JP Atlanta is the newest creation of 91-year-old John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect and developer known for helping to revitalize the city’s downtown in the ’60s and ’70s, with iconic office complexes, hotels and restaurants, such as Peachtree Center, the Hyatt Regency and the Polaris .
Situated just beyond the street-level lobby of the new Hotel Indigo location in the heart of downtown, JP Atlanta is a nod to the Midnight Sun, the restaurant Portman opened in Peachtree Center some 50 years ago.
The design features familiar Portman signatures, from a 20-foot-tall skylight and a see-through floating staircase to a glass canopy billowing above the circular bar. Both the bar area and restaurant are appointed with collections of Portman’s artwork, including sculptures and large, colorful canvases in the abstract expressionist style.
Executive chef Julio Delgado, a native of Puerto Rico and a veteran of hotel and resort kitchens at the Ritz-Carlton and Château Élan, was tasked with creating menus that conjure Portman’s history, while also serving the needs of Indigo guests at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“It’s a really great-looking restaurant,” Delgado said. “But what’s more amazing is what Mr. Portman means to the city of Atlanta. Here he is at 91 opening a new restaurant in the middle of the city that will be part of his legacy. That’s pretty exciting to be a part of.”
Beyond the design, artwork and numerous other details, right down to the tableware, Portman also had a hand in the menu, Delgado noted.
“He tasted everything on the menu,” Delgado said. “But every part of the menu is important. Lunch is big because obviously we have thousands of people working around us downtown and we wanted to have some really good artisan sandwiches.
“We designed the JP Burger, which for me was a lot of pressure to have a burger with his name on it. It’s a house-ground blend of chuck, brisket and short rib, with aged cheddar, house-made pickles and our special JP sauce. The burger is presented on a wooden butcher board that’s locally made.”
On the dinner menu, you’ll find the likes of sous vide braised and grilled octopus, roasted bone marrow with lump crab cake crust, and a deconstructed short rib beef bourguignon with roasted vegetables.”
“We do use a lot of modern techniques in the kitchen,” Delgado said. “But I try not to note that on the menu. That’s where you work the magic as a chef. We do what we do and that shows up on the plate.”
And then there’s the sweet potato doughnuts for two that resemble an art project as much as a dessert, with brushstrokes of color and texture in the form of brown butter ice cream and pecan-honey ganache.
“I love how Mr. Portman does his paintings,” Delgado said. “For the doughnuts, we came up with a dessert that’s almost like a painting the guests can do themselves. When Mr. Portman tasted them, he did a drawing with the doughnuts. That was a special moment.”
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