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Paul's fails to please

When the B.F. asked which restaurant I’d like to dine at on my birthday, I rattled off a novella-long list of area hot-spots I’d yet to try, and left the final decision up to him. My requirements for my birthday dinner were simple. Good food and great wine. I was pleased that the B.F. chose the restaurant of local restaurant guru Paul Albrecht, Paul’s. Though Paul’s has been nestled back in Peachtree Hills for a few years, I had yet to try it. Former co-founder of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, Albrecht has been involved with many of my favorite local restaurants, so I was anxious and excited to see what his namesake spot had in store.

Upon entrance, I felt immediately awkward for being totally overdressed for the restaurant. I didn’t expect white coats and top hats, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a Jay Leno wannabe in a denim-on-denim getup with white sneakers either. Given Albrecht’s hand in opening some of the cities sexiest restaurants, I was expecting more.

We started our meal with a bottle of red, per usual, and the All White Lump Crab Cake from the Small Plates portion of the menu. The cake was perfection, with moist and flaky bunches of crab and crispy cake served with sautéed spinach and calypso butter. I noted that I could’ve just eaten that for dinner and been content, flavor-wise. My only beef was that it was $15 for one measly crab cake! I understand it was from the Small Plates section, I just wish it had a smaller price as well.

While perusing the menu for my entrée choice, I was skeptical of finding something I’d enjoy. Though I like to eat and write about eating, I’m not super-adventurous when it comes to eating and I wanted my quarter-century birthday meal to be nothing but amazing. With menu items like Pan Seared Calf’s Liver (yuck) and Grilled Vegetable Tofu (no thanks) I feared I had made a mistake by including Paul’s on my restaurant list. Seeking less-exotic fare, I stuck with the tried and true meat and potatoes route and chose the Filet Mignon, served with rosemary rosette potatoes, crispy onion rings and jumbo asparagus, all in a red wine reduction. My filet was nothing short of delectable. It was cooked to perfection and a generous size, and the classic steakhouse sides were a welcomed accompaniment. I honestly couldn’t have been happier.

The B.F. was not as pleased, and not without merit. I tried several bites of his Hickory Short Smoked Pork Tenderloin and honestly, it tasted like my mother’s ham she used to serve on Sundays. And that’s not a compliment (sorry Mama!). I cook pork tenderloin about once a week at home, and even mine is better than this! I think the B.F. chooses his entrees based on the sides it’s served with, and with high hopes for the macaroni and cheese and collard greens, we were left disappointed. While both might’ve been delicious if served warm, we wound up eating gooey, congealed and cold mac and cheese and disgusting, limp collard greens.

I felt bad (but not too bad) that the B.F’s dinner was gross while mine was great, so I was hoping the dessert would help save the evening. I’m not hard to please in terms of dessert. You could drizzle chocolate over mayonnaise (my absolute most-hated food item) and I would eat it. So I’m not the most objective source. The dessert was good, but forgettable. It was some sort of tiramisu (my favorite food ever) and cheesecake (my second-favorite food ever). With a combo like that, I was expecting greatness. It wasn’t.

I don’t think I’ll go back to Paul’s. While the crab cake we started with was delicious, a $15 appetizer doesn’t redeem the other aspects of the meal. The restaurant has a major identity crisis, with too much going on menu-wise. I’m a believer in sticking with a common element and making it perfect, and with selections ranging from Crispy Sweetbreads and Sage Prosciutto to Vegetable Tortellonis to sushi, Paul’s is far from perfection. Service-wise, everything was great, although the B.F. was a little peeved they forgot it was my birthday (apparently he asked that they make note of it when he made the reservation.)

As we were leaving, I took it all in. The rooftop patio, the neighborhood feel, the old men sipping scotch at the bar, the piano in the corner. I guess I can learn to appreciate Paul’s for what it is—a second-rate version of Hal’s.
 

                                                                                  ~Blair Branch

Paul's is located at 10 Kings Circle in Peachtree Hills.

Paul's is open daily for lunch and dinner, and on Sunday for brunch.

404.231.4710

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