Legend has it that a ye ol' Spanish king required slight nibbles of food always be served with wine. (Apparently the marriage of the two successfully remedied said king's illness.) Thus, the birth of tapas.
We now have other ways of taking care of wee plagues, but food consistently does a body bueno, regardless of whether it's basted, broiled or basking in bacon fat, duck fat or butter.
Wha? Did someone say duck fat? I'll get to that in a bit.
Aquamoree, derived from the Italian words for water and love, both so divinely drinkable, softly opened its doors Nov. 8. A self-proclaimed purveyor of Southern tapas, the new locale is run by mother-son team Sheila and chef Brandon Fortune, plus an investor who helped put Brandon through culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta (thanks, man).
After battling the Village parking demons, a girl really appreciates a serene setting and Aquamoree, predessor Pasquale's replacement, is definitely that. The burnt sienna walls serve as a kind of gallery for local photographer Jeremy Collins; I dig it. Outdoor seating is sparse, but attractive—inclusive of a Mediterranean-style terrace. We, however, plant it inside.
Our server Erika is a gem. She sports a name tag that indicates her Guadalajara origins, so I like her already (my father-in-law is simultaneously from Guadalajara and one of my favorite people). Erika is clearly service-minded, which is not something I always come to expect. In fact, upon walking in, I have a misguided hunch that the exact opposite is in play.
While waiting for our vittles, Erika bears a tasting of chef's soup du jour: a creamy cauliflower concoction with hazelnuts, truffle oil and vanilla bean. The nuts can use some roasting, but it's a splendid treat. This is how you get your kids to eat their veggies (oh, let's not broach the subject of its butter contents).
Next comes the pommes frites with two aiolis. Despite the fact that it's merely a fancy schmancy word for homemade mayonnaise with ample garlic, let me be clear: Ain't nothing wrong with aioli. In Holland, vendors serve fries and mayo on every corner and, aside from past colonization, the Dutch do things right. Peppercorn and parmesan aiolis are a delightful accoutrement to said frites which, while clearly not made in-house, are crispy, tasty and pretty righteous. (I do like 'em a little thinner, but not anorexic-like.) Come to find out this crispiness is derived from a key ingredient (cover your eyes, PETA): duck fat. Highlighting dishes with ingredients a la fatty animal is trendy, yet a-okay with me, but this particular one should be indicated on the menu.
The two mains—lobster mac 'n cheese and the crabcake—come out looking all enticing. At $15 a pop, the crabcake is no steal, however, and given that the place is situated next to ever-popular George's at the Cove where, for $13 I can get a delicious full lunch and an ocean view, I'm not convinced the little devil is priced to sell. The flavor is good and the accompanying sweet pickles are unique and welcome additions, which speaks volumes considering my usual disdain for them. The texture of the crabcake, however, is slightly off. I favor a crisper crabcake if it's relying on breading or, preferably, one that leans, instead, on an abundance of fresh lump meat (my favorite being Oceanaire Seafood Room's). This is, however, day two in business and I'm already feeling warm and fuzzy about the place.
Now, I'm hesitant to try the lobster mac 'n cheese, though it's typically a delight of my life, for I spy that its contents include goat cheese which, food snob or not, I just can't stomach. I'm ready to pinch my nose as bite number one hits my tongue, but it's surprisingly tasty and perfectly al dente; none of that goatiness I come to expect. (Judge all you want, aristocrats; I'm simply not down with the musk.)
Enter the uh-oh moment. Hubby, who's gleefully enjoying his cheesy noodleness, flaunts a shell-shocked look. Rightfully so; he's bitten into a tiny piece of lobster shell. At first, he thinks it's his tooth but, as his tongue begins probing from incisor to molar, he's relieved to find everything intact. We assume, though not positively, that it is lobster shell and not a piece of his tooth. We hesitantly alert our server, who apologizes and takes the morsel back to chef, returning to confirm that, indeed, it was lobster shell. Our dentist will not be enjoying a visit from my better half.
In a nutshell (thankfully not a lobster one), we love the ambiance and think chef is swell (no apparent air of arrogance or hubris), but are dismayed to find that strides have not been taken to remedy the tooth/lobster shell situation. In other words, the check reflects the full total of the meal. When a fledgling fine dining establishment steps into this world, the first thousand eaters are imperative. Still, given that we dined only two days into its hopefully long lifetime—a time when most restaurants are just getting their sea legs—we were pleased with how together the place was.
Kudos to chef Fortune who, I hope, makes his namesake on this eatery.