Although there is a time and place for my beloved Chick-Fil-a, when meeting up with some well-traveled friends, after a bit of back and forth, we arrived at the decision to head back to Decatur (for those keeping score — our third trip to the town) and dine at Kimball House. Formerly a train station, the interior of the venue is part hipster, part history and all cool. As a restaurant that works with numerous local farmers and other local businesses, I was happy to meet up here.
Hubs and I arrived early
(have you met me?), took a seat at the bar, and proceeded to order a drink off of the extensive and creative cocktail list (most impressive of which was the absinthe selection). I didn’t partake in the green fairy, but it was rare to see such a large choice of the liqueur. Hubs immediately spotted the large range of oysters and wasted no time selecting first a set of three and then another three. While oysters are not my jam, I did think the accompanying house mignonette sauce and presentation were top notch.
Our friends arrived and after the first round of cocktails, we listened to our knowledgeable waitress patiently go through the menu (gently making suggestions when necessary). Jumping straight in, we ordered appetizers, mains, sides and a suggested bottle of wine. The appetizers arrived promptly, with all of us overwhelmingly agreeing the Gulf crab beignet (served w/preserved lemon, shoestring potatoes, remoulade, Kimball bay spice) was the plate to beat. I found the suckling pig roulade (with accompanying garlic bread, chile mayonnaise, fennel pollen, fennel oil, mustard seed, parsley) nothing spectacular (and too similar in presentation to an 8th grade science experiment). While the portion for the beef tartare (served w/salmon roe, cured egg yolk, pumpkin oil, chile oil, basil oil, benne, nori puff) was a bit small, it was my second favorite. The pickled shrimp (served w/littleneck clams, summer squash, pickled ramps, wood sorrel, Meyer lemon, dill oil, sweet pepper) looked nice, but nothing packed as much flavour as the beignet.
Moving on to the mains, I think I ‘won’ the meal with my order of poussin (that’s fancy chef speak for a young chicken), although everyone seemed happy with their plates. My poussin (w/baby squash, kale, garlic beans, and a fried egg) was so delicious, I only shared a tiny portion with my husband. The plate challenged Marina Social’s KFC for my top chicken dish of 2016, only barely losing, but defeating Weslodge’s Southern Fried Chicken, which now occupies the number three position. Two of our party ordered the smoked duck breast (including red peas, turnips, torpedo onion, pecan purée, shiitake, radish, orange coriander jus), while the remaining two opted for fish (Grouper). While I have seen better presentation in main dishes, I will chalk the ‘look’ up as an intentional one and an aesthetic that worked with the Southern food.
Most unexpectedly, I experienced my favorite dish of our two-week visit to Atlanta during the meal — not as a main, but as a side. I’m talking about the greens, specifically, the stir-fried greens (w/garlic, ginger, radish, shiitake, shallot, fermented habanero butter). Served with toasted sourdough bread, the greens and their delicious sauce (sweet, salty, and sublime) were the overall winner for the evening. Without expecting it, this plate shot up to my overall number two course of the year (Enigma’s soup is still holding strong at number one).
Finally, we were gently coerced
(not really) into desserts. The sell of peanut butter and chocolate was an easy sell to our table, with the coconut tarts and macarons easily joining our final course.
While a pricey date (the cost felt 15% above where I thought it should have been), Kimball House would be a great venue for nearly any occasion. My biggest note to the kitchen would be to consider offering some sort of tasting menu — I’d love to see a set three course for something other than the steak. Additionally, I’d love to do some research to understand some of the ‘Kimball hacks’ that are on offer (who doesn’t enjoy a secret menu?).
Please note that the menu changes frequently, so what we ordered might not be available the night that you go!