king + duke – atlanta, ga

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this week our NRW adventure brought us to the prestigious king + duke in buckhead.  how prestigious?  so much so that when i was chatting about it in the office, my foodie coworker james popped his head over the cube wall to listen in.

king + duke was simply chosen based on the restaurant’s view from the street.  although we have all been told not to judge a book by its cover, our bet paid off wonderfully.  king + duke’s colonial inspiration brought us a unique and memorable dining experience.  when you step inside, you find yourself trying to place a finger on just what kind of restaurant it is.

here are some of the ways our table tried to characterize it:

urban

trendy

bookish

literary

thoughtful

eclectic

the knowledgeable and friendly wait staff makes you feel so at home that you find yourself saying, “why not?  yes, i will have a glass of this with that.”

the music was assorted and “bumping,” as kiley so poetically put it.  the lighting had a modern twist and was quite aggressive.  the décor was minimal yet effective.  and as for the smells of this place?  with the open air kitchen within sightlines, you would want to try everything that passed by your table, even if only a hint of the dish reached your senses.  speaking of scents, i was told our waitress smelled quite nice that evening.  take that one how you will.

our party of ten was seated in the middle of the dining room with prime people-watching views.  king + duke very much feels like a place where people go to be seen.  and i would be lying if i did not think we were just a little bit cooler for being there ourselves.  our group was a bit cozy, and i think a party over eight is a bit of a stretch.  good thing we all like each other.

now, with so many folks at dinner, there is going to be quite a bit to share about the food.  i will start us off easy with appetizers and drinks though.  after filling our water glasses, the waitress promptly brought perhaps the most savory starter i have had in some time:  POPOVERS.  we had no shame in scarfing those first helpings down.  they were the perfect amount of sweet and were cooked just so in that the outside was crispy and the inside was still soft and doughy.  thank goodness for the small amount of self-control i have or else i would have eaten platefuls of them as my meal.

a few orders of more appetizers were brought for the table.  the review of the cheese plate was a great one.  the grilled bread was buttery and made the perfect vessel for not only the cheese but also the citrus preserve.  to my right, kari had ordered the simple salad, which was elevated above fine thanks to the unusual vinaigrette.  bank and liz snacked on the fish spread with veggies and crackers.  i rounded out the appetizers with a plate of earthy carrots and beets.  beets are one of my favorite foods, but i have to admit that these veggies may have just been a bit too earthy with their char.  there is no doubt, however, that all these starters used the finest ingredients to be found.

our first course was supplemented by drinks all around.  the most charming drink novel listed the many pages of adult beverages possibilities.  most of the diners stuck with beer that had been chosen from a decent selection.  kiley risked her evening on a very strong and very swedish cocktail that was not too bad at all.

as for the main course, we will start with alison at the head of the table, who, like jamie, ordered the chicken dish.  the chicken was delicious, and although it was very french in its preparation, it was very enjoyable.  both ladies commented that the side of asparagus was a great pairing with the meal.  seated between them, nathan had the bar streak that left something to be desired.  although the french fries were crispy and tasty, the meat was fatty and saucy.  he wish he had ordered something else.

claire went a bit out-of-the-box and had the rabbit.  the thigh tasted a bit gamey, but the pâté and toast were scrumptious.  eric and kiley both gave the monk fish a try.  their first reaction was, and i quote eric, that “the presentation was a bit tricky,” leaving him wondering what was the bread and what was the fish!  after some initial tastes, eric decided his fish was tender and savory, while kiley thought it was just okay.  and, as though they were playing opposites that night, kiley thought the fish was too heavily dressed while eric wanted to lick the bowl clean.

next came the scallops, which liz and i both ordered.  they were just, ah, a breath of fresh air.  i always love to order scallops when the opportunity arises.  the three scallops were atop a light and savory butter sauce, so savory that i did not eat anything else in the bowl.  if you ask liz, though, she can tell you that the grapefruit and caramelized fennel were a nice touch.

last but not least we have our final two diners.  kari got to enjoy the pork roast.  when it was brought to her, the waiter poured the sauce table-side so that the dish would not grow soggy.  from what she told me, kari was glad they did so because although the dish was tasty enough, it was a bit on the salty side overall.  and as for bank, he wanted to suck the bone dry of the duck that he had.  hardly a morsel was left on his plate!

as the table was cleared, dessert menus so conveniently found their way to us.  bank and liz shared the sticky toffee pudding, of which they let me sneak a taste.  talk about rich!  bank even described it as “liquid pralines.”  in early celebration of alison’s birthday, we took turns with our spoons to try the red velvet cake.  honestly, the dessert received mixed reviews.  some were intrigued by the zesty combinations of cake, sauce, and ice cream while i, personally, will most certainly pass on it the next time i go.

ford fry and joe schafer, the owner and executive chef, respectively, of king + duke, set out to honor our past through food that “nods to…american traditions, [that] harken(s) back to the way food used to be prepared.”  simply and perfectly.

if you ask me, i would say it was a mission accomplished.  although we did not know just what we were to expect, this spot delivered in many ways.  from the complimentary valet to the helpful staff to the food, king + duke’s reputation is well-earned.  so, the next time you find yourself in need of a special evening or perhaps just another wednesday night, find your way to king + duke.  you might ask yourself why you waited so long to discover it.

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