While there’s a lot of growth to come, Rwby still is worth a visit as a newborn. This is the type of restaurant that thrives in big urban centers, where locals know they can grab a solid meal and a well-made cocktail, and visitors can get the flavor of the neighborhood. The Lawrence, the Big Citizen restaurant previously in this space, had a darker, industrial feel, but Rwby goes for much softer vibes.
Under chef Murad Ghashim, the relatively tight menu has an eclectic, European brasserie vibe. It’s casual but upscale, with dishes such as lamb ribs, steak tartare and salmon, but no menu item that exceeds $40.
The entrees started strong but faded a little due to some slight issues with execution. Both the grilled quarter chicken and roasted wild salmon were a bit overcooked, and there was nothing distinctive about a vegetarian dish of roasted delicata squash with quinoa and farro.
On the other hand, the hanger steak was cooked to a perfect medium, as requested. Flemish beef cheek stew was rich, but not overly heavy, with some interesting texture from the root vegetables and oyster mushrooms.
And the burger was phenomenal, with two smash-grilled patties of high-quality Chatel Farms ground beef decadently smothered in caramelized onions and American cheese. It was nostalgic, messy and fun to eat — and by itself could make Rwby a destination for burger lovers.
Among the appetizers, the roast carrot dip was another instant winner. The vegetarian spread had a rich, creamy texture and a deep ballast of umami flavor, thanks to the addition of garlic confit. Seared halloumi cheese was creamy and luxurious, balanced by the sharp flavors of a pickled fennel salad.
Speaking of salads, all three of Rwby’s were excellent, though none was geared to vegetarians. The green salad had goat cheese (the staff was unsure whether the cheese was made with animal or vegetable rennet), along with peaches, honey, pistachio and a lavender vinaigrette. The shaved Brussels salad included white anchovy and a tahini Caesar dressing, while a melon and prosciutto salad obviously included pork. Each salad incorporated fresh greens, but they all remained distinctive — and satisfying.
Steak tartare (also made with Chatel Farms beef) was deeply satisfying, thanks to a traditional dressing of egg yolk, Dijon and capers. However, the accompanying sweet potato chips were too small and thin to stand up to the beef. On the plus side, Rwby is lucky enough to get its bread from the Buttery, and diners should consider getting a baguette along with the tartare.
Mezze boards are a common sight on menus around Atlanta, but the one at Rwby stands out for its playfulness and creativity. On ours, popcorn was scattered around the prosciutto and a soft, spreadable fresh cheese. There also were pickled peach slices, sweet potato chips and that excellent carrot dip. The format was familiar, but the components felt original and specific to Rwby.
As for the bar, cocktail nerds who fell in love with the Lawrence might want to give Rwby a few more months to get up to speed. While many of the drinks were subtle and nuanced, none of the cocktails had that eye-popping, lightning-in-a-bottle quality.
Still, it’s easy to imagine returning to some of these drinks over and over again, like the smooth, lightly sweet Lola’s apple garden, made with rum, local apple brandy and midori. The tightly curated wine list was interesting, and there are thoughtful nonalcoholic options.
Rwby might be a little shaky right now, but it has the genes of a thoroughbred and a lot of talented stakeholders bringing it along. It’s not a fully formed replacement for the Lawrence, but this isn’t a horse I’d bet against.
2 of 4 stars (very good)
Food: eclectic European
Service: good overall, but often a little slow
Noise level: moderate
Recommended dishes: mezze board, roasted carrot dip, seared halloumi cheese, steak tartare, Hasselback potato bravas, house frites, green salad, shaved Brussels salad, melon and prosciutto salad, smash burger, hanger steak, Flemish beef cheek stew
Vegetarian dishes: baguette, roasted carrot dip, seared halloumi cheese, grilled broccolini, Hasselback potato bravas, Mahón mac and cheese, house frites, stuffed acorn squash
Alcohol: full bar
Price range: $$
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 5-10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5-10 p.m. Sundays
Parking: free and paid street parking nearby
MARTA: about quarter-mile from Midtown station
Outdoor dining: covered patio
Address, phone: 905 Juniper St., Atlanta. 404-963-5118
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