One might think that a restaurant that takes its name from a 19th century essay on architecture, and whose kitchen is run by a chef with a pedigree that includes working with the likes of Gunter Seeger and Joel Antunes would be a high-end, serious, white tablecloth kind of place. Not so with Seven Lamps and Chef Drew Van Leuven. This little-over-year-old dining spot takes high-minded ideals and serious cooking chops, and turns them into a casual environ where savouries and small plates are king.
Located in the Around Lenox shopping center, Seven Lamps may elude you the first time you try to find it. The rustic-modern, trapezoidal-shaped space is comprised of lots of communal tables – there are only a few 4-tops – a small bar and an open kitchen. At peak hours, the brick walls reverberate the noise of the crowd. Don’t worry about intruding into the conversations of your tableside neighbors though, as you’ll be lucky to hear yourself. Then again, you’re probably not here for an intimate meal.
Our friendly server greeted us quickly and explained the night’s specials. Seven Lamps is a seasonal, farm-to-table restaurant, and as such, the menu changes daily. If you’re like me and like to peruse a restaurant’s menu online before you visit, be forewarned that like many others, Seven Lamp’s will be outdated.
The small bar offers an interesting assortment of craft cocktails, wine, beer and jerk sodas. The Cyclone Kiss was a refreshing mixture of basil-infused vodka, strawberry balsamic, lemon and cracked pepper. The small yet varied wine list offers just about every wine by the glass…and if you haven’t had a Back Forty Naked Pig pale ale or a Three Heads Rochestafarian wee heavy ale in awhile, they have both.
The one page menu is divided into oysters, savouries, small plates, pastas and plates; you’ll find yourself torn at where to start. While you’re deciding, a small plate of pickled veggies and crème fraiche, compliments of the chef, will get your stomach thinking.
The hand-cut cottage fries are doing Mr. Potato Head proud. These full circumference cuts are par-cooked, sliced and fried to a light crisp with a creamy center. A Duke’s mayo and pepper concoction is served for dipping. Order the house ketchup as well. The lump crab fritter was a baseball-sized serving of crab with a tasty cucumber and caper dressing.
If it’s sausage and cheese you’re craving, there are a variety of charcuterie and artisan cheeses. The mortadella mousse on Sicilian macarons is the best little “bologna sandwich” that your mouth has tasted since childhood. The pimento cheese served with aigre doux, French for “sweet and sour,” grapes, candied nuts and grilled baguette, is some of the best this Southern boy has had anywhere in the city. It’s creamy good and served not too cold as to dull the flavor.
Small plate standouts were the half-dozen quail eggs, the beet salad and the Southern fried quail. The sunny-side up quail eggs with greens, radish and peppercorn dressing was a warm Caesar salad but even better. The beet salad was a surprising amalgam of red and yellow beets, strawberries, pickled fennel, avocado, hazelnut and goat cheese. The quail was a “Panko-ed” crispy little fellow with a touch of sorghum for sweetness.
All of the pastas are made in-house. The house-made agnolotti stuffed with fontina and ricotta cheeses was served with a spicy tomato ragu that contained bits of crispy pork. The dish evoked pleasant childhood memories of those familiar “Boyardee” products, but was similarly too salty.
The plates offerings of the evening were a trout, duck breast, hanger steak and a curiously out-of-place hot dog. The wood roasted Bramlett Farms trout was perfectly cooked, served over a potato puree with poached cucumbers and those aigre doux grapes. The truffle vinaigrette added an interesting musky acidity to the dish.
There’s one more thing you should know about Seven Lamps. It’s becoming a destination restaurant for its burger, a burger that isn’t even found on the menu.
Rumor has it that this 50/50, brisket/top-round beauty is a worthy contender in the on-going ATL burger wars. We plan to order it on our next visit.
Seven Lamps is located in the Shops Around Lenox, 3400 Around Lenox Rd., and can be found online at sevenlampsatl.com.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.