The apotheosis of development along the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail so far is a grandiose modern glass palace called Bazati, which takes its name from the Croatian word meaning “to lounge around.” A good old English word like “dawdle” might do the trick. But that wouldn’t play into the sense of mystery and drama wafting from this soaring two-level expression of bougie luxury.
A place where tout le Atlanta can dine on classic French fare, repair to an upstairs lair for a Latin nightcap, and load up on all kinds of expensive pretties to take home (leather goods, art books, umbrellas, flowers), Bazati is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s at once ridiculously over-the-top and kind of fantastique. Especially if you have a taste for the style of relaxed, all-day eating and drinking that makes Mediterranean culture so ripe for romanticizing, and imitating.
Beginning at 9 a.m. weekdays, in the downstairs restaurant simply called the Brasserie, executive chef Remi Granger — a native of the Loire Valley who’s worked with Kevin Gillespie and most recently at Bread & Butterfly — is delivering confidently executed versions of brasserie standards, from pissaladiere and coq au vin to steak tartare and duck confit. Granger isn’t trying to upend tradition or dazzle us with fussy creations of his own design. Let others innovate; Brasserie seems intent on bestowing us with the simple pleasures, like having a kir royale and an omelet for lunch.
For the most part, I’m down with this approach.
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Owner-partner Scott Wilkins, an Atlanta native with a varied background in investment banking and private equity, keeps a watchful gaze on every last detail of his 7,000-square-foot Bazati kingdom. This includes Estrella, the Yucatan-influenced restaurant and rooftop bar on the second level, and eight gift shops behind the Brasserie dining room. (A cigar store and wine boutique are imminent.)
In a telephone interview, Wilkins, who has lived in France and currently maintains a home in the Mexican city of Merida, says he found inspiration for the brasserie-shopping gallery concept from time spent on Paris’ Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with its surrounding clutter of kiosks for après-meal browsing and collecting. His grand-scale Brasserie at Bazati has soaring ceilings, glittery chandeliers, tufted powder-blue velvet sofas, and front-row views of the city skyline and the pedestrian frisson down below.
One could almost eat up the scenery with a spoon.
For now, I’ll stick to the dazzling steak tartare, on a slick of mustard-horseradish sauce with crunchy, house-made potato chips and a pile of bright salad greens. As our delightful server told us on the Saturday afternoon we lolled on a banquette for more than two hours, take your fork and stir the oeuf into the boeuf. Get those flavors going. Also consider a dish of the exceptionally fine and buttery sauteed wild mushrooms, revelatory in its rustic simplicity. The mushrooms are an all-purpose dish, too, a fine starter or side to keep nearby as the meal progresses. We might only ask for a slice or two of bread to scoop them up with.
My guest demurred on an adult beverage, so the bartender concocted a lovely refresher of ginger beer, grapefruit, cranberry and a haunting hint of orange-blossom water, with berry garnishes. With a sipper this good, who needs booze? The diplomatic bartender even stopped by to make sure the concoction suited its taster, and to apologize for not having a sugar cube for my Champagne cocktail. Not a problem; a Boulevardier was just the thing to warm me up on a bleak day.
I’m still thinking about the escargot, so good that we asked for more bread to dab up the oily remains. The second round of baguette was better than the first, soft and warm, and I knew from its distinctive pointy tip that it had to be the work of Root Baking Co. Indeed, Wilkins told me later that it’s one of a few things that Granger sources from another maker.
I was less enthralled, however, with Granger’s pork rillettes, a bit mushy and underseasoned for my taste. In general, Brasserie’s beef and duck dishes seem more polished than its seafood. Duck confit, in a lusty and luxurious au jus sauce, was tender to the bone, so right with a swallow of Cru Monplaisir Bordeaux Superieur. For the steak frites, a slab of hanger was seared to a textbook bright-pink medium rare, elegantly sliced, glistening with butter.
Nothing evokes a French or Belgian frolic like a bowl of moules et frites (mussels and fries). But here, the garlic-butter-white wine broth in which the mussels are steamed and served failed to excite us. I was much more interested in twirling my crispy potatoes in the garlic aioli accompaniment than in the shellfish bowl.
And if you are looking for a traditional trout meuniere, in a rustic sauce of brown butter, parsley and lemon, you may be surprised to find it resting in pureed sunchokes, which seems to water down all the desirable effects of a nicely browned fillet of North Carolina trout with capers and Brussels sprouts.
Sweets don’t seem to be a Brasserie strong suit. Individual tarte tatins are outsourced and kinda ho-hum. The version I had recently at Spring in Marietta, with ice cream and decadent sabayon, was infinitely more compelling. A dark-chocolate mousse with a dainty profiterole wasn’t very remarkable, either, though I appreciated the flecks of sea salt that perked up the thickened chocolate.
Suddenly, Atlanta has quite the taste for French fare but none on such a staggering scale, or prime piece of real estate, as Brasserie. On sunny days, an aperitif and a wedge of quiche can be a welcome distraction from the Beltline. This place makes me dream of spring.
Overall rating: 2 of 4 stars (very good)
Food: classic French
Service: ranges from adequate to super hospitable
Best dishes: Lentil salad. Escargot. Wild mushrooms. Steak tartare. Steak frites. Duck confit.
Vegetarian selections: Marinated olives. Cheese selection. Lentil salad. Wild mushrooms. Omelets. Goat cheese salad.
Price range: $$$
Credit cards: all major credit cards
Hours: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-midnight Fridays; 10 a.m.-midnight Saturdays; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays
Parking: complimentary valet; free street parking around the neighborhood
MARTA station: Inman Park; King Memorial
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: moderate
Address, phone: 550 Somerset Terrace, Atlanta. 404-795-8342