JEZE - May 2016

Comeback Kid

Kate Abney 2016-05-02 15:22:40

Legendary chef Tom Catherall returns from semiretirement, ushering in the resurrection of an Atlanta institution. TomTom has returned ladies and gents. No, not that nifty GPS device; we’re talking about the resurrected Tom Catherall hot spot, now in the digs of his former restaurant Noche in Virginia-Highland. Embodying the spirit of the old Azalea and TomTom your parents adored, it has a modernity that makes it the must-visit of spring. After the 2015 dissolution of his Here to Serve restaurant empire, the Culinary Institute of Americacertified master chef came out of semiretirement to do what he loves most, working at-least-10- hour days and even launching a Sunday brunch program this May—so you can TomTom all day every day. What you’ll get here is global cuisine (Catherall hails from Newcastle, England after all), with deep French, Italian, Japanese, Greek and Southern influences. International ’80s hits waft through a sun-drenched, whitewashed renovation by Dillard Pierce Design Associates, the residential firm Catherall convinced to take on its first restaurant project. And, boy, have Christy Dillard Kratzer and Heidi Pierce created Virginia-Highland’s newest see-and-be-seen. And the food, of course, is what keeps them coming. When Catherall re-entered the restaurant industry, he brought with him many loyal employees from Here to Serve, including Pastry Chef Joanie Trotochaud (known for daily-changing desserts like berry cobbler and banana-bread pudding) and Raul Hernandez, who was the chef at Noche’s Brookhaven location. Also in the kitchen is Catherall’s son, Ryan, a 30-year-old chef (and craftbeer guru to boot) who studied at the Brew Lab at the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom. A notable habitué of Buford Highway, he brings a hip, youthful energy to the menu. You’ll see his mark on dishes like the grilled shrimp, with deglazed white wine sauce with herb butter and garlic, served with bread for dipping. Like all TomTom entrees, these top out at $18, which means they won’t break the bank, while shareable weeknight specials ring up at $22. Cocktails are equally well-priced ($10 to $12)and we love the My Sharona—a refreshing watermelon margarita with agave and jalapeño that has the perfect Southern taste with a salt rim—and the Hemingway daiquiri, poured into a dramatic metallic coupe. Don’t miss the moscatobased Tiff any: Mixing pear vodka, cognac vodka, lime and simple syrup in a lovely crystal flute, it hints at the nostalgia that led to a childhood of blue raspberrystained tongues, but it’s also not too sweet and tasteful, as a Tiff any should be. Apps include avocado bruschetta, blistered shishito peppers and warm burrata salad with heirloom tomato and arugula. We know hummus plates may seem pedestrian, but stay with us: With its warm marinated feta and charred lemon, TomTom’s might be the best we’ve savored outside a Mediterranean vacation. Like tacos? Get ready to taste your new favorites. Surprisingly sizeable and happy-hour priced at $10 for a trio, they range from marinated Mexican skirt steak to Korean barbecue with kimchee. And most importantly, after a successful cameo on MTV’s Daryl’s House (it was country cutie Anderson East’s fave!), Noche’s famed Trailer Park taco has returned, while Catherall has also introduced a Nashville hot chicken flavor, served on thick white bread and garnished with pickles. An ambassador of sorts for Springer Mountain Farms, Catherall argues that his craveable fried chicken may be Atlanta’s best. And in a city with such stiff competition for the Southern delicacy, Catherall is making a strong run for the title. Still, the beef Mac Burger is divine, and the luscious lamb burger delights with tzatziki and Moroccan spice. Continuing the Eastern influences are wontonlike spring rolls stuff ed with Gulf shrimp, spinach and avocado, plus yogurt-based calabrese pepper sauce to dip—only one of the stellar seafood options; Catherall maintains a vacation spot in Seaside, Fla., so he personally brings home wild-caught seafood following his almost weekly trips to the coast. We highly recommend the wood-grilled octopus. Bedded on white-bean ragout and fresh friseé greens, then topped with umami-pac dressing and crunchy kosher salt, the tasty charred mollusk is almost too pretty to eat from its seaglasshued, starfish-shaped plate. Still, TomTom’s pièce de résistance is the whole fresh catfish—stuff ed with ginger, fried to a crispy skin and topped with chile black bean sauce and green onions, it’s an adventure to share. As for dessert, delightful options abound; however, a glass bottle of milk and chocolate chip cookies come standard with every bill arrival, ensuring your visit is always sweet from start to finish.

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