All Hail the Former Governor: Atrium

09/25/2013 4:00 AM |

Photo courtesy Atrium

15 Main Street, DUMBO

4 L’s

If fall had a flavor, it would taste something like Atrium’s house-made, applewood-smoked potato bread, a crusty, chewy loaf that captures the essence of campfires and chimney smoke. When we asked if there was bacon in the bread, our waiter explained that smoked yeast gives the bread its toasty flavor and politely added that it reminds him of a peaty, smoky Scotch. In the bar area, where the stools are upholstered in crisp white, it would make a perfect bar snack, paired with your brown liquor of choice, but it also makes a fine first bite in the bi-level dining room. The space (formerly the short-lived and Sandy-devastated Governor) is modern, and the staff is buttoned-up, but there’s still an outdoorsy feel. A verdant, vertical garden thrives on one wall, and high industrial ceilings are painted as dark as the night sky and draped with string lights. Tables on the lower floor are close to the action of the spacious open kitchen, and during our visit, the mezzanine provided a semi-secluded spot for a lively private party.

The menu pushes Mediterranean dishes that are prettily plated and hearty, too. On our table, a big, juicy chicken breast met a meltingly tender baby eggplant in an elegant pool of delicately spiced yogurt sauce. The dish was topped with an array of fresh, feathery herbs for color and pine nuts for an earthy crunch. A bountiful bowl of gazpacho included a generous portion of sweet, fresh crabmeat. And one of the most delicious bites of the night was from an unexpectedly rich and savory vegetarian dish; the quinoa tagliatelle came with two preparations of the healthful grain: as light, chewy pasta noodles, and as crispy, salty kernels sprinkled atop the dish. A creamy cauliflower sauce, redolent of lemon and cumin, made this pasta dish one of the best vegetarian entrees we’ve tasted in a while.

The only dish that disappointed us was a baby greens and shaved beets salad. Tart, jewel-like pickled blackberries, raspberries and blueberries supplied juicy bursts, and the inner rim of the salad bowl had been lightly brushed with a magenta puree of berries and beets for a beautiful effect, but the salad was otherwise undressed and very dry. That said, the late-summer salad days have just about passed, and Chef Laurent Kalkotour’s haute yet homey cooking seems best suited for cold weather. As wintry dishes like sweetbreads with chanterelles and chorizo, pork chops with spoonbread, kale with bacon, and creamy corn sailed past our table, we pledged to come back on a chillier night.