REVIEW: Oreatha’s is on point with fusion of Southern, global dishes

Oreatha's Thai-Southern fusion entree tod mun pla features a whole fried catfish on a bed of riced cauliflower grits, with tamarind hot sauce and curry coleslaw. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Oreatha's Thai-Southern fusion entree tod mun pla features a whole fried catfish on a bed of riced cauliflower grits, with tamarind hot sauce and curry coleslaw. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Unlike culinary mashups that feel forced or contrived, the creative fare at Oreatha’s at the Point, Deborah VanTrece’s new Southern fusion restaurant, is as on point as her timely expansion into Cascade Heights, with the first of three restaurants she plans to open this year in the southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

It makes perfect sense for VanTrece to include a dish inspired by Thai fish cakes. Developed with Executive Chef Christian “Lucke” Bell, the tod mun pla is a stunner that features a whole fried catfish resting upright on a bed of riced cauliflower grits — sort of a cousin to Southern shrimp and grits. The grits are heady with coconut and are flanked by tamarind hot sauce and curry coleslaw.

The explosion and harmony of flavors is emblematic of what VanTrece has been doing at Oreatha’s since its late March opening: showcasing the global nature of food and ingredients through dishes prepared for dinner tables around the world. The restaurant is named in honor of her mother, and seeks the similarities among cuisines that, as VanTrece sees it, all begin with a mother’s cooking from the heart.

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Duck ravioli in a creamy carbonara sauce is a standout starter at Oreatha's at the Point. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Duck ravioli in a creamy carbonara sauce is a standout starter at Oreatha's at the Point. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Combined ShapeCaption
Duck ravioli in a creamy carbonara sauce is a standout starter at Oreatha's at the Point. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Plenty of dishes at Oreatha’s achieve this vision, particularly the appetizers — from smoked eggplant hummus with a tower of grilled okra, to tempura-battered vegetables (okra, shishito peppers and artichoke hearts) with a spicy garlic-chile harissa aioli for dipping, to a panzanella salad made with cornbread croutons, burrata, collard greens and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette that stands up to the thick leafy ribbons.

I could rave all day about the duck ravioli, the pasta so light and pillowy, the stuffing so tender and savory, the carbonara so rich and creamy that it requires an order of bread, lest it go to waste. Ditto on duck Rangoon, featuring a juicy filling mimicking barbecued pulled pork, and served with sweet and sour peach dipping sauce.

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Duck Rangoon is a fine Southern spin on a beloved Chinese-American appetizer. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Duck Rangoon is a fine Southern spin on a beloved Chinese-American appetizer. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Combined ShapeCaption
Duck Rangoon is a fine Southern spin on a beloved Chinese-American appetizer. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

I’d have loved to try the duck in pot pie form. Unfortunately, it was sold out during my first visit, and I overlooked it on a subsequent visit, because it was listed in fine print. I’ll look forward to trying this popular offering, because I’m not as sold on other mains.

Linguine noodles in a lemony caper sauce were so glutenous that they stuck together as one mass, instead of intertwining with sauteed spring vegetables. Chicken tagine, served in traditional earthen cookware, lacked the depth of flavor you’d expect from a Moroccan dish that usually includes deeply aromatic seasonings. Moreover, the chicken was dry, and salt dominated the saffron rice.

Parisian steak and frites, a massive platter holding a 20-ounce strip, hand-cut fries and a mixed green salad, had plenty of eye appeal, but execution was off. Ordered medium rare, it was closer to rare and relied on a truffle bearnaise sauce (delicious!) instead of headlining its own beefy flavor.

While a dining partner enjoyed the bounty of scallops and halibut in the seafood ramen, I found the broth overly woody and ginger-heavy.

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Oreatha's interior has calming gray-blue and white brick walls, and the restaurant also boasts a breezy patio. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Oreatha's interior has calming gray-blue and white brick walls, and the restaurant also boasts a breezy patio. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Combined ShapeCaption
Oreatha's interior has calming gray-blue and white brick walls, and the restaurant also boasts a breezy patio. Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

VanTrece, who opened her first restaurant in East Atlanta Village in 1998, has been an active champion of Black culinarians looking to further their own careers. She has put Oreatha’s desserts in the hands of two aspiring pastry chefs, Sade “Sam” McMullen and Briana Riddick. However, their desserts were unavailable during my visits. The outsourced dessert offerings that I did sample — red velvet cake, pecan caramel cheesecake and chocolate cake — were adequate, but seemed out of sync with the rest of Oreatha’s food.

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VanTrece, likewise, has named her daughter, Kursten Berry, beverage director for all of her restaurants. As Oreatha’s awaits its liquor license, Berry’s mixing skills are on display on weekends in complimentary specialty cocktails (a spin on an Old-Fashioned and a tropical punch spiked with Tito’s during one visit). Also on offer, until the license comes through, is free beer and wine (maximum of two glasses).

Free alcohol is a good draw, but there’s so much else at Oreatha’s — a genuinely engaged staff, a manageable interior with calming gray-blue and white brick walls, a breezy patio, and the kitchen’s careful sorting-through of today’s global pantry to create dishes from the heart, just like Mom.

OREATHA’S AT THE POINT

Food: Southern fusion

Service: inviting, enthusiastic and informed

Best dishes: smoked duck ravioli, barbecue spiced duck Rangoon, harissa grilled cauliflower steak, tod mun pla Thai seasoned catfish, panzanella burrata collard salad

Vegetarian selections: smoked eggplant hummus, vegetable tempura, harissa-grilled cauliflower steak, vegetarian linguine, mixed green salad, panzanella burrata collard salad, desserts

Alcohol: full bar, pending liquor license; in the meantime, complimentary wine and beer (and choice of specialty cocktails on weekends); BYOB with $25 corkage fee

Price range: $$$-$$$$ (automatic 20% gratuity on all checks)

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: dinner, 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; brunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays

Children: yes, preferably adventurous eaters

Parking: free street parking

MARTA station: none

Reservations: accepted

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: low

Outdoor dining: patio with umbrella tables

Takeout: yes, call or order in person; no delivery

Address, phone: 2287 Cascade Road SW, Atlanta; 404-228-4851

Website: oreathasatthepoint.com

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