Aix dining room. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
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.”
Aix and Tin Tin Executive Chef Nick Leahy. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
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.”
956 Brady Ave., Suite 100, Atlanta. 770-838-3501, aixatl.com; tintinatl.com.
Scroll down for more images of a First Look at Aix and Tin Tin on Atlanta’s Westside
Tin Tin Steak Tartare with classic accoutrements, fresh horseradish, beets, and oyster aioli. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Aix Bouillabaisse with fish, Sapelo clams, Georgia white shrimp, Pei mussels, scallop, saffron broth and rouille toasts. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Aix Salmon Mi Cuit with beets, apples, and tarragon creme fraiche. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Aix Apple and Camembert Gratin side dish. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Ferro No Share-O dessert, nutella parfait with a crunchy milk chocolate shell, brown butter base and creme fraiche ice cream. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Dame Romarin cocktail with Grey Goose, rosemary, grapefruit, lime, and Creme de Mure. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Last Train to Paris cocktail with Cognac, Bonal, Dolin Blanc, Salers, and Pastis. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.
Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.