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Aria proves why it's one of Atlanta's best

Consistently selected as one of Atlanta’s best and most romantic restaurants, Aria has long been at the top of my wish-list of restaurants to try. Given my budgetary restraints, and my almost-compulsive shopping habit, I had never been able to make the splurge on my own. Luckily, some friends of the B.F. wanted to take us out for a nice dinner recently, and Aria was the spot they chose.

We dined in the wine cellar, an intimate and interesting experience that I recommend—just make your reservation in advance; we had to eat 6:00 in the evening because the later times were already booked.

The menu is simple and changes nightly, and is comprised of starters and entrees ranging from Foie Gras to Swordfish Steak. For our starter, the B.F. and I split the Warm Lobster Cocktail. Served in a martini glass with pureed broccoli and black truffle potatoes, this dish made me not want to share a bite. Reluctantly, I did, but the buttery pieces of lobster and the truffle potatoes made me want to order seven and just eat this as my meal.

Thankfully, I was advised against this because my entrée was a treat. Often when I’m dining at a place I’ve never been, I will trust the server and let them choose my dish for me. I gave our server a choice between the Pan Roasted Duck Breast, the Roasted Rack and Shoulder of Lamb or the Angus Beef Filet Mignon. Normally, I would’ve simply chosen the Filet, but I was in the mood for something new.

I was surprised and delighted when I was served the Roasted Rack and Shoulder of Lamb. Having only tried lamb a handful of other times in my life, it was a welcomed flavor change from the usual beef or chicken. The rack was tender and flavorful, while the shoulder was served crisped but still equally delicious. For once, I don’t remember what sides I had. I don’t even remember what everyone else at the table ordered, though I tried a bite of everything. I can only think that this appetite amnesia is a result of how crazy-good my meal was.

I never pass up dessert, as evidenced by my ever-expanding jean size. We ordered two desserts for the table, both upon the recommendation of our server. The B.F. and I shared the Warm Chocolate Cheesecake. It was creamy and rich and the walnut crust proved to be a nice winter-y touch. The other couple ordered the Varlhona Chocolate Cream Pie, and while I never met a chocolate dish I didn’t like, this pie wasn’t a standout like the rest of the meal. The combination of the rich chocolate pudding-esque center of the pie with the bittersweet chocolate ice cream was just too rich for my blood.

The service at Aria is top-notch, but in a friendly, non-pretentious way. I love going to a fine-dining spot where the server is knowledgeable yet laid-back enough to help me feel comfortable and not intimidated by a menu full of things I’ve never heard of. I am usually a gal that loves a dining deal, but since I didn’t even get to glance at the bill, I have no idea how much the total was. But given the caliber of the food, combined with copious amounts of wine, I’m guessing this place is a little out of my usual price-range.

I would love to try Aria again, since the menu changes often. Next time I’d like to dine in the bright and airy dining area, as opposed to the depths of the wine cellar. It’s a great special-occasion date place (I asked if they were already booked for Valentine’s Day, and apparently they’re almost full) and well worth the price. Perennially voted one of Atlanta’s best restaurants, Aria continues to set the standard for fine dining.

                                                      ~Blair Branch

Aria is located at 490 East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead.
Aria is open Monday-Saturday from 6:00pm-10:00pm.

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