I should have known.
I’m a huge fan of Five and Ten, now a foodie landmark in Athens, whose executive chef is Hugh Acheson. I’d heard a couple of years ago that the same mastermind behind Five and Ten had opened a new high-end, sustainable-farm-focused restaurant downtown: The National.
Why I haven’t been here before is a mystery to me, too.
It took Ruth’s birthday to summon me. Who wouldn’t go ANYWHERE for this face, and how much more to a fabulous restaurant?
My biggest reservation about The National was what I’d heard about its pricing, but at least at lunchtime, it’s not really any different from Last Resort, East/West, or any of the other upscale restaurants in town WHO ARE OPEN FOR LUNCH (sniff, Farm 255! Throw us a bone!). If you stick to an entree only–which does come with a side–you’re going to be looking at $10-15. Not bad for what you get.
This was a lovely way to start the meal: Savannah shrimp out of the ocean “less than 48 hours,” remoulade, and a spicy sauce, with local butter lettuces touched with vinegar and olive oil.
Ruth’s coworkers, Debbie and Caroline, were there to join me in scarfing the appetizer:
I had a cup of the local pumpkin soup (curry crema and pecans with a touch of spice)–HOLY CRAP–and the spinach salad, with smoked trout, house-pickled beets, scallions, and creamy dijon-vinaigrette. It makes such an amazing difference when every ingredient is high-end. Black and white versus Technicolor.
Ruth had the ground lamb pita with frites dipped in spicy pomegranate ketchup (read: ketchup that burns nicely on the way down!):
Debbie selected the bowl of soup, salad and side of frites:
Caroline chose the sumptuous-looking vegetable samoas with tamarind, yogurt, and sesame. She also approved of her soup:
I absolutely loved the wine and cocktail list–Vinho Verde! The National offers 3 oz pours for half the price of the full 6 oz glass, so it’s easy and not wallet- or liver-busting to try new varieties. Next time I want to try the Fresca (housemade cantaloupe agua fresca, Brugel white rum, lemon, mint and soda). Yes, thanks. Caroline remarked favorably about her Campuget Rose.
Not the fastest service I’ve ever had–presumably you’re not coming here for fast food–but our server was helpful, attentive and friendly. I always love when an upscale restaurant hasn’t a whit of snobbery.