“The Beast” Goes Head To Head With Bistro Niko

When on the prowl, dining at several restaurants in a short span of time, there is always one that surpasses the rest. On our maiden voyage to Atlanta the meal that topped them all was our experience at Bistro Niko located in Buckhead Atlanta. This restaurant is part of a group of restaurants owned by “BuckheadLife RestaurantGroup”. Bistro Niko takes classic French dishes and puts a modern twist on them. All under the tutelage of their leader, Executive Chef – Gary Donlick.

As you enter the restaurant from the front entrance you are greeted by a free standing bar made of dark wood and a Roman numeral clock built into the wall behind it. As you pass around the bar, you enter one of the dining rooms. This dining room is large with tables, booths and horseshoe banquets. The booths and banquets are covered in elegant red leather. The ceiling, lighting and décor is exquisite.

The most amazing part of the restaurant is as you pass the main dining room, you will find on your right an open concept kitchen with a full glass front. I do not know how long I was there watching the brigade moving like a symphony, being conducted by Executive Chef Donlick because it felt like time stood still. I was in complete awww, feeling like a child in a candy store wanting to try everything that was being plated! Seeing true professionals and a culinary genius up close was becoming too much for this simple foodie to handle. He had awakened and it was time to “Feed The Beast”!

Seated at our table we examined the menu and with so many incredible choices, it was going to be a difficult task to make a decision. The exhilaration had to be controlled so drinks were ordered. I went with “The Monteleone”. This bourbon-whiskey cocktail with orange and bitters was the perfect selection to begin the evening. After the excitement was curtailed, we were able to make our selections for appetizers and entrees.

As for appetizers, we began with the “Sautéed New York Froie Gras”. It was served with a huckleberry port wine sauce which elevated the sweetness of the dish. The liver was perfectly seared and extremely delicate.

Next was the escargot “En Croute”. It was served in a garlic butter sauce with individual puffed pastries. The escargot was extremely tender and the sauce was amazing. It got to the point that when all the pastries were gone, we used bread to finish the sauce, fighting over the last drop.

The mustard-crusted roasted pork belly with pickled vegetables was the next dish to try. The mustard added a tender spiciness while the pickled vegetables added another level of flavor. You also had the brininess of the pork belly which was succulent and melted like warm butter in your mouth.

The final appetizer was their “Classic Steak Tartare”. This is a dish that you either love, hate or too scared to try. Prepared correctly it can be an amazing experience. In this case it was. For those that have the misconception that steak tartare is simply raw chop meat, you’re sadly mistaking. It begins with a whole muscle of the highest quality of beef that is prepared with spices, oil and other ingredients depending on the recipe. The tarter was served chilled and accompanied with toast points. The flavors from each bite were mystical and extremely refreshing on the pallet. You would think this would be a heavy dish, however it was quite light.

After some conversation, laughs and another round of drinks with the family it was time to begin enjoying our entrees which arrived at the table. Three of the dishes took the gold, silver and bronze medals, so I will focus on them.

Taking home the bronze medal was one of the specials which was sautéed haddock with mashed potatoes. The haddock had a wonderful sear. It was flaky and very tender as it sat on top of a light sauce. The mashed potatoes were creamy and went perfectly with the fish.

As for the silver, it was a dish I have made before at home. It was the classic French chicken stew known as “Coq Au Vin”. The chicken was served on the bone, where it was braised in red wine with parisien mushrooms, pearl onions and steamed potatoes. The chicken was so moist and tender it was falling off the bone. The sauce for the stew and the vegetables added several flavor profiles that were in complete harmony.

The pièce de résistance, which received the gold medal, was the pan roasted breast of duck which was served with orange supremes, red cabbage, and crisped duck potatoes. The temperature of the duck was a perfect, and I mean a perfect medium rare. I do not know how Executive Chef Donlick does it, but the skin was rendered and crisp but as tender as the rest of the duck. From looking at it, you would think it would break apart like crisp bacon but that was not the case. With each bite the flavors of the duck, sauce, oranges and cabbage was as close to an outer body experience one could have from food. If you ever get to Bistro Niko, please try this dish.

From the onset of this blog, I stated how this restaurant was in the forefront of the places we tried on this culinary adventure. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to dine here with some of the people I love most in the world. The entire evening was an amazing experience. This is just one of the ten restaurants owned by the “BuckheadLife RestuarantGroup”. I can only imagine how wonderful their other restaurants are. So there is only one thing left to do. One down, nine to go!

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