Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's in a name? Cockentrice

For those of you who live under a rock, Krog Street Market opened at the end of 2014 and it has had a solid stream of ITP-ers since the get-go. With two team West Egg/Todd Ginsberg concepts (Yalla and Fred's Meat & Bread), a Hop City Craft Beer shop and beer bar, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Little Tart Bake Shop, OTP transplant Grand Champion Barbecue, and successful full-service joints the Luminary and Craft Izakaya, there's plenty of reason to stop in (and the locals have been). It's hard to go and not run into someone you know or that guy from that one place. It's also difficult to go in and get something not delicious. Most of the offerings are solid, but they come at a price - perhaps it's the high quality, labor intensive products or it's possibly the owners passing along the high rent to the customer. It's likely a combination of the two.

Also setting up shop at Krog is the Spotted Trotter - the ever popular butcher and charcuterie masters of Kirkwood. Their retail location off of Hosea Williams - a small space in a strip center with very little street-visibility - always left me wondering how they brought in customers outside of the neighborhood. But still, Atlantans continued to see Spotted Trotter products all over town incorporated into some of our favorite restaurants' dishes.

The folks at Spotted Trotter have picked up where other restaurants around town left off - using all of their own product in their own restaurant - Cockentrice. And while that sounds dirty (I suppose it is), a cockentrice is essentially a turducken with pig instead of the duck. The restaurant is attached to the back side of their butcher stand at Krog Street Market and will surely be one of the most popular spots in the market (or in Atlanta for that matter).

I haven't written on this blog in nearly a year. Cockentrice has me excited and inspired. Just go. We went on the second night of opening and the meal was one of the better ones I've had since my last post some 8 months ago - it will only get better. The space is exactly what you'd expect, modern with that sort of factory/rustic feel. There is even an elevated meat hanger overhead - in case you can't remember the theme of a restaurant by the name of Cockentrice.

The menu, as I'm sure you've figured by now, is very meat-centric. Two sections of charcuterie - one more typical, with cured meats and cheeses and one of prepared/cooked dishes cover half of the menu. The other half is more meat (mains) and four vegetable options. Side note: I miss the days of tried-and-true menu sections. You know, 'appetizers,' 'mains,' 'sides?' Like many new restaurants in town, the Cockentrice employs ambiguous,  unfamiliar headings like 'TO COMMENCE,' 'TO IMMERSE," and my personal least favorite: 'SEASONAL VERDURE & SUPPLEMENTS.' Call me old-fashioned, but why over-complicate an already complex dinner menu? Taking artistic liberties like these make ordering a chore.

Let's get into it:

Suckling pig grattons came skewered and perched atop a sunchoke puree. The baby pig hit that sluttily-satisfying porky note with a great mix of crunchy-cracklin' and melt-away belly. The accompanying mustard provided a welcome, not-so-harsh acidic touch.
Second Stanza
Another prepared charcuterie was the Second Stanza Spreadable Salami. These were setup similarly to a bilini with the spreadable salami fried off into crunchy disk. While the the textural contrast was a nice touch, I would have preferred the salami be left in spreadable form. Good looking plate of food.

Both Moses Hill and Carolina Creamery cheeses were excellent, though I wish the cheese and charcuterie sections of the menu were combined - I ended up just combining the cheeses with some culatello.
Study in Vegetables
While all of the vegetable options sounded interesting and delicious, "Our Study in Vegetables" fell flat. It was primarily some mushrooms, greens and brussels with no discernible flavor or special prep. That will not keeping me from trying some other veg options on my return.

A simple bibb salad was more successful with delicious oxtail filled croutons so as to not miss out on any more protein. The cocktails, were also weak and landed too far on the sweet side of the scale - this is probably something that has already been corrected after a couple of nights of service. Aside from those two misfires, the food was exceptional.

Monkfish with Sunchoke Puree, Celriac disk and potato puree
The mains were all exceptional. Monkfish, cooked in caul-fat, crushed every rendition of the ugly sea-devil I've had in town. In addition to the caul, it was also wrapped in a green that provided some good texture and contrasting bitterness to the sweet, meaty fish.
Lamb Cobbler
A soul-warming lamb cobbler (I'd call it a lamb pot pie) came out, topped with buttery puff-pastry. This was cold-weather food at its best - leaving me feeling like I was wearing a lamb snuggie before braving the cold, wet elements.

The most standout dish, a beef-cheek bread pudding with pig ear salad, took the meal to the upper end of savory decadence without pushing it over the edge. Imagine a meaty take on french toast and bacon and you have this dish. The pig ear salad had a necessary touch of acid to cut through all of that salt and fat. This is the type of dish that will leave you shaking your head and thinking, "I'm a bad, bad man."
Dessert was mildly annoying - you're forced to order a "trio" of items, but with no choice. There are only three items. Our selection included a chocolate tart, gingerbread cake topped with maple-bourbon ice cream. So where was the third portion of our "trio"? Apparently, it was that scoop of ice creamthat accompanies the ginger cake. I already disliked having to order three of the only three desserts, but you can't help but feel frustrated when only two items came out.

As we finished up the meal, I couldn't help but raise the question: Would my value-oriented parents, or Atlanta diners of their generation, like this place? While it's becoming more common for restaurants of this caliber to serve everything a la carte (aka mains served without a side accompaniment) I generally feel an entree should comprise more than a single protein. Certainly, for folks like my parents, paying upwards of $20 and $30 for a single piece of fish and some sauce would not go over well...But when it comes to the dishes I tried from the Cockentrice's "TO IMMERSE" (eye-roll) section — the monkfish and the lamb cobbler both came solo — I didn't mind, because the food was excellently sourced and prepared.

Bottom line — the Cockentrice is not an inexpensive restaurant, but I believe you're getting what you pay for.

Service was excellent, if not a little slow, and they even delivered some cookies with the check. Maybe that was the third dessert? Cockentrice is shaping up to be one of Atlanta's best restaurants and it will only get better.

The Cockentrice on Urbanspoon