Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed

Art Of The Meal: The Pinewood

Sips And Snacks: apple and arugula salad

Sips And Snacks: apple and arugula salad

Matt Welch

 

The Pinewood
254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur
404.373.5507 or www.pinewoodtr.com
Hours: Dinner nightly, Sunday brunch.
Parking: Street or nearby garages.
Dress Code: Hipster scruffy.

Diners of the most refined tastes have a motley crew to thank for some of food’s best inventions. Gamblers and drinkers are credited with developing such epicurean delights as sushi (a food designed to go with sake, a potent rice wine) and the sandwich (namesake of reprobate royal the Earl of Sandwich). In both cases, entire meals – protein, starch, even a bit of vegetable – were compressed into a few bites, easily held in one hand. That, of course, kept the other hand free for the critical chores of drinking and playing cards.

Decatur’s new bar/restaurant, The Pinewood Tippling Room, pays honor to those who consider cocktails and wine the main course, with the food designed to match – often in tasty, hand-held tidbits. The cocktails here outshine the food – but if you’re in a tippling mood, you’ll be glad you went.

The crew in the kitchen and behind the bar are part of a young generation of restaurateurs who are zealous about making things from scratch, with a reverent nod to old-school methods. The ice is hand-cut from a huge block; bitters, liqueurs and mixers are often house-made. Orange peels are flamed to release essential oils into each Sazerac, and the old-fashioneds are so popular the Pinewood keeps them on draft. Nevertheless, they, too, comprise the bartenders’ handicrafts – small-batch bourbon, bitters, orange and a sugary-oily-lemon elixir often found in 19th-century punches called oleo-saccharum. The short, but interesting, list of wines and beers includes Brooklyn Lager, Château Routas “Rouvière” rosé and Riff “Terra Alpina” pinot grigio from the Dolomites.

The space (Cakes & Ales’ old corner spot on Ponce) is pleasant and airy; the waitstaff unfailingly pleasant and polite. The cocktail-shaker maracas counterpoint the laid-back background music.

The food is as ambitious as the drink menu, but alas, the kitchen’s reach at times exceeds its grasp. On our first visit, the $40 “chef’s tasting menu” included so much deep-fried food we almost thought we’d wandered in from a midway. That included such utterly redundant fattiness as “crispy” pork belly with peach preserves (who would have thought it was deep-fried?) and dry “chicken-fried” meat loaf over oily pesto mac and cheese. Carolina trout was overcooked, over an odd and unevenly cooked succotash.

Still, there were a few highlights – a delicious bite of shrimp and stone-ground grits as the amuse-bouche, a bright salad of Gala apple, arugula, endive and herbed goat cheese, and perhaps our favorite, chicken-andouille gumbo. Someone here knows how to make a real roux – smoky, dark and deeply delicious. Despite the bland, dry bread pudding, we pledged to return for Monday’s New Orleans specials – $7 Sazeracs and an intriguing $10 NOLA trio of  the gumbo, red beans and rice and jambalaya.

The drinks we explored were as festive and inventive as ever – a “Brooklyn” (as opposed to Manhattan) of rye, dry vermouth, house-made Amer Picon bitters and maraschino liqueur, and a frothily delectable “Day That I Die” – Riverboat Rye, lemon, buckwheat honey, roasted Georgia pecan tincture, with a large slice of fresh ginger lining the side of the glass. That Sazerac is mighty fine.

 We found more to like on the menu – we couldn’t resist the toothpicked “grit tots” enclosing cheesy-grit goodness. The little fried oyster roll ($9), doused with remoulade, flecked with basil leaves and served in a small split white bun often used for lobster rolls, would have been good even without the thick slice of bacon.

 The NOLA trio’s gumbo was a little different – not quite as spicy, but still very good – and the red beans and rice were tasty if a bit salty, especially with the thick slice of andouille. But the jambalaya was a no-go, with a dry plank of chicken perched over a strange kind of rice dish – less jambalaya than too-salty Chinese fried rice, with the extra weirdness of added sage. With rice in all three dishes, it was a pretty starchy affair.

With some redirection and simplification, the Pinewood’s food could equal its stellar drinks. (Management could start by asking servers for feedback when diners return half-empty plates.) Still, I could imagine a boisterous table of samurai, with the Earl of Sandwich at its head, throwing dice, quaffing cocktails and yelling for another round of grit tots.

Edit Module Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement