Subjecting oneself to dining at a new restaurant the first week, let alone the first day, is a game of craps at best which normally ends up with you rolling snake eyes on the first roll. It was fun for a second and then you walk away empty handed. This has been mostly my experience this year with new openings, but, happily, I can say Cooks & Soldiers was one of the notable exceptions to these mostly lackluster experiences.
Cooks & Soldiers, the highly anticipated new restaurant from the Castellucci Hospitality Group (Iberian Pig, Double Zero, Sugo), opened quietly to friends and family on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 on the Westside of Atlanta and came out firing on all cylinders from the minute we walked in to the minute we left. It focuses on cooking from the Basque Region (specifically San Sebastian) of Spain; a region that houses some of the best restaurants in the world and access to ingredients from the mountains to the sea at its fingertips. The menu attempts to capture many of those flavors in the various pintxos (small snacks) as well as a small variety of asador (grilled meats and fish).
On this particular night our experience spanned roughly half of the 35 dishes that make up the menu (including dessert). We left the entire menu up to the restaurant which was the right choice. We had the pleasure of having Bethany assist us for the night which always enhances the experience. It was sad to see her leave 4th & Swift, but great to see she landed at a restaurant that allows her hospitality skills to shine.
The meal began with a flurry of meats and cheeses. We started a small portion of Iberico Ham which was simply mouthwatering before moving into a beautiful cheese plate featuring regional cheeses and then followed it up with a charcuterie plate of various other cured meats.
Soon thereafter began the flurry of pintxos which were all amazing. Grilled Spanish octopus with “charcoal” potatoes (died with squid ink), various toasts with items like bruleed figs, coal roasted mushrooms, white anchovies (to name three – see above) and seared scallops with beet and asparagus purees exploded with color on the plate and flavor on the palate.
The dish of the night, as simplistic as it sounds, was the tomato tartar (above left) . It consisted of cured tomatoes prepared with traditional accompaniments and adorned by a carrot yolk. A vegan dish even the most carnivorous diner could appreciate. The bite mirrored in all respects beef tartar which was impressive and incredibly delicious. The beef was not missed.
The Asador proved no less remarkable. We tried three of the five: Maritako Hot Pot, Pork Tenderloin and the Chuleton. Although it was a close call between the perfectly grilled bone-in ribeye and the Hot Pot, the Hot Pot won the day. Serving four diners easily, we prepared our own mini soup bowls with the complex broth, exquisite tuna and the various Basque accompaniments including piperade (sautee of peppers), pesto and a chorizo oil. The combination was absolutely faultless.
After finishing up our savory dishes we moved into dessert. Although we were closing in on full we wound up finishing with three of their offerings with the most whimsical being C&S’s take on breakfast cereal which incorporated the flavors of Fruity Pebbles and Lucky Charms. I found it nostalgic if nothing else. The desserts were just the right size to just give you that last touch of sweetness before closing out a flawless meal.
Cooks and Soldiers is a perfect addition to the already thriving Westside restaurant scene. All of the dishes I had were memorable for the right reasons. If this opening night is any indication of its future, Cooks and Soldiers is positioning itself as yet another example of a great eatery on the Westside that continues to elevate the Westside in the conversation when it comes to food in Atlanta.
Cooks & Soldiers Website
691 14th Street
Atlanta, GA 30309