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Pumpkin panna cotta with Valrhona chocolate ganache; photography by Sara Hanna

The Modern Age

by Kate Abney | The Atlantan magazine | November 16, 2012

You may remember the ’90s. Recall Buckhead? Its decadent luster, its glossy sheen? In an economy of excess, Buckhead was it. But as corporate cool lost favor to industrial hip, culinary trails were blazed by restaurateurs like Anne Quatrano, Clifford Harrison and Ford Fry, transforming the once-rugged Westside into a regular boomtown. Next, Fry and other top toques—like Cakes & Ale’s acclaimed Billy Allin—conquered the fringes of the city, where Decatur was the last foodie frontier. Finally, it seems, Buckhead has decided to rejoin the movement.

The once fine-dining apex of Atlanta is suddenly booming again, with accessible eateries like Farm Burger, Twin Peaks and YEBO fulfilling the cool-casual quota, as higher-end restaurants—from Del Frisco’s Grille to F&B—proudly parade onto the scene. Even Ford Fry has tapped this growing trend by crowning the vacant Nava space his new King + Duke.

But there’s another piece of real estate we’ve had on our radar for more than a year, awaiting a big debut that somehow makes the recent restaurant surge seem shallow. Modern Restaurant + Bar, the first Atlanta eatery from renowned restaurateur Kane Xu (of Eastwood Restaurant Group), has finally bowed, in a sprawling Tower Walk space on Piedmont Avenue.

As if the location wasn’t incredible enough, the 12,000-square-foot resto comes complete with a 250-seat dining room, a sophisticated bar and a cushion-clad, 60-seat alfresco dining space—evoking the fourfold essence of a contemporary café, open-air bazaar, laid-back lounge and private escape. Retractable, floor-to-ceiling windows connect the buzzing patio with a luxe main dining room that promises to seduce on first blush. Conceived by Sandy Springs’ Retail Capital Group, its design elements make the grade: Contemporary globe lights, abstract art, staggered ceiling soffits and walls formed from both textured tile and diaphanous curtains. The environs are sleek and spare, yet not cold. Perhaps it’s the color palette? Soft, neutral shades of cream, ebony, rustic brown and café au lait keep it warm and inviting.

It’s all a stylish stage to display the talents of General Manager Mark Stewart, who brings to the table two decades of experience at such venerated Buckhead venues as Chops Lobster Bar (which he opened), Bone’s and Hal’s. And the gourmet fare? It’s finessed under the direction of Executive Chef Mark Alba, whose résumé sings from stints at Canoe, Food Studio, PARISH Foods & Goods, Eno and Spice. During his tenure as executive chef of Paces 88 American Bistro, the Buckhead restaurant won an AAA four-diamond rating and a natty nod from Esquire magazine. As expected, Alba’s prix-fixe tasting menus are exquisite, ranging from five to seven courses, giving you the full spectrum of contemporary American cuisine, perfectly paired with any of 120 wines.

Here, the market-driven dishes are as nuanced as they are adventurous, allowing both subtle and strong flavors to shine through. For fall, dig into sous vide pork belly with roasted parsnip faro, Tuscan kale, apple confit and a sherry-maple reduction. Or, for a lighter experience, request the roasted red and gold beets with Roquefort cheese, walnuts and ice wine gastrique. We call it gastrique magnifique.

Looking for a strong drink? Toss one back at the high-polish bar, where you’ll enjoy clever libations, like the Light at Midnight—combining Van Gogh Blue vodka, The Bitter End bitters, black plum, agave, mint and lime—or A Dutchman in Georgia, a zinger with Nolet gin, peach cream liqueur and Angostura bitters.

With all the options in place—gastronomical, environmental, experiential—Modern promises to be a spot you’ll return to again and again. After all, Buckhead deserves it.

Modern Restaurant + Bar
3365 Piedmont Road NE

Lunch: Mon.-Thu., 11:30am-11pm; Fri.-Sat., 10am-3pm; Sun., 4-10pm

Appetizers and sides: $7-$22
Special shellfish tasting: $48-$96
Entrees: $12-$45

Good Taste
Chef Mark Alba has constructed five- and seven-course tasting menus with wine pairings.

Host With the Most
There are three separate private dining spaces. Encased in glass, The Vista handles up to 30 people; The Chef’s Table seats up to 20; and The Outlook, overlooking the dining room, holds up to 12 people.

Dress the Part
Smart attire for a business lunch and sexy going-out wear for after-work drinks.

Sipping Notes
A hearty wine and beer list is coupled with creative cocktails, such as Swim in the Deep End, Down South Smash and Light at Midnight.