There were several restaurant openings going on the other night and my sister and I were giddy to snag a last-minute, late, 9:30PM reservations to one of them: The Optimist. Located on the Westside on Howell Mill, let me just tell you it’s a beautiful space. The huge main dining room has a cool and hip vibe, it was expansive and airy, modern but comfortable. The adjacent bar, dubbed Oyster Bar at The Optimist, gigantic as it is, opens to a roomy patio. A pet project from Chef Ford Fry, The Optimist is helmed by Chef Adam Evans of JCT Kitchen.
Our dinner went without a hitch. Something usually unheard of among fancier restaurants on opening day. We had a celebrity sighting, too, (food critic) and even bumped into a fellow blogger (famous).
Our meal started with these yeasty, freshly-baked wheat rolls enveloped in butter and topped with sea salt. They were heavenly. I ate four.
We had a clam appetizer. Presentation was great– served in a small cast iron pan with two handles. Unfortunately, it was offensively salty that we couldn’t get past two clams. So unfortunate because the dish really looked good with lots of tender clams. The red wine fish bordelaise was just too reduced and the addition of pork belly pieces aggravated it more. Still, we had high hopes this wasn’t a preview of what’s more to come. On to the entrees.
I had the Crispy Day-Boat Flounder. It was delicious. It came with two filets of flounder that were lightly dusted in flour then fried lightly. I would have loved to see a crispier crust but it was negligible, nonetheless. I liked that the flavor of the fish was made to stand out. No heavy sauces, just a light touch of seasoning. A handful of small grape tomatoes and fresh rocket salad completed the dish.
My sister had the Alaskan Halibut that was grilled to perfection. Just like my flounder, it was seasoned perfectly. There was that offensively salty bordelaise that came with the dish but nothing that a good scraping off the plate can’t remedy. The grilled hen of the wood mushrooms were a good accompaniment as they gave a contrasting texture and an earthy flavor to the fish.
Remember that offensively salty red wine fish bordelaise with the clams and the halibut? That was seen again with the risotto. I really think the risotto didn’t need it at all, flavor-wise, except for presentation purposes. The risotto was passable: it was a bit too runny for me and although it looked like oatmeal, it tasted more like grits.
We loved the Corn Milk Hushpuppies. They tasted like cakey beignets complete with a dusting of powdered sugar. Although listed as a side item, dip them in the cane sugar butter and you’ve got a really good dessert.
I am looking forward to coming back and sampling more of the menu. There’s a pork loin dish that I’m really dying to try. Our dinner of one appetizer, two main entrees, two sides, a diet coke (mine), and a cocktail (sister’s) came to close to $100. Reasonable but definitely a place I can’t hit multiple times a week.
914 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318