savory flavors with a slightly tangy classic dressing and a touch of earthiness from the aged Parmesan cheese, wow! 

When you think the dining experience can’t get any better, well it does with the large plates.  The over-sized ultra tender center cut bone-in pork chop from Riverview Farms is grilled flawlessly, and when cut the juicy charred flavors drools out to marry with the stir-fried mustard greens, caramelized pearl onions, and roasted sweet potato - yum.  Then there is the not-to-be-missed braised beef short ribs with pickled walnuts and smoked new potatoes that’s guaranteed to make your fellow dinners ask for a taste as they watch you sink into a delightful daze as the rich beefy flavors of this dish takes control of the senses.  Of the sides, the two must do’s are the seductive Buttercup Squash Crème Brulee made with kabocha squash, and the off-the-chart fried Brussels Sprouts that’s tossed in a tangy Thai vinaigrette - both of these are quite special – need these recipes. 

When its time to arouse the forgotten sweet tooth, the artistic treats made by the Pastry Chef Andrea Litvin have the necessary finesse to give it a jolt.  Each of Andrea’s desserts is masterfully plated, as the visual pleasures of her goodies are just as intense as the oral. The deconstructed Ricotta Cheesecake with plump juicy blueberries and housemade chocolate graham cracker crust is absolute bliss. When a touch of decadence is in order, there’s a Baked Alaska that’s from the first to last bite pure pleasure - the smoked meringue chocolate cake filled with a zesty peppermint ice cream is drizzled with a rich housemade chocolate sauce, a dessert like this is what makes dreams into sweet dreams.  When seeking a dining experience that centers on foods and beverages that are provocative, distinctive and full of lively tastes and flavors, The Spence has something in its pantry that will surely satisfy your hunger for culinary excitement like none other. Enjoy!!!

LGTG FRIENDLY *****                   
FOOD *****                                          
PRICE ****                                   
  AMBIENCE *****        


The Spence on Urbanspoon

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