REVIEW: Atrium excels at cocktails and serenity

The parlor of Atrium at Ponce City Market features a bar. Courtesy of Angie Webb

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The parlor of Atrium at Ponce City Market features a bar. Courtesy of Angie Webb

There are few places better for enjoying an unhurried moment than Atrium, the new cocktail bar from proprietor Tal Baum.

Set amid the hustle and bustle of Ponce City Market, Atrium has widely spaced tables and comfortable banquettes, overhung by tufts of dehydrated flowers that appear to float above diners’ heads. The restaurant is meant to be a bubble of calmness and serenity, Baum said.

Indeed, Atrium can be a lovely experience for those looking to slow things down. Ordering a luxurious drink called Chasing Summer will cost you a chunk of time and money, but it’s worth it. Served with fanfare on a silver platter alongside an olive and a single sprig of rosemary in an ice bowl, the gin-based martini pours into a frosted glass like syrup. Peach-infused vodka and herbal liqueur give you a strong sense of sweetness, despite the absence of sugar. A touch of lemon balances that sweet sensation, and the superchilled liquid effortlessly coats your palate and cools your throat.

Sure, it’s $28, but it’s also 8 ounces — enough to make two or three martinis at some restaurants.

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The centerpiece martini on Atrium's beverage menu is called Chasing Summer. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

The centerpiece martini on Atrium's beverage menu is called Chasing Summer. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Combined ShapeCaption
The centerpiece martini on Atrium's beverage menu is called Chasing Summer. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Beverage Director Demario Wallace’s lengthy cocktail list includes a selection of punches that feature tea as a component, resulting in layered, complex flavors. It’s ironic that the British punch features Wild Turkey bourbon and the American punch features Jamaican rum, but both are excellent. The intensely minty Satory Forest is a nice tequila cocktail on its own, but beware of ordering it with food: An acidic salad dressing paired with all that mint gives you the flavor of brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice.

Even the mocktails are desirable. The Gemlet, made with Amethyst lemon serrano zero-proof spirit, is a truly satisfying, complex drink.

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The wagyu beef tartare at Atrium is served on a rice puff and dressed with a savory chile crunch. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

The wagyu beef tartare at Atrium is served on a rice puff and dressed with a savory chile crunch. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Combined ShapeCaption
The wagyu beef tartare at Atrium is served on a rice puff and dressed with a savory chile crunch. Courtesy of Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Credit: Angie Webb

Atrium also excels at small bites. Among the raw dishes, velveteen tuna crudo dressed in lemon oil went beautifully with the Chasing Summer, as elegant a warm-weather pairing as you ever could hope to find. The wagyu beef tartare was served on a rice puff and dressed with a savory chile crunch. It tasted simpler than it looked, but was satisfying, nonetheless.

An arugula salad was a seasonal treat, with perfect Pearson Farms peaches, and the same was true of the watermelon salad, served with a spicy chile vinaigrette. And, warm curry flavors and globs of spicy, herbaceous zhoug animated some roasted Tucker Farms carrots on a bed of carrot puree.

Deeper into the menu, Atrium’s dreamy vibes began to fade. Three scallops cost $38, and they were unforgivably salty. Grilled duck breast was correctly cooked to medium-rare, but lacked flavor.

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The pan-roasted scallops at Atrium are expensive. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

The pan-roasted scallops at Atrium are expensive. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

Combined ShapeCaption
The pan-roasted scallops at Atrium are expensive. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

A soft-shell crab salad, with its coating of gluten-free tempura batter, was a testament to the magic of the deep-fryer, but the crab was too large, its body filled with unpleasantly gritty liquid.

The desserts were uneven, as well. A yuzu tart was beautiful, but its custard spilled out of the crust like a runny egg. On the other hand, Atrium’s take on bananas Foster was elegant and beautiful in its simplicity. A whole banana was split lengthwise, its cut sides bruléed to a crunch and arranged around scoops of vanilla ice cream. Topped with hazelnuts and edible flowers, the dessert looked as if it had drifted down from Atrium’s ceiling.

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The watermelon salad at Atrium is served with a spicy vinaigrette. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

The watermelon salad at Atrium is served with a spicy vinaigrette. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

Combined ShapeCaption
The watermelon salad at Atrium is served with a spicy vinaigrette. Courtesy of Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

Credit: Sterling Graves

While Baum said the menu is likely to see some updates, her team has nailed Atrium’s concept — not an easy feat, since it’s really more of a mood than a specific place or cuisine. But, contrasted with the crowds and industrial setting of Ponce City Market, Atrium feels like escaping to an enchanted garden.

ATRIUM

Food: American, with European influences

Service: pleasant, but a little slow

Best dishes: tuna crudo, carrots, watermelon salad, flatbread, pork schnitzel, bananas Foster

Vegetarian selections: chickpea panisse, carrots, watermelon, iceberg wedge, arugula salad, beets and leeks, flatbread, ravioli

Alcohol: full bar

Price range: $$$

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays

Children: welcome

Parking: paid parking available at Ponce City Market

MARTA station: North Avenue Station, 1¼ miles away

Reservations: yes

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: controlled, but not quiet

Takeout: no

Address, phone: 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. 404-600-3939

Website: atriumatl.com

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