After three days of Thanksgiving gluttony, I found myself back at home with my sister, her boyfriend, my fiance, and a bunch of leftovers in the fridge. Despite the deliciousness of said leftovers, as dinner time approached, we were all a little wary of eating roast beef and/or turkey AGAIN. So, we decided to go out and try Top Flr, a “small, romantic and with-it” 2 story restaurant/bar featuring “delicious bistro dishes, a wine list that rocks, and wonderfully affordable prices…” (in quotes because I stole it directly from the restaurant website).
Located in a narrow little building near the intersection of Ponce and Myrtle, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived at about 6 PM on a Sunday night. By the time we left at around 8, it was bustling quite a bit (though it wasn’t full). We were led upstairs to the “Top Flr” and sis and I decided to start with an insanely reasonable $6/glass cava. The boys ordered beers–well, they tried to, but sadly the bar was out of their first two choices. Disappointing, as they had less than a dozen (if I remember correctly) on the menu.
For appetizers, we chose the “White Bean Hummus, Flat Bread, Olives, Chili Oil” ($8) and the “Lamb Skewers, Daikon Taziki, Cauliflower Couscous” ($8). The former was a large portion with good grilled pita and some grilled, marinated artichokes, and it was tasty, though a bit undersalted. The latter consisted of three skewers of tender lamb with an INSANELY good yogurt sauce and some very flavorful couscous. In both cases, I think the prices were very reasonable, given the ingredients and the amount of food.
We tried both of the salads on the menu, the first being “Mixed Greens, Figs, Chevre, Pistachio Honey Lavender Dressing” ($8) and the second being “Arugula, Georgia Peach, Roasted Vidalia, Toasted Almonds, Perano Cheese, Citrus Vinaigrette” ($9). Immediately, we noticed differences between the menu descriptions and the ingredients on the plates; there were blackberries instead of figs, and there were raw pears instead of peaches. The salads were fresh and delicious–the honey lavender dressing with the chevre was a delightfully sweet treat, and the arugula had a great bite to it. However, if you’re going to change key elements based on seasonal availability, you should probably spend the time and money to update your menus.
For “entrees,” we ordered some main-esque dishes and a few sides that piqued our collective interests. A pizza of “Duck Confit, Applewood Bacon, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Pesto” ($13) was well-received by the whole table, but I preferred the pizza with “Chorizo, Roasted Onions, Oaxca Cheese, Tomatillo Cilantro Relish” ($12). Both had ample toppings and tasty flatbread crusts. We tried a pasta with “Sauteed White Shrimp, Preserved Lemon, Chevre Ravioli, Fennel, Arugula” ($14), and while I found it to be WAY too heavy on the fennel, the rest of the table loved it and really enjoyed the way the lemon brought out the flavors of the shrimp and the cheese. Sides of “Purple Potato Hash, Corn, Scallions, Pancetta” ($6) and Mac ‘n cheese ($6) were quite good, though I wish the potatoes in the hash had been more…well…hash-like (they were cubed instead of shredded, so they weren’t all crispy).
Sadly, desserts were not as successful as the rest of the meal. My filo-wrapped chocolate dumplings were drowning in an overpowering orange brandy sauce, and my sister’s s’more featured non-melted chocolate and a marshmallow so burned that it was nearly impossible to chew (we did complain about that dish, so it was taken off our bill). The winner of the bunch was a moist pumpkin ginger pound cake served with maple ice cream. Coffee was good, and after-dinner drinks were reasonably priced (for example, fiance enjoyed a 20-year tawny port for $11).
Service was friendly and knowledgeable, though a bit slow at times. After all of the food and drinks, and with a nice tip, the total worked out to be about $100-$110 per couple. You could definitely eat well for less, as we probably ordered more food than we should have (not that there was any left over, haha). Given the enjoyable experience and how close it is to my place, I will definitely return to Top Flr.
I learned a very valuable lesson on Sunday night. To quote the wise and wondrous Beastie Boys, “You gotta fight. For your right.” Not to paaaaaaarty, but to eat well.
One of Jason’s best friends was in town, and I suggested that we go to the Vortex in Little Five Points. Great burgers? Check. Great draft beer selection? Cool atmosphere? Affordable? Check, check, check. Shortly before we were to leave, however, we got a text asking to change locations. Not wanting to be snooty, I agreed even though I had never heard of the restaurant, which happened to be Pasta da Pulcinella.
I wanted to love it, I really did. It’s located in an old house on a busted Midtown side street, so I had high hopes for its hidden paradise potential. Sadly, though, the restaurant let me down in nearly all aspects.
At 7 PM, we were only the second table in the place. That’s a BAD sign, and I should have expected what was to come based on that alone. But no, I thought to myself, “It’s Sunday night! It’s the end of a holiday weekend! People are out of town/recovering from the Peachtree Road Race/at Atlanta Pride!” Sigh. We ordered calamari to start, which is usually a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, while the flavor was okay, this squid was the most rubbery I’ve had in a long time. For entrees, Jason opted for the gnocchi (with sun-dried tomatoes and other veggies I can’t recall) and I chose the mushroom ravioli. The gnocchi was actually decent-not the lightest and fluffiest I’ve ever tasted, but tender and with a pretty good balance of flavors. My ravioli, on the other hand, was atrocious. The homemade pasta that was touted on the menu was flavorless and tough, and the mushroom (I presume) filling was bland and under salted. There were a lot of mushrooms on top of the pasta, but I could not taste them because the entire dish was DROWNING in olive oil and LOADED with garlic. Don’t get me wrong, I like olive oil and garlic. I like them in significant quantities. But if you’re going to advertise mushroom ravioli, you should deliver at least a little bit of a mushroom flavor. I was starving, so I ate about half the dish, but then I just couldn’t take any more.
Normally, after such a disappointing entree, I would have skipped dessert and stopped for ice cream on the way home. Since we were with guests, though, and I was still hungry, I decided to check out the sweet side of the menu and see if the evening could be saved. I ordered cannoli, and someone else at the table opted for tiramisu. I tasted the latter, and it was actually okay (though a bit heavy on the coffee flavor). The cannoli shell was a touch stale (or overcooked, one), but it was fairly respectable. The filling (I can’t remember whether it was ricotta or mascarpone, but my bet is on mascarpone) was actually very sweet and creamy. My big complaint was that it was SWIMMING in what tasted like Hershey’s syrup. I tried to avoid the chocolate as much as possible, but it was covering a large portion of the cannoli-to the cannoli’s detriment.
Service was…interesting, at best. The waiter started out merely being attentive, but since the restaurant was so darn empty, his attentiveness turned into hovering, and his hovering included butting into conversations and telling cheesy and/or inappropriate jokes. Our bill for four came to about $120, which seemed exorbitant for what we received (even though, to be fair, it included a couple of glasses of wine).
After the fact, I did some research on Pasta da Pulcinella, and it seems to be pretty beloved. Unless I just hit it on a bad night, I really don’t understand why. While the atmosphere is charming, the food was just too underwhelming for me to return anytime soon.