866 West Peachtree Street NW (inside the Renaissance Midtown Hotel)
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
I had wanted to visit Briza for a while, and as a huge Top Chef fan, as soon as I heard the executive chef (Janine Falvo) was going to be on the show I knew the time had come to finally check it out. I brought along my sister and we made our way to Briza on a particularly dreary Tuesday evening. It was cold and rainy, but the minute we ducked inside out of the rain we felt warm and cozy. The rich colors and soft glow of the overhead silver globes set a very cool and chic mood and I was immediately excited for the meal ahead! All the seats feel tucked away, like you’re in your own little nook. We were seated in a circular booth, which despite being in the center of the restaurant, felt very private and exclusive.
We decided the atmosphere called for drinks, and we started browsing the drink menu. I settled on the Passion Royale with prosecco, grand mariner, and passion fruit ($12) and my sister went with the Nectar Margarita ($11) featuring cuervo traditional reposado tequila, fresh lime, and agave nectar. Our drinks quickly arrived and after our first sips, the strong (but not overpowering) drinks were exactly what we needed to start warming up on that cold night.
Next we decided on some appetizers. We chose the grilled calamari with arugula, gremolata and an ink vinaigrette ($9) and the crab hushpuppies with a malt vinegar aioli ($11). Both dishes were presented so nicely we almost didn’t want to eat them! The bright colors and different sauces streaked across the plates like brush strokes made each appetizer look like a work of art. After admiring them for a few moments, we dug in and quickly cleaned both plates. The grilled calamari was by far my favorite, and even converted my sister who swore she would only like it breaded and fried.
Excited by how good our appetizers were, we quickly ordered our main courses. On the chef’s suggestion I got the Berkshire pork chop with summer succotash and a bacon-tomato broth ($24). It turned out to be everything she promised it would be; the meat was moist and flavorful, and the summer succotash was the perfect complement. My sister ordered the shrimp and grits with clams, housemade andouille sausage, and black garlic ($24). This version was definitely fancier than I’m used to ordering, but the rich and creamy grits and plump shrimp were spot on and delicious. The portions were generous, but not over the top, leaving us with just enough room for dessert.
After taking way too long mulling over the intriguing options, we decided to split the flexible ganache with cherries, brown butter streusel, sel gris ice cream and Chef Janine’s famous bacon powder. Complete with perfectly complementing flavors and textures, the soft (almost gooey, but not quite) chocolate ganache paired perfectly with the crunchy streusel and creamy ice cream. On top of it all, the savory bacon powder added a dash of salt that oddly enough, somehow made everything taste even sweeter. With each bite, the flavors fluctuated from sweet to savory and I couldn’t help letting a few “Mmmm.” noises escape as we ate.
It was the perfect end to our meal, and we Ieft full, happy, and so impressed with the restaurant. I know for me, the fact that Briza is attached to a hotel (The Renaissance Midtown nee Hotel Palomar) was initially a slight hindrance. I felt like it was off limits somehow and meant solely for hotel guests, but this could not be further from the truth. Perfect for locals or travelers alike, everyone should experience a meal like ours at Briza.