Review: Atlanta’s Verdure is on its way to becoming a destination

The Senegalese chicken yassa at Verdure Kitchen and Cocktails is a good value. Courtesy of Vantablack Studio

Credit: Vantablack Studio

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The Senegalese chicken yassa at Verdure Kitchen and Cocktails is a good value. Courtesy of Vantablack Studio

Credit: Vantablack Studio

Verdure Kitchen and Cocktails is meant to be a destination. Overflowing with greenery, lit with trendy light fixtures and furnished with modern (if not always practical) furniture, it’s a place to see and be seen — and then seen again on social media.

Some restaurants that show up on Instagram look beautiful, but don’t have the food or service to match. However, Verdure offers excellent service and a showy bar program.

The restaurant’s plant-laden design is a nod to its location just east of Piedmont Park. It also is reminiscent of the tropical climate of Ivory Coast, where chef Jean Louis Sangare was born.

Credit: Courtesy of Verdure Kitchen + Cocktails

Credit: Courtesy of Verdure Kitchen + Cocktails

Sangare made it clear, though, that Verdure does not serve authentic African cuisine. Rather, it offers Western fine dining, with African influences. The chef is a longtime veteran of Le Bilboquet in New York City and Atlanta, and his cooking shows off French technique, as well as feeling fresh, vibrant and thoughtful.

Each meal at Verdure starts with complimentary bread service. The locally sourced focaccia is served with softened butter and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

The salads — served in huge, shareable portions — are a highlight. Especially hitting the spot was the spinach salad, a huge pile of greens dressed with a deliciously balanced sweet-tart dressing. The farro salad, topped with golden beets, also was a winner, with Parmesan, shallots, dates and toasted pecans.

Summer roasted root burrata was a bit of a head-scratcher, since carrots, beets and parsnips are more representative of winter produce, but the sweet, earthy vegetables paired nicely with the rich, fresh cheese.

A crispy, smoky appetizer of charred okra disappeared almost as soon as it hit the table and made us consider ordering more.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

The egusi hummus provided a good case study of Verdure’s strengths and weaknesses. Served over a huge, ice-filled glass bowl, the hummus combined chickpeas with pumpkin seeds and slightly bitter egusi seeds, which are popular in West Africa. The hummus hit the right notes, with the roasted seeds adding flavor and texture. But the fresh vegetables were cut in large, asymmetrical, rustic hunks, and the cherry tomatoes weren’t cut at all — not exactly ideal for dipping. With so much attention lavished on the hummus, couldn’t time have been spent making these raw veggies into better dipping vehicles?

That trend continued through the entrees, where any sloppiness was magnified by the high prices — three of the main dishes each cost $65. One of those, the braai South African rib-eye, was prepared well, but lacked the wow factor one might expect for that price. Another of those expensive entrees, whole red snapper, was cooked and plated nicely, but did not distinguish itself much from the whole branzino, which is $25 cheaper.

The third high-dollar main dish, lamb chops, lived up to our expectations.

Credit: Vantablack Studio

Credit: Vantablack Studio

However, the best bang for your buck can be found in the Senegalese chicken yassa. The traditional dish of braised chicken, served in a light-colored mustard sauce, wasn’t the most visually appealing bowl of food, but the flavors were rich and comforting and the portion size easily could serve two.

Verdure also offers a decadent lobster mac and cheese, but our serving was missing the signature Flamin’ Hot Cheetos crumbs sprinkled over the top. The Cheetos add a spicy kick and shot of color, but Sangare said he and his partners were waffling on whether the lowbrow ingredient should be included. It should.

In fact, Sangare and his team should take a few more risks on the menu, dial up the African flavors and, most importantly, insist on the highest standard of cooking.

Verdure is a beautiful space with very good service. With a bit more attention to detail in the kitchen, it truly could become a destination restaurant.

Credit: Vantablack Studio

Credit: Vantablack Studio


2 out of 4 stars (very good)

Food: West African-accented new American cuisine

Service: excellent, although occasionally slow

Noise level: moderate

Recommended dishes: strawberry spinach salad, farro salad, roasted egusi hummus, zesty pineapple-glazed gambas, charred okra, Zanzi peppercorn lamb rib chop, creamy lobster mac and cheese, Senegalese chicken yassa, tiger nut creme brulee, le grand baobab and walnut cheesecake, cho kola mousse

Vegetarian dishes: strawberry spinach salad, farro salad, la verdure du parc, Caesar salad, roasted egusi hummus, summer roasted root burrata, charred okra, fried plantains, creamy yellow corn, Moroccan couscous, green beans, red rice

Alcohol: full bar

Price range: $$$-$$$$

Hours: 5-11 p.m. daily

Parking: paid valet; some free street parking


Reservations: recommended

Outdoor dining: not yet, but a patio space is in the works

Takeout: not recommended

Address, phone: 560 Dutch Valley Road, Atlanta. 404-968-9246


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