Lucian’s Crispy Fries exemplify the form, and it’s hard to resist whether they’re dipped in winter’s horseradish mayonnaise or dabbed in spring’s tarragon mayonnaise. I recommend them with a glass of bubbles and a plate of oysters, which recently came with a filet of mignonette with shiny strawberries and crunchy celery.
While you can lounge at the bar with a simple bowl of olives or an otherworldly dish of chicken pot pie with hibiscus jelly and toast, you can also indulge in crispy polenta a la black truffle and parmesan shavings – a knockout – or a little gem lettuce salad with artichoke, salami and breadcrumbs.
Smelt is an alumnus of Billy Allin’s excellent Cakes & Ale. In some ways, this Decatur restaurant set the tone for Lucian. Barringer is the former owner of Cover Books, whose spirit lives here in the Literature Cabinets. The partners recruited Brian Hendrickson to open the restaurant about a year ago. Then, just as my review was ready to go in December, Omicron shook up the industry. We organized the review and Hendrickson left soon after. Two recent visits proved that Lucian is in very good hands with Paolini.
Pasta is a highlight. We loved the ricotta gnudi with morels and English peas – a small plate, but filling.
Among the starters, the monkfish wrapped in a thin speck skin – with favas, fennel and carrot – was a stunner. On a Saturday lunch, a classic pepper steak with fries was exemplary. There’s even a $29 omelette. Light and ethereal, it’s topped with caviar and accompanied by a quenelle of creme fraiche – very classy, but maybe a little rich for my blood.
When I dine at an establishment with wines as deep and terrific as Lucian’s, I like to let the staff handle the pairings. I always learn something this way. At Lucian, this works particularly well at the bar, where Smelt is often installed or, at least, waiting for advice. He guided me to Etienne Calsac rosé champagne with the oysters and a Corsican sciaccarello with the steak – wow and wow.
Hardened chocolate lovers will appreciate the intensely dark budino drizzled with hazelnuts, perhaps with a coffee service or an after-dinner drink. The panna cotta – infused with rose water and drizzled with pistachios – was delicious, but these cold desserts raised a rare issue: where’s the pastry?
In a city with an abundance of noteworthy casual eateries, Lucian offers a heady respite from the norm. Whatever the season, it’s that rare place where you can bask in the pleasures of exceptional cuisine and wine, then take home books to feed your brain long after.
LUCIANS BOOKS AND WINE
Food: oenological bistro cuisine
Service: from intelligent and knowledgeable, to circumspect
Best Dishes: fries, oysters, chicken liver pâté, gem lettuce, polenta, ricotta gnudi, monkfish, pepper steak
Vegetarian Selections: polenta, gnudi, burrata, fries, cheese platter, desserts
Alcohol: mostly wine, with a few cocktails and beers
Price scale: $$$$
Credit card: all major cards accepted
Hours: having dinner, 5pm-10pm Tuesday to Saturday; lunch, 11.30am-2pm Thursday to Saturday
Car park: in the bridge; the restaurant will validate your ticket
MARTA Station: Buckhead
Reservations: highly recommended
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: moderate
Go out: limit
Address, phone: 3005 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 404-549-2655
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