Review: Bad luck at Buckhead’s Brassica

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

If you measure an organization by its response to a mistake, you’d be impressed with Brassica, the new restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead.

In this case, the mistake was a big one: We were served bad mussels.

“That mussel was really gritty,” my dining partner said after eating one. “I’m not sure these are good.”

ExploreMore metro Atlanta restaurant reviews

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

I tasted one, but quickly spat it out. In place of the clear, sweet brine one expects from mussels, the flavor was swampy, tinged with ammonia. This was not a matter of opinion; the mussels were spoiled.

The staff at Brassica, which serves Southern fare prepared with French technique, handled the situation with grace and tact. When our eager-to-please waiter inquired about the entrees, and we delivered the bad news, he seemed truly horrified. He immediately whisked away the $24 bowl of whiskey-steamed mussels with preserved lemon, along with the plate holding our two pitiful discarded shells. He returned with a manager, who removed the dish from our bill and offered to replace it with any item from the menu. Understandably, my companion had lost her appetite.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

In later conversations, restaurant officials, including Executive Chef Christopher Le Métayer, were overwhelmingly apologetic.

They also described their quality-control process for the mussels, which they order up to four times a week, because the dish is so popular. From their description, they do everything right: The deliveries are cleaned and culled of open mussels when they arrive, refrigerated in individual portions, rinsed again and kept on ice in the kitchen until just before they’re cooked. Any mussels that open any time before cooking are discarded. The manager on duty the night of our visit said another party ordered the mussels and loved them.

By all accounts, our experience appears to be an anomaly. And, even after the bad shellfish, we still stayed for dessert.

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

That decision was rewarded with a spectacular, old-school baked Alaska, elevated by the addition of black tea and white peach ice cream. The bright white, meringue-coated dessert is a showstopper when torched tableside.

There are plenty of other bright spots at Brassica, too.

They serve a complimentary bread service of pimento cheese-filled gougères and focaccia with lemon and black pepper butter.

Many of the cocktails are very good, especially classics, such as the Vesper martini, Waldorf cocktail and Roman punch.

And, the yellow corn bisque, which our waiter extolled at length each time we visited, was creamy, savory and satisfying.

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

After the debacle with the mussels, potato dauphine provided a lifeline. The generous side dish is made with dollops of creamy, cloud-like potatoes that have been fried precisely for a delicate, crisp exterior.

Brassica also is a beautiful, comfortable place for a meal, with luxurious seating and amber light casting a glow over understated decor. Those positives met the expectations set by a restaurant where the cost of dinner easily can escalate beyond $100 per person.

If Brassica had been mistake-free aside from those mussels, it would have been tempting not even to mention them. But, a few other issues hinted at a slight lack of attention to detail at a restaurant with the ambition and prices that command the highest level of scrutiny.

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Credit: Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead

Quinoa crisps on a summery grilled avocado salad were stale. Collard greens in a side dish were undercooked and crunchy. Misspellings dotted the menu.

Our $110 Dover sole for two came with rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. The sides are meant to be approachable, but they weren’t elevated enough to justify the price.

Based on the restaurant’s response to our experience with the mussels, you can expect such errors to be rectified quickly. Most diners are likely to find the experience they want at Brassica, whether it’s an elegant atmosphere, refined cocktails, a romantic dessert with tableside theatrics or just proof that they can afford it.

Mistakes are inevitable, but the team at Brassica has shown character in its response, a trait worth supporting.

I just won’t be ordering mussels there — or anywhere else — for quite a while.

BRASSICA

Food: Southern classics with French inflection

Service: capable, but sometimes overbearing

Best dishes: yellow corn bisque, buttermilk fried Gulf oysters, baked Alaska, Dover sole

Vegetarian selections: braised beet salad, baby arugula and grilled avocado salad, little gem salad, butternut squash jambalaya, all side dishes

Alcohol: both classic and modern cocktails; a basic list of wines by the glass, and plenty by the bottle

Price range: $$$$

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: breakfast, 7-11 a.m. daily; lunch, 12-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; dinner, 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; brunch, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; afternoon tea, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Children: welcome; it’s a hotel restaurant

Parking: valet validated at host stand

MARTA access: short walk from Buckhead station

Reservations: yes

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: a sophisticated hum

Outdoor dining: yes

Takeout: no

Address, phone: 3376 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-995-7545

Website: brassicaatlanta.com

ExploreThe ultimate guide to pizza in Atlanta

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

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