Saturday, March 14, 2009

Atlanta's Flip Burger Boutique

Signature burger, vodka battered onion rings and Greek slaw

Sorry if I’ve been away from this page for a little longer than usual. I have a good excuse. You see, it was bound to happen eventually and I simply had to go back to work. While I found my early and forced retirement to be a very pleasant (and conducive to writing), that nagging little problem of money would have eventually crept into the picture. Employed again, getting settled in and with newly arrived laptop in hand, I should be back to the blog.

My second week with the new company found me in Atlanta. Atlanta is a great town for a foodie. I don’t say this because I’ve explored many nooks and crannies of that city but because of the times I have visited, my dining experiences have been noteworthy. Last week was no different. Since I didn’t have my computer with me, I didn’t have the usual benefit of perusing the dining scene online. I used the old fashioned way of actually reading reviews in local magazines. One magazine (you know the one that’s published seasonally and put in every hotel room? -that one) had an article about the uprising of celebrity owned or inspired restaurants in the Atlanta area. The one that caught my eye was Richard Blais’ creation called Flip. Blais is a serious young chef with an unparalleled flare. He graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed under some prestigious names. Last year he was the runner up on Bravo’s Top Chef and, while he was the front runner most of the season, fell in the final round.

Now I’ve had problems with celebrity restaurants before. I’ll name names people. I have had less than great food at places owned by Gloria Estefan, Keyshawn Johnson (football player), Spike (another Top Chef celebrity) and a couple others I won’t mention. Name recognition might get them in the door but the food has to win them back. Still there was something special about Richard Blais. He was my favorite to win and I consistently wanted to try the creations he offered to the judges week after week. So off to Flip it is.

Flip pays homage to the burger. If you think you’ve eaten a burger just about every way possible, this place will open your eyes to a whole new way of doing it and you will be thrilled. For the beef burgers they grind their own combination of Hangar steak, Brisket and Short rib to get a perfect ratio of hearty taste and just enough fat. Then Blais carefully crafts the perfect and unique burger condiments. From smoked mayo to housemade pickles, these menu items are well thought out and difficult to decide amongst. If you really are in the mood to spend a small fortune on 5.5 oz of burger, you can order the Japanese Kobe beef burger with seared Fois Gras for $45. On the right side of the menu are the non beef choices. Things like ground pork or turkey, tuna or lamb made in different ethnic styles from Cuban to Vietnamese.

Personally I chose the Lamburger. It was topped with green olive relish, cucumber yogurt, homemade raisin catsup and mint. It was like visiting Istanbul on a bun. These traditional Mediterranean flavors married so well with the tender juicy burger that I almost forgot I was eating a burger. It really was more of a high end offering the like I’ve seen at places like Chef Andre’s Washington DC establishment, Zaytinyas. I was impressed, thrilled even. The sides on the menu are as equally creative as the burgers. You can enjoy vodka battered onion rings, tempura asparagus or sweet potato tots.

My lamburger

Then there are the shakes. On Top Chef, Blais was known for his use of liquid nitrogen to get that smoky effect and his shakes bear this trademark. While the Krispy Kreme doughnut and Nutella and Marshmallow shakes seem to be the most popular, I decided I had to try the Fois Gras shake. C’mon. That’s creative. Ingredients: Ice Cream, milk, amaretto and Fois Gras. No self respecting foodie would turn down the opportunity to try this. Taste? Well… like a milk shake. Since I knew Fois Gras was in there, I could taste it but if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have guessed. OK then, I’m glad I tasted it and while I liked it, I don’t think I’ll spend another $9 on a milkshake any time soon.

Fois Gras milkshake

If you want to visit Flip, you’ll need a bit of patience. There is always a wait. The good news is that the place turns over quickly, you can gawk at the burgers passing by and they have a full bar. The crowd on the night I was there was young and hip and the atmosphere is really conducive to having a good time. The layout and décor are exactly as I might have expected; modern straight lines, polished steel and dotted with a few bright colors. It very much has the feel of one of those Hollywood techniques where the film is black and white but the apple is red. Probably my favorite feature of the room are the framed TV’s behind the bar. It was just a hot touch.

Atlanta should be very proud to have this place. It is a stand out amongst restaurants and most towns don’t have anything close.

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