THE CHASTAIN IS AN EVER-CHANGING WONDERLAND OF FRESH FLAVORS AND BEAUTIFUL PRESENTATIONS!
“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” I read those poetic words in one of my favorite books growing up, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story awakened my sense of wonder at gardens and the secrets— and inspiration—they hold if you know where to look. As I discovered on recent visits to The Chastain, Chef Christopher Grossman and his talented team definitely know where to look to find the best in-season ingredients and to use their culinary wizardry to turn them into something even greater than the sum of their parts.
Grossman comes by his love of seasonality and creating stunning flavors that double as art on the plate honestly. He worked at chef Thomas Keller’s famed Napa restaurant, The French Laundry; with chef Gerry Klaskala at Aria; and led the kitchen at Atlas at the St. Regis Atlanta before striking out on his own to create The Chastain.
I stumbled upon the eatery for the first time in spring of 2021. The effect was like dining in a greenhouse with the main room’s floor to ceiling windows; I was immediately charmed. The building, which got its start as a roadside general store in the 1930s well before Chastain Park and the stately homes that surround it today, has a sense of history and touches of modernity. It might seem impossible to recall precisely what I ate nearly three years ago, but it made such an impression that I’ve thought of that experience on many occasions since.
That meal of a super-fresh salad of sprouts, sunflower seeds, buttermilk ricotta and dill aioli; toothsome agnolotti stuffed with butter-poached lobster; and a nightcap by the roaring fire pit had me longing to become a regular. I’d visited for the odd morning pastry and coffee with a friend (the ever- rotating selection of Danishes and buttery, flaky croissants is a treat), a working lunch on the all-weather covered patio (whoever thought of serving the buttermilk biscuit topped chicken pot pie as a side dish is a genius) and a special event. But I’d failed in my quest to add it to my regular rotation of “evening out” spots. Determined to change that, my husband and I returned on an autumn Saturday night.
Part of what I love about The Chastain is that, aside from some mainstays you’ll always find (the decadent cheeseburger with caramelized onion aioli, Vonnie’s sprouts salad and a few kinds of daily-made pasta), the menu changes so frequently that there’s always something new to discover. Though the selection of drinks was tempting, I opted for one of the zero-proof cocktails. The “phony Negroni” by Brooklyn-based distillery St. Agrestis came with a fresh orange slice in the ruby-hued liquid and all of the balanced bitterness and sweetness of the boozy version, sans alcohol.
It was a fun, appetite-invigorating start to the meal. A few diminutive portions of fluke, a sweet, flaky white fish, were battered with locally brewed Steady Hand IPA and served with sauce gribiche, a creamy, tart and eggy version of a remoulade. We also chose beef tallow-fried tater tots, served with tangy creme fraiche and chives, and topped with briny Osetra caviar. The two starters paired were quite possibly the most elevated take on fish and chips I can imagine.
I was tempted by the trio of handmade pastas, but we opted for protein-rich mains instead. Faroe Island salmon came with almond-infused brown butter, new potatoes and tender-crisp French green beans. My Châtel Farms ribeye, a beautifully marbled and wet-aged cut, was cooked perfectly medium- rare, sliced and served in a just right puddle of rich jus. I paired it with a side of spicy-sweet chili garlic eggplant that was fall-apart tender and bursting with flavor.
The hyper-seasonality of the menu is by design. Behind the eatery, the staff maintains a robust culinary garden, strategically planted based on what can be wholly used on the menu and what will most benefit native pollinators and the ecosystem as a whole. Beyond simply growing organic produce, The Chastain is committed to repurposing other byproducts, such as coffee grounds and ash from the smoker, to enrich the soil. Chefs source other ingredients from a cadre of boutique local farms, so produce and proteins are served at the peak of freshness and travel a short distance from farm to plate. Such practices are part of what earned the restaurant a Michelin Green Star, a relatively new category that denotes an exemplary commitment to sustainability. The Chastain also received a Michelin nod for beverage manager Juan Fernando Cortés as the guide’s Atlanta 2023 Sommelier Award Winner.
On my recent visits to this Buckhead gem, I was struck by how The Chastain walks the line between comforting and supremely elegant. While it’s far from a secret, thanks to the eatery’s bucolic, parkadjacent setting, it still feels like a discovery every time.
Prices: first courses: $7-$24; greens: $16-$17; mains: $29-$49; a la carte: $50-$125; pasta: $16-$44; sides: $10-$15; desserts: $10-$15.
Recommended: Beef tallow tater tots with caviar, Faroe Island salmon, chili garlic eggplant, Châtel Farms ribeye, TC cheeseburger, chicken biscuit pot pie.
Bottom line: The culinary team uses ingredients at their peak of freshness, some of which come from the on-site garden, to create an ever-changing menu that reflects micro changes in the seasons to beautiful, delicious effect. A deeply thoughtful beverage program is designed to complement every bite.
PHOTOS: Madelynne Boykin
Senior Contributing Editor and Beauty Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel, Food and Design Writer and Author.