…did she get confused and eat at the wrong restaurant?
…did somebody lace my drink at the table with a happy palate pill? If so, I’ll gladly have another, you know, with all the bad meals I am subjected to. Heck, I’ll take two.
These were the questions swirling around in my head after reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution one-star review of Roswell newcomer Foundation Social Eatery (1570 Holcomb Bridge Rd. Suite 810, Roswell, Tel: 770.641.8877).
Chef/owner Mel Toledo is a highly skilled chef with the pedigree of a triple crown thoroughbred, and has his kitchen in full stride straight out of the gate. In fact, I’d go as far to say if there is a better restaurant to open this year in all the Atlanta area, I’ve yet to eat there.
Toledo doesn’t use the fact that he sources local ingredients as a license to bore us with another southern farm-to-table snoozer, and he isn’t afraid to step outside of the box every once in awhile.
A lightly battered octopus tentacle arrives fork tender from hours of low temperature cooking, flanked by a rich, buttery hash of fingerling potatoes and housemade chorizo that is certainly Spanish in flavor but, like most of his dishes, is unmistakably French in so many ways.
Toledo’s strong French foundation reminds me a lot of Nicolas Bour — who remembers Iris? — but his razor sharp sense of flavors and textures rivals that of Richard Blais in his glory days. And he’s edgy like Blais, but grounded.
Diners might pickup on the subtle smokiness of the soup’s over-sized housemade crouton, but will never know it was applied by a smoke gun — similar to the one Blais once employed to mystify a television audience.
For this young chef, the food comes first. Not the gimmicks and gadgets.
“I believe at one point that food went too far.” Says Toledo.
As a result, anyone can spot the simplicity in each and every dish, yet, a certain genius I can’t quite put my finger on shines though.
Take Toledo’s potato gnocchi (pic above), it is so simple in design but a perfect amalgamation of contrasting textures and flavors — rich, soft, sweet, salty, crunchy, earthy bliss.
Crispy pork ribs are prepared in duck fat, but rely on the acidity of a pickled red onion slaw for the perfect bite.
Very approachable flavors for any diner, also light as air and as well executed as you’ll find anywhere. As to be expected with a chef whose resume reads like the who’s who of the culinary world.
Truly great chefs, like the ones Toledo has worked under, are driven by perfection and execution all the way down to the smallest details.
And this upbringing is evident in Toledo’s perfectly cooked salmon entree. The skin so crispy, yet the center so soft and rosy, perched in a zucchini-basil puree with potato gnocchi and studded with sweet peas.
At first glance, there isn’t anything extraordinary about this dish, with the exception of the obvious and particular attention paid to each and every last detail.
An ordinary offering of chicken bolognaise is spruced up with a bold use of herbs — and then elevated to a new stratosphere by a slew of spices often found in southeast Asian soups and stews.
Toledo’s ability to take ordinary dishes and turn them into something truly extraordinary is a testament to the strong foundation he built throughout his rich culinary career. And the reason I believe Foundation Social Eatery is the best new restaurant to open in the Atlanta area this year.