Friday, June 20, 2008

belated: review of Dante's Down the Hatch

First of all, I have decided "the Hatch" is a much funnier and much more appropriate shortening of the name then "Dante's". Please note afore mentioned restaurant will henceforth be referred to as "the Hatch".

I just thought I would throw that out there. Now, back to the matter at hand. My review. Touted as one of Atlanta's must visit restaurants, the Hatch sits unassumingly in the middle of Buckhead. Cozily tucked off the main drag, it is surrounded by several sleek, modern neighbors that you can see poking above the tree lined parking lot. High rises and retail are absolutely engulfing the whole area, yet the modest wooden sign seems to pop right out onto Peachtree and beckon you in.

The exterior is reminiscent of the themed pathways that lead you up to the rides at Six Flags (props to Christy P. for the perfect illustration). Very cool and unexpected, also super creepy swamp vibe after dark. A small doghouse ... oh, i guess I mean alligator house?? ... can be seen just along the entry path. Apparently Dante has a thing for gators. This particular display pays homage to "Throckmorton". According to the conflicting signs adorning his memorial, he was either 120 years old or 33 years old. I couldn't get confirmation. Entering under the simple welcome aboard sign doesn't prepare you for what you are about to see.

Oh - in case you didn't know. These very fancy signs are posted EVERYWHERE on the way up to the restaurant. For people that do layout and design for a living, this was a nightmare.

Stepping through the front doors sends you into a world of ships, first mates and jazz (who knew). You walk the little plank past the hostess stand and are led through possibly the most precarious steps I have ever witnessed in a restaurant down to your seat. We scored a prime spot - in the ship portion of the restaurant - right next to the jazz trio that was playing for the evening. They were impressive to say the least. The elaborate decor was honestly hard to describe. It looked like you were sitting on a ship. A ship with lots of tables and chairs and romantic nooks, but a ship nonetheless.

This was the very odd waiting area/barber shop outside the restrooms. The whole restroom experience was bizarre.

So ... onto the dinner. If I being totally honest, after all the hype and the excitement leading up to this dinner, I was mostly underwhelmed by the food. The boiling, bubbling oil was a little intimidating. The plate containing all of my raw food - chicken, pork, beef, shrimp and veggies all together - was a little disturbing. Mostly because I am OCD about my raw meats not mingling. In addition to the mingling, there wasn't a large amount of food for the cost per person and THEN you work for your food.

The entire eating portion of the meal was a strategic ballet of each persons' skewer being placed delicately in the fondue in such a way that fully immersed their item, while not sitting directly upon anyone else's all the while being cautious to keep from knocking items off the tip of the skewer and cause fishing (the fishing for your food became quite the skill.)

All that being said ... look how freaking happy we all are!! It boils (excuse the pun) down to are going here for the company and the ambiance. It was a fantastic experience and that is certainly what you are paying for. Though the food was a lot of work and score of par at best, the whole thing sets the mood for great conversation. There was plenty of time to chat, share stories, enjoy the music and most of all, laugh at each other while we perform the seemingly simple task of cooking. Who knew you needed a whole different set of skills to fondue!

The back parking lot was full of old cars and fun trinkets from Dante's adventures. These were some of my favorites. The description of the 1928 Whippet was particularly fascinating.

I have decided that I will be going back. Please take a moment to read all the RULES and REGULATIONS associated with the chocolate fondue (choose from the restaurant drop down menu). I have heard the raves about how amazing it is and upon further investigation discovered that you have to work to even make this dessert a reality. Despite the hoops you must jump through - the goal is to set up a dessert at the Hatch sometime this winter. I hope I optimistic that I will be WOWED!!


Alison said...

hahaha.. excellent review! i almost fell practically every time i walked anywhere in that place. and the chocolate fondue is amazing. the fruit tray comes with more fruit than you could possibly eat in your entire life. check out this after-shot of ours. and did you get to meet dante? because when you get the chocolate fondue, he definitely comes to your table to explain it's life story to you. it's a pretty interesting and delicious experience.

Ashley & Scott Boatman said...

i am so jealous of this delicious looking dessert. ok. you have sealed it. i am in at least one more time for dessert. it looks to scrumptious to miss out on.