Dining: Port in a Storm
Cape Dutch offers a sustenance shelter for gay Midtown foodies swept up in Atlanta’s eatery whirlwind of style over substance
By Mike Fleming
Not easily impressed by the prospect of another new restaurant, my date and I were more excited about the opportunity to catch up with each other than the off chance of being gastronomically wowed. Especially in Midtown on a random Thursday. Call us cynical gays, mostly because we are.
But give us a break. In a city full of four-star mainstays and celebrity cuisine, high-standard flash and “named” chefs can feel like a dime a dozen and leave a gay gourmand exhausted.
Enter the welcome port of Cape Dutch to the hit-or-miss squall lines of trendy-tables. It’s a fitting name since it translates loosely from Afrikaans to indicate western-coast port cities like Cape Town and the early European settlers that made a new home in those places. The restaurant is owned by South African native Justin Anthony, who also brings his native fare to Yebo, 10 Degrees South and Biltong Bar.
Cape Dutch delivers the region’s braai (rhymes with guy, and it means barbecue if you speak Georgian). A raging fire becomes a centerpiece of the restaurant’s soaring ceilings and a contemporary, subliminally nautical décor. At first, Cape Dutch may be most notable for bringing Buckhead’s hip restaurant vibe to Midtown in the former Woodfire Grill spot, but that feeling of something expected is temporary.
Turns out, braai is the grilled food experience that two cynical Southern queens raised on meat and potatoes didn’t know we were missing. One smell of select beef, seafood and exotic meats like elk, rabbit or lamb, and you’ll forget that a completely different set of gays are whooping it up just two doors down at Roxx.
And the menu isn’t afraid to leave South Africa and veer into ports all over the world. Anthony’s penchant for heritage combines with the European epicure of Belgian-born Chef Philippe Haddad, who elevates every dish for global flavors that converted this gay dining doubter.
Shaved asparagus and carrot get a lift with basil pesto. Spinach and arugula get goat cheese sorbet. Seared sea scallops appear over quinoa tabouli. At the risk of gushing, the braai turns same-old ribeye into a revelation.
I also tasted my dinner companion’s fall-off-the bone braai’d lamb shank, which was only improved by a buttery cauliflower puree. Other amazingness from the braai includes a whole fish, Maine Lobster, and 30-ounch Porterhouse, each with your choice of inspired sauces like Peri-Peri, Bernaise, and Red Wine Shallot Reduction.
We didn’t stop there. The gruyere gratin was pretty standard, but butternut squash steaks, lemongrass mussels in coconut milk, and caramelized Brussels sprouts were exceptional. House-made desserts from macaroons to chocolate soup with house-made raisin bread dipping sticks and almond brittle – we forced ourselves – may have permanently melted our icy hearts.
The restaurant didn’t know we were reviewing, making handshakes from general manager Mitch Flowers, expediting by Haddad himself, and the best service I’ve ever experienced in Atlanta even more remarkable. Ask for Andrew’s section for menu tips, wine pairings, inspired cocktail suggestions, and even a well-placed tidbit of appropriate conversation.
Quibbles go to the sometimes-noisy acoustics and a steep price point. If passing out stars and dollar signs, Cape Dutch easily earns five of each, but it’s worth it. Make it your hip dining respite for special occasions, or for picky gays you want to impress.
Want to go?
WHAT: Cape Dutch
WHERE: 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road NE, capedutchrestaurant.com
WHEN: Dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m.
HOW: $30-$50 per person before alcohol, sides and dessert