Last Visit: Nov. 2010
The name of this newly re-branded restaurant/bar/lounge suggests Full Circle. Or perhaps Café in a certain era. Not really sure.
I’d heard great things of this caribbean inspired and happening spot in the burgeoning 4th ward district of downtown Atlanta after their rooftop opened. Called ‘The Reserve,’ it was immediately obvious its name was donned because of the lack of space in the main dining room downstairs. On a Friday night, at 7:30 pm, my guest and I were taken upstairs, to an open-air tapas and cigar lounge area. It was sexy. It was quaint and had sufficient seating. The bar was recessed to the back of the space, with leather and high-end wicker couches and chaises, throughout.
Follow the House Rules, a list of suggested but hardly enforced Do’s and Don’ts that will in fact make for an unscripted evening.
I was there to taste selections off the small plate menu, which was replete with intriguing dishes I’m very familiar with. It was a chilly night, with only 3 standing heaters, so we ordered rather quickly. The ackee & salt fish from the “sea” part of the small plates was a must have for me. I grew up eating this traditional Jamaican and West Indian staple. Short of being at an authentic caribbean restaurant, anything close would be good. Honestly, it was cooked to perfection, with the right portion served in the small white dish. It didn’t leave me begging for more, but did allow me to have a moment with childhood. From the “land” portion, the roasted lamb ribs were a smoking hit. Glazed with mango bbq sauce, a combination even I haven’t thought to do for clients, the ribs didn’t last very long. While lamb is typically cooked medium or perhaps rare, we enjoyed this medium well and still they were juicy enough to suck even the marrow. For $7, the portion was quite generous.
(ackee & saltfish)
(bbq lamb ribs)
Keeping with the theme of caribbean fare, I also enjoyed and probably the most, a plate of slow cooked goat stew with roti. The ginger in this selection added a dimension not seen in traditional goat roti dishes at your Jamaican owned options, which could present a problem for someone looking for a passed down home made recipe. But, if you’re looking for that extra kick of spice and inventive approach, this is one to try. In fact, seldom am I able to finish an entire serving of goat and roti, so a smaller version that I was able to fully enjoy was great. The down side was the price. For $7, the potion was about 1/3 of what you’d get at a smaller Jamaican style restaurant. Reserve this plate for just a tasting.
The Reserve is indeed a great outdoors experience, but unless they add more portable heaters, I’d keep my evening indoors. And, if you don’t do cigars, it’s probable the smoke will bother you. We got lucky and missed any afficionados. The wind was too much to bear and while we wanted to have our dinner downstairs, we were forced to stay outside because of the full house downstairs. Fortunately, our main entrées were also on point. After ordering I asked about the executive chef. Learning it was a familiar name formerly with Eclipse di Luna, a highly popular Latin tapas mainstay in Atlanta, I was impressed. Chef and I hadn’t necessarily hit it off well during his tenure at the latter. With the tapas being extremely satisfactory, I was eager to see how our main course was going to be.
I opted for the swordfish cooked over sautéed carrots, zucchini, ginger & coconut cream. For my palate, the fish was grilled to perfection, not having lost any moisture and the carrot ginger slaw it was topped on added to the meatiness of the filet. The pairing was smart. I bit off my friends lamb burger, served on crispy pita bread. In contrast to a traditional burger served on lightly toasted bread, this offered a fusion twist without losing the integrity of a solid lamb burger. The missing fries qualified it as another situation of careful planning and execution.
Café Circa works for the night crowd looking for a hot scene and genuinely nice ownership and wait staff. However, due to the poor seating design, this restaurant would do better with eliminating main entrées. Yes, they were great in flavor and executed nicely. But when you can’t be seated and instead are immediately whisked upstairs, it’s time to pass on dinner and simply enjoy little plates and a cocktails. Additionally, if you’re having dinner in the main dining room, surely, the level of activity and distraction can quickly make for uncomfortable night out.
(Mom’s poundcake and Autumn cocktail)
Do have “Mom’s Poundcake” infused with plantain icing. An absolute mouth-watering way to end the evening. And, ask for the Autumn cocktail. It’s worth the chill and standing you’ll be doing.
I’m looking forward to enjoying more tapas during warmer weather. Of course, it will be in The Reserve.
Tel: (404) 477-0008 | W: cafecircaatl.com
464 Edgewood Ave, Se., Atlanta, GA 30312
Small Plates: $7-$10
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.