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Art Of The Meal: Going To Seed

 

Seed Kitchen & Bar
1311 Johnson Ferry Road
(in Merchant’s Walk shopping center), Marietta
678.214.6888 or www.eatatseed.com
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily.
Reservations: Encouraged.
Dress code: Something that does not say “soccer mom.”

All over the state, good restaurants are sprouting up on small-town squares, in vacation areas and in remote spots where well-heeled seniors are retiring. Now, it seems, it’s happening in a part of the state that’s long been a curious holdout: Cobb County.

I have been surprised at how few ambitious restaurants seemed to open in Cobb as opposed to North Fulton/ Alpharetta and even Gwinnett’s Peachtree Parkway area. Cobb County residents are prosperous, sophisticated types who love restaurants – yet even 1848 House, for years one of Cobb’s few really nice dining spots, in a beautiful old mansion, eventually closed. Cobb Countians seemed perfectly happy to drive into Atlanta for fine dining – and just as happy to return home to raise their families and maybe grab a pizza or visit a kid-friendly chain now and then.

That’s starting to change. Seed Kitchen & Bar is a great example of something that feels homegrown, rather than exported from Atlanta. At the exurban edge of the small-town-sized retail district that is Merchant’s Walk, Seed is dramatic, pretty, modern – and when four of us walked in at nearly 9 p.m. (the only time we could nab a reservation on a Saturday night), thrumming with happy souls. An interesting mix of hip young folks texted between courses as their stylishly dressed parents and grandparents swirled wineglasses.

The creative forces behind the menu include several expats from Bluepointe, the Buckhead Life Group’s late Asian star, and it shows, but Seed doesn’t try to replicate that menu’s sleek minimalism. Instead, Seed feeds its clientele’s homey longings with sophisticated twists, pouring stout cocktails (a Pimm’s cup made more savory with cucumber; a sweet-lipped sidecar with flamed orange) and interesting, reasonably priced wines by the bottle, glass and 3- or 6-ounce cruvinet pours. Our waiter, who seemed as thrilled as an ingénue in an unexpected Broadway hit, swiftly reacted to all requests and advised us on manners large and small – even bringing us small tastes of a dessert ice wine because he thought we might like to try it on our next visit.

That homey Asian blend speaks clearly in the crispy calamari starter, with red chilis, flash-fried greens, yuzu ginger emulsion and basil salt. It’s familiar enough to start a relaxing meal, but exciting enough for a curtain-raiser. Another special, duck confit on polenta, sprinkled with hominy and cilantro, sounded strange, but came off as an engaging blend of East, West and South. A big butter lettuce salad with buttermilk vinaigrette and Easter egg radishes was enough for four of us to sample.

 Entrees range from sandwiches and steaks to North Carolina trout, sautéed atop roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, with a Thai herb vinaigrette. The grilled shrimp adobo, served on a “plank” of crisp polenta and pooled tomato masa sauce, is sprinkled with queso fresca, crisp radish slices and cilantro, served with a halved lime for squeezing.

Only the scallops and pork belly faltered, the scallops’ delicate flavor overrun by the unctuous pork. Still, we loved the sweet butternut squash puree beneath it, with cider brown butter and fresh fennel and apple salad. But the hit of the table was an understudy – a humble little “chicken schnitzel,” perfectly cooked and seasoned in its miso mustard, parmesan and lemon, crowned with a curly head of arugula. 

Sides, too, were delicious – lightly garlicky mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus with béarnaise sauce. And desserts, while perhaps not as cleverly balanced as the entrees, were mightily enjoyed, from the maple pots de crème with candied bacon biscotti to the strawberry napolean, chocolate mousse cake and high-topped key lime cheesecake with toasted coconut and blood orange sauce.

As impressive as the food was, the service overcame many challenges, including a packed-to-the-gills house, to deliver a nearly faultless meal. As our Cobb County resident friends said, “Wow! We’re so glad this is here!”

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