Longtime Atlanta chef Nick Leahy is getting back to his French roots with two new concepts, Aix and Tin Tin, both of which opened on Friday on the booming Westside.
Located on Brady Avenue near Donetto and the Painted Duck in the Stockyards development, Aix is a comfortably upscale contemporary restaurant with a private dining space, serving dinner seven nights a week.
The menu features takes on classic Provencal dishes from the south of France, where Leahy spent a formative stretch of his childhood. Think updated versions of bouillabaisse, cassoulet, salmon mi cuit, apple and Camembert gratin, and decadent desserts.
Connected to Aix, and named for the matriarch of Leahy’s French mother’s family, Tin Tin is a wine bar with an outdoor patio and fireplace.
The small plates menu is complemented by some 30 mostly French wines by the glass, plus a selection of local and large format beers. Look for lunch service in early 2019.
Leahy’s team includes sous chef Max Owen, pastry chef Kendall Baez, beverage director Pat Peterson and general manager Jason Babb.
Recently, they were all on deck at Aix, getting ready to run through the menu, while workers were putting the finishing touches on the dining room.
Leahy sat down at the bar to talk about opening two new places, after five years as the executive chef at Saltyard in Brookwood Hills.
“Aix is named after Aix in Provence,” he said. “That’s the town in Provence where most of that side of my family is from. I spent a ton of time in and around there growing up. I think it’s the most iconic and beautiful city in all of Provence. It’s Old World but modern. It’s got all of the charm of a smaller town but an amazing food scene. And some of the first food memories I have are from restaurants and family gatherings in Provence.
“After cooking sort of global small plates for five years — which was fun, but kind of started feeling too broad — I wanted to do something a little more cohesive. There isn’t a lot of Provencal food here in Atlanta. People think of French food as more of bistros and brasseries. I think the food of Provence is very different.”
Asked about the specifics, Leahy compared and contrasted Provence with Paris.
“It’s much more of a Mediterranean kind of diet, and less heavy than Parisian French food,” he said. “It’s a little more open-minded, and more of a melting pot. There are people who came over from Italy or Greece or Spain, so you have a lot of different culinary traditions that have come together and are done with Provencal ingredients. And some of the North African spices have come across in the trade route.
“The idea for Aix is to take a lot of those classic dishes of Provence and make them a little more elegant. I think the bouillabaisse is the dish that probably captures that the best. We’re keeping the rustic soul of the dish with the broth and the sauce and all the richness and depth of flavor. But we’re cooking all the seafood individually so you get five different perfect pieces, and then we pour the sauce tableside.
“The cassoulet is sort of the same technique as the bouillabaisse. We’re taking a rustic hunter’s stew, and we’re cooking the things individually and skewing it a bit more refined. And it’s been a fun beverage menu to write with Pat. You’ll find some interesting, underrepresented French wines.”
As to the look and style of Aix in Atlanta, Leahy said it was obviously inspired by Aix in Provence, too.
“Aix is a town that really balances rustic charm and elegance, because it was the capital of Provence, and has all these old stone buildings. But it’s a stylish, fashion-forward city, as well. So that’s what we tried to balance here with rustic stone walls coupled with plaster and other touches.
“Tin Tin next door is more fun and whimsical. The menu is more relaxed, and made for a wine bar, with shareable snack boards with cheese and charcuterie. And we’ll be doing a simple Provencal lunch there, probably in January, with things like chicken paillard, stuffed sandwiches, and lots of pates.”
Scroll down for more images of a First Look at Aix and Tin Tin on Atlanta’s Westside
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