First Look: The Continent explores twists on Jamaican flavor

The Continent Atlanta Fried Whole Snapper, Pan Seared Salmon, Spiced Lamb Chops, Yard Man Oysters, Stush Martini and Cassava Au Gratin. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
The Continent Atlanta Fried Whole Snapper, Pan Seared Salmon, Spiced Lamb Chops, Yard Man Oysters, Stush Martini and Cassava Au Gratin. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

In April, longtime Atlanta chef Scotley Innis debuted the Continent on Buford Highway. The upscale Jamaican restaurant and adjacent cigar bar stay open until midnight most nights, and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Innis was born in New York City, and lived in Jamaica and New York, before moving to Atlanta in 2004. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, he worked at a string of Atlanta restaurants, including Au Pied de Cochon, Craftbar, Ormsby’s, and South City Kitchen. More recently, he was the executive chef at 5Church.

ExploreMore first looks at metro Atlanta restaurants
caption arrowCaption
The Continent Atlanta Pan Seared Salmon with Scotch Bonnet Beurre Blanc, callaloo gnocchi, heirloom carrots, and charred corn. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

The Continent Atlanta Pan Seared Salmon with Scotch Bonnet Beurre Blanc, callaloo gnocchi, heirloom carrots, and charred corn. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
The Continent Atlanta Pan Seared Salmon with Scotch Bonnet Beurre Blanc, callaloo gnocchi, heirloom carrots, and charred corn. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

“I’m a well-seasoned Atlanta chef,” Innis said, getting comfortable at one of the plush banquettes that line the dining room at the Continent. “I had to come up through the ropes and learn Atlanta’s culture. It wasn’t easy, you know, because it’s totally different from New York.”

Innis may be best known beyond Atlanta for his appearance on the Fox TV show “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 18, with Gordon Ramsay — though it’s not his favorite subject. “I can definitely say I worked for a legend,” he said, laughing. “But I tell everybody he puts it on for TV. That’s what gets the ratings. He’s more of a big comedian to me.”

ExploreDeKalb County dining news

caption arrowCaption
Scotley Innis, chef and owner at the Continent, has worked at a string of Atlanta restaurants and appeared on the Fox TV show "Hell's Kitchen." Mia Yakel for The AJC

Credit: Mia Yakel

Scotley Innis, chef and owner at the Continent, has worked at a string of Atlanta restaurants and appeared on the Fox TV show "Hell's Kitchen." Mia Yakel for The AJC
caption arrowCaption
Scotley Innis, chef and owner at the Continent, has worked at a string of Atlanta restaurants and appeared on the Fox TV show "Hell's Kitchen." Mia Yakel for The AJC

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

After leaving 5Church, and before opening the Continent, Innis ran a popular pandemic pop-up, and launched a ghost kitchen in Midtown, called Scotch Yard, where he explored twists on Jamaican flavors. Scotch Yard is still up and running, and the Continent menu expands on many of those ideas, Innis explained.

“Jamaican cooking has influences from all over the world, India, Africa, Asia, and I wanted to showcase what we’ve learned from those influences on a more elevated level,” he said. “A perfect example is the Oxtail Lo Mein. Braised oxtail with rice and peas is traditional in Jamaican cuisine. But it gels with Asian flavors, like soy sauce braised oxtail, and completes a whole different dish.”

ExploreMetro Atlanta restaurant openings
caption arrowCaption
A dish that shows chef Scotley Innis mixing worldwide influences is the Continent's Fried Whole Snapper with red coconut curry sauce and Szechuan vegetables. Mia Yakel for The AJC

Credit: Mia Yakel

A dish that shows chef Scotley Innis mixing worldwide influences is the Continent's Fried Whole Snapper with red coconut curry sauce and Szechuan vegetables. Mia Yakel for The AJC
caption arrowCaption
A dish that shows chef Scotley Innis mixing worldwide influences is the Continent's Fried Whole Snapper with red coconut curry sauce and Szechuan vegetables. Mia Yakel for The AJC

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

Another offering that signifies how Innis has been searching the worldwide roots of African-Caribbean cooking is his Fried Whole Snapper, served with red coconut curry sauce and Szechuan vegetables. Typically, it’s cooked escovitch style, with pickled onions and peppers. But in his version, it’s expanded with Asian ingredients.

“It still has the spice from the red curry, but then it has coconut milk, along with the Szechuan vegetables, zucchini, peppers and Asian baby bok choy, to round out that dish,” Innis said.

Pan Seared Salmon with Scotch bonnet beurre blanc and callaloo gnocchi has been one of the most popular dishes, so far. Maybe because, as Innis put it, it has a little bit of everything.

“There’s the Italian influence with the gnocchi,” he said. “But inside the gnocchi you have the callaloo, which is the Jamaican spinach, along with the French beurre blanc. It’s a buttery sauce. But it has that Scotch bonnet hint of heat from the Caribbean, along with pimento, fresh thyme, shallots, garlic, white wine, and white vinegar. There’s also charred roasted corn, along with baby carrots.”

caption arrowCaption
The Continent's Cassava Au Gratin side dish is shown with the Stush Martini, made with rum, dry vermouth, white cranberry juice, and fresh lime juice and served with an orchid flower-infused ice ball. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

The Continent's Cassava Au Gratin side dish is shown with the Stush Martini, made with rum, dry vermouth, white cranberry juice, and fresh lime juice and served with an orchid flower-infused ice ball. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
The Continent's Cassava Au Gratin side dish is shown with the Stush Martini, made with rum, dry vermouth, white cranberry juice, and fresh lime juice and served with an orchid flower-infused ice ball. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

In addition to the menu, the space, which was once an Asian bakery, stands out as something different — especially in contrast to many of the mom-and-pop restaurants on Buford Highway. And the bar program, from Mike Haze of Red Phone Booth, offers sophisticated house cocktails — including the Stush Martini, mixed with rum and served with an orchid flower-infused ice ball, and the coconut rum Continent Punch, presented in a flaming coconut shell.

caption arrowCaption
House cocktails include the Continent Punch, made with coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, fresh lime juice, and grenadine. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

House cocktails include the Continent Punch, made with coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, fresh lime juice, and grenadine. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
House cocktails include the Continent Punch, made with coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, fresh lime juice, and grenadine. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

“We wanted to make it welcoming, where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice cocktail, and a magnificent dish along with it,” Innis said. “And we wanted to be one of the first to bring more of that fine dining feel to Buford Highway. A place where you could bring your family, or bring your wife for a date night. That’s why we came up with the restaurant on one side and the cigar lounge on the other side.”

ExploreNew places to get beer, cocktails and other cold drinks in metro Atlanta
caption arrowCaption
The Continent has a cigar bar as well as a restaurant. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

The Continent has a cigar bar as well as a restaurant. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
The Continent has a cigar bar as well as a restaurant. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

DINING OUT

5 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 5 p.m.-midnight Sundays.

Reservations encouraged. Business casual dress code. Employees wear masks. Temperature check prior to entry and masks when not seated.

4300 Buford Highway, Atlanta. 404-228-2027, thecontinentatlanta.com.

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

About the Author

Editors' Picks