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Take Me to Church

By Kate Abney | August 2, 2016 | Articles

5Church is a restaurant, sure, but it’s also a party. Waltz in from the Midtown streetfront (it’s ensconced in the former Shout! digs at Colony Square) to discover a contemporary dining room design, a swirl of activity, loud music and a cacophonous din of voices—mostly young professionals who love networking as much as socializing. You know right away you’re about to have a good time. Supremely jovial owner Ayman Kamel (originally from New York City) had been hoping for a decade to open a spot in Atlanta, and took enthusiastic ownership over the design execution. Take note of eyecatching pieces such as the angel-wing pendants above the marble bar; large-scale art by such talents as Rodney Raines, William Massey and Bhakti Baxter; a twisted tree sculpture by Michael Puzio that divides the enormous dining room; and a ceiling by Charlotte, N.C., artist Jon Norris completely covered in the words from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, (with naughty phrases hidden in the mix). And that makes sense, since chef R.J. Cooper, a onetime Atlantan and a James Beard Award-winner, is a bit of a rebel himself. When asked how he put a local mark on the third iteration of the Charlotte-based restaurant group (so named for the Queen City’s North Church Street), the bold chef said, “because it’s my menu.” Too true.

We love the hints at Georgia locality, like you’ll find in the peachy Preacher’s Daughter cocktail or the botanical rosemary fizz made with Hendrick’s gin, but 5Church classics like the Viper (Patrón silver, orange liqueur, lime juice, cucumber water and cayenne pepper) and the Wild Berry Mojito (Bacardi Limón with Chambord, mixed berries and mint) will also wet your whistle. Oenophiles will delight in nearly 200 wines, which include popular sips like the Ruffino Modus Super Tuscan and the Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. Champagne for the campaign? The owners love anything with bubbles, so be sure to knock back a few glasses during its forthcoming boozy brunch (bowing Aug. 13).

As for dinner, start with an order of the fried pigtail croquettes, which are served with two well-paired sauces: a beer-yeast mustard and a red-wine apple butter. Meanwhile, the housemade burrata with spiced honey and local peach-tomato coulis or the pastrami-cured hamachi fish with red mole spices are both solid starters.

Flavor impact here is like: boom—even in light fare like the ultrapopular Alabama-sourced jumbo lump crabcakes. Though tiny for the lofty price ($15 each), the meat is high-quality and tastes refreshing paired with a seaweed salad doused in soy-ginger vinaigrette. Also tasty? The wine-braised and wood-fired octopus on a bed of savory red-bean hummus, featuring dots of sweet lemon gel and pea tendrils to garnish.

Though inspired by Cooper’s high-end culinary education, the eats are comfortingly down-to-earth; you don’t have to be a five-star foodie to find them yummy and familiar. For the main course, try the whole-roasted fish—accompanied by garlic, potatoes, lemon slices and broccoli rabe—or the buttery, Grade A-5 Kagoshima wagyu rib-eye (these pampered steers are massaged with sake and fed beer!) served with yuzu barbecue sauce, smoked sea salt and a bowl of “forbidden” black rice cooked in the rendered fat.

For sweets, we were surprisingly pleased with the peanut butter and chocolate mousse—another nod to Georgia that was decadent perfection in every bite (and our primary reason to return). Want light? Opt for a triple scoop of watermelon-tomato sorbet or the twisted chocolate, which features a curl of chocolate fudge on a bed of liquid nitrogen-frozen sorbet beads, lavender ice cream and dried brownie crumbles. Gastronomical, indeed!

1197 Peachtree St. NE


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