The menu was created by executive chef Roberto Solis of Nectar in Merida, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan province, and features dishes using ingredients and cooking techniques commonly found there.
Chef de cuisine Cam Floyd is in charge of the kitchen at Estrella, after spending time in Merida cooking with Solis at Nectar, and learning his recipes in order to execute them in Atlanta.
Among the seasonal shareable small plates and main dishes on the menu right now, you’ll find oyster tacos, cochinita pibil spring rolls, Yucatecan pork belly with radish pico, avocado puree and corn tortillas, and traditional chayitas with tomato rustica, dzikilpak salsa and cotija.
The sparkling wines and Latin cocktails on the beverage menu are designed to complement the food and the setting, with classics such as a Hemingway daiquiri and a pisco sour joining a sangrita with reposado tequila and a hibiscus champagne punch.
And for more fun in the sun, there’s a roving gin cart, offering tableside takes on gin and tonic with choices of fresh herbs, citrus, flavored tonics and five types of gin.
Last week, Wilkins and Floyd sat down at the bar to talk about how Estrella came about.
“It was quite a feat to do this,” Wilkins said. “There’s a new roof three feet above the existing roof, so from an architectural and engineering standpoint, it was a challenge, especially given that this is a 1940s structure.
“The notion here is we’re betting on good weather most of the time. We have 40 seats inside, and we have about 65 seats outside. But all the doors open up so we can connect the outside and the inside. We play a lot of Latin music, and the idea is to relax and spend time here, which is very much the norm for Latin America.”
Though the design and decor suggest an upscale resort bar, Wilkins said dining is the key to the concept.
“It is first and foremost a restaurant,” he declared. “We have engaged one of Mexico’s top chefs in Roberto Solis. He’s a dear friend of my family. My family lives in Merida, so Roberto and I have known each other for several years, and he agreed to do this.
“What we’ve tried to do with this food is marry a beverage program with it that we think is appropriate to it. We have sparkling wine. We have our gin cart outside. And we tried to do cocktails that would pair well with the food.”
Speaking about the menu, Floyd said learning about Yucatan cuisine, and then adapting some of the dishes with Georgia ingredients was the biggest challenge.
“These are all traditional dishes to the Yucatan,” he said. “Of course, we always have our own spin on things. But things like the chayitas are completely authentic, with the dzikilpak, which is basically a paste from pumpkin seeds.
“The same thing with the spring rolls. Most people wouldn’t expect those to be coming out of the Yucatan. But using the cochinita pibil, and putting it into a spring roll is an innovative way of doing it. I know when I went to Merida I had no idea any of this food existed. It’s the most fascinating cuisine and maybe not what you think of as Mexican.”
550 Somerset Terrace N.E., Suite 102, Atlanta. 404-795-8341, estrellarooftop.com.
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