Atlanta Orders In: Lazy Betty offers its luxurious tasting menus to go

Lazy Betty’s $95 takeout tasting menu includes five courses plus duck (center), Georgia shrimp causa (right); cantaloupe gazpacho, lacquered biscuit with raspberry butter, pistachio and chocolate cake roulade and (upper right) petit fours and caramel-bourbon-pecan popcorn. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

When Atlanta native Ron Hsu moved home in 2017 to start the pop-ups that would morph into Lazy Betty, he brought with him a rather astonishing pedigree.

He’d held a top creative position at chef Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York, one of the most decorated restaurants in America. Soon, he would appear on Netflix’s “The Final Table” — and unveil a high-end tasting menu concept at Lazy Betty that could command $165 for 10 courses, including service, but not drinks. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Food and Dining Editor Ligaya Figueras awarded the DeKalb Avenue newcomer three stars. Earlier this year, Lazy Betty was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award in the national category of best new restaurant.

Lazy Betty offers dry-aged duck. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

In March, however, as the pandemic shook the world, the bubble burst at Lazy Betty.

After closing down for a month, Hsu and his team launched a takeout program of elevated comfort food. The braised short ribs and chicken cannelloni weren’t quite the rarefied fare that Hsu and partner-chef de cuisine Aaron Phillips had conceived for their chef’s counter, yet the prix fixe meals still were impeccably crafted, and sumptuous.

And, they were popular, for a time.

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Lazy Betty’s Georgia shrimp causa is composed of three layers: shrimp salad, avocado mousse and whipped potato puree. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

“To be quite honest, the first day, we were completely overwhelmed in the restaurant and the kitchen,” Hsu said. “We just weren’t anticipating that much business. And, the community support was amazing. It really was amazing.”

Still, after a couple of months, business tapered off, and Hsu felt the only sustainable route would be to reopen the dining room, while keeping a takeout component. Today, sit-down guests can opt for a four- or eight-course tasting menu, at $80 and $135. To-go diners can pick up a five-course tasting menu for $95.

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Lazy Betty is known for its lacquered biscuit, featuring raspberry butter duck rillete with brandied cherries and oranges, and toast points for spreading. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

I asked Hsu if he felt takeout was somehow “lesser” than a luxurious dining-room experience. He quickly reminded me that his immigrant parents’ livelihood depended on takeout.

“No, I definitely don’t feel like it’s lesser,” said Hsu, 38. “I grew up in a Chinese restaurant. We did takeout. Sometimes, I cooked it. Sometimes, I delivered it. Sometimes, I packaged it. I have no problems with takeout.”

Still, he admitted, Lazy Betty was not designed for carryout, and barely had paper or plastic containers before COVID-19.

Lazy Betty Executive Chef Ron Hsu and Aaron Phillips, chef de cuisine and partner, deliver takeout to a customer waiting outside the restaurant. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Today, the soothingly designed DeKalb Avenue space seats no more than 50 guests at a time. The 17-member team (down from about 34) dons masks and encourages guests to do the same as they come and go, or leave their tables.

Inevitably, customers ask Hsu when he will reinstate service at the exclusive chef’s counter. He plans to do so in about a month, perhaps with six stools, instead of the 10 they had before the pandemic.

Lazy Betty’s pistachio and chocolate cake roulade comes with dehydrated Swiss meringues and raspberry sauce. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

At that point, Lazy Betty will return to the intimate level of service that some diners crave as much as they do the caviar and lobster. Except, guests will get their pricey plates pushed through a slot at the bottom of a plexiglass barrier.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

LAZY BETTY

Menu: chef’s tasting menus

Alcohol: wine and beer to go

What I ordered: five-course tasting menu: curried duck rillette, melon gazpacho, shrimp causa, dry-aged duck and cake roulade — plus the famous laminated biscuits, petit fours, and a bag of caramel, bourbon and pecan popcorn to munch later. The food was neatly packed, labeled and quite delicious. It’s fun re-creating this fancy restaurant experience in your own dining room.

Service options: dine-in; takeout; no delivery

Safety protocols: follows CDC guidelines

Address, phone: 1530 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta; 404-975-3692

Hours: 5:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays

Website: lazybettyatl.com

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