Sunday, July 06, 2008

Daily highlight #44: A new gem in my neck of the woods - Restaurant: 4th and Swift

When we first moved into the loft three years ago, our immediate stretch of Ponce de Leon/North ave. was pretty much a fine dining dead zone. Then Repast opened to offer the first glimpse of refinement. It took another two years for a second nicer restaurant to move into this corner of the poncey highland. So while I normally wait some time before hitting a new place, I just couldn't help but pay a visit to the new 4th and Swift.

Many people who have seen the place during its soft opening have already commented on the handsome space. To me, the design captured the essence of this transitional neighborhood, where interiors often strive to marry the simplicity and vertical scale of industrial space with the warmth and comfort of modern living.

We ordered a round of drinks at the bar and admired how surprisingly well the roomy bar seats supported our backs. While sipping our drinks, girlfriend J spied a Parmesan and truffle oil popcorn snack as well as a daily special potato dish in the form of pommes frites. What a coincidence, as we were just discussing the merits of some Parmesan and truffle oil scented fries that we both adore at JCT kitchen across town. With that in mind, we "cleverly" inquired with our server whether the pommes frites could be given the popcorn treatment as we settled into our banquette seating in the dinning room. Sure enough, he came back with the dolled up fries. While these were fatter and more rustic than JCT's crispier shoestring version, they were nonetheless addictive.

Instead of bread, 4th and Swift served up some cheese biscuits. In my mind, biscuits are like pizzas, even bad ones can't be that bad, and these were far from being bad. Warm and cheesy, they were much too easy to take down.

The majority at the table wanted the chilled melon soup with crisp prosciutto. I am not the biggest fan of cold soups, so only tasted a spoonful. I enjoyed the coolness and subtle sweetness of the slightly foamy soup, but was far more interested in the crispy proscuitto, which was superb in the way of crunchy bacon. I was also incredibly distracted by the other small plate of braised lamb shoulder "lasagna" (top). Much larger than it's "small plate" status would suggest, the lasagna was hefty enough to satisfy as a meal in and of itself. The tender lamb was braised in somewhat sweet liquid, which I suspect some people who have strong aversions to sweetness in savory dishes may not love. But I adored it as I am known to add a few spoonful of brown sugar to my pot roast. What really made this dish was the combination of this lamb with house made lasagna and an herbed ricotta, which I found denser and far more full flavored than usual. A bite that combined all three provided contrasting textures and flavors that kept the palate excited but not overwhelmed.

We followed the excellent starters with the adorably named "three little pigs" in the form of a composed plate of pork loin, belly, and sausages. While I am normally a belly girl, my heart went to the loin on this night. Slightly cured, the loin had just enough fat and salt on the crust to taste moist and seasoned, but not fatty or salty. It reminded me of my grandma's freshly cured pork for Chinese New Year. The other star of the plate was the mac n cheese. I know that down here in the south people are fiercely divided on the preparation of mac n cheese. I am not a purist and love both cream moisten and cheddar infused versions. This one was clearly in the camp of the former. Under the crust, the macs were non-mushy, but were submerged in sufficient cream to remain scoopable. It's not stuff to eat by the bowlful due to richness, but indulgences such as this are always a great idea in small portions.

Our starch dish was a summer vegetable pappardelle. The pasta appeared to have been cut from the same dough that had made the lasagna. While I loved the lasagna's chewiness, I found the pappardelle a bit too thick in such large quantity. The overall flavors were still very good with a kick from red pepper flakes, but not too much to cover up the natural sweetness of the corns and carrots.

We also got a dish of some of the largest scallops I've ever seen. So pretty, I was almost holding my breath hoping that they wouldn't be over cooked. To my relief, they were not. Sweet, plump, and sufficiently seasoned with salt, I couldn't have asked for a better summer dish. I also enjoyed the cut tomatoes in the risotto as the cavities provided plenty of room for holding the savory bacon-infused sauce. The only draw back was that the fresh beans were just a tad undercooked and starchy. They really weren't necessary here as the sweet corn risotto was perfectly capable of holding its own.

We took more than half of the main dishes home to save room for dessert. The server highly recommended a passion fruit parfait. It's always hard to know what you'll get with a name like parfait. To me, this didn't look at all like a parfait (envisioning layered passion fruit goodness in a glass). Name aside, the passion fruit cream was surprisingly tart if you weren't ready for it, but since I love tartness (lemon tart is a favorite), I enjoyed this very much. The shortbread above and under, while buttery and crisp, were very hard to cut and slid off the creamy center with the slightest push. This was one dessert that is impossible to eat elegantly, but could be consumed messily with joy.

The ice cream flavor of the night was caramel. What can I say, I am weak in the face of ice cream and this was butter fat heavy stuff, just the way I like it.

For a new place, 4th and Swift had surprisingly few kinks in terms of food and service. I did, however, make a couple of interesting observations where style perhaps overshadowed functionality. The above were the plurality of menus one had access to in choosing food and drinks. Here, the normal menu was separated from the market menu, which was separated from the white wine list, which was separate from the red wine list, which was separate from the cocktail list, which was separate from the beer list. This stack didn't even include the dessert menu that was yet again separated from everything else. Now, that's a lot of cow skins and trees on one table when everyone gets a set.

Another form over function area was that of the silverware. Look closely you will see that the flat part of the knife handle does not line up with the knife edge, meaning when the handle is lying flat on the plate, the cutting part of the knife is balancing on its edge. We may be armatures at eating, but there was definitely a problem when more than once a knife slid off the plate taking bits of food with it.

Overall, we LOVED 4th and Swift for its impressive spacial scale, its simply but comfortable style, and for its tasty plates. Most of all, I am so glad to have another stellar place that I could walk to on a summer night.

4th and Swift
621 North Ave. NE
Building B
Atlanta, GA 30308


GrabMoL said...

I'm glad you tried the Three Little Pigs dish. I was really curious about it. I am a big homemade mac n cheese fan and it sounds like it was indulgent but small enough to not overdo it.

We also had the same problem with the knives. I wonder if they will replace them once they've been open for a bit?

Cathy said...

I think you will enjoy the mac n cheese. Not many things can beat cream in making dishes good. :) maybe butter.