The Optimist

The Optimist – Go for the rolls, stay for the fish…

The Optimist seafood restaurant in Atlanta is a real classy joint – from the mandatory valet to the swanky décor and open kitchen right down to the grown-up cocktails and separate mains and sides. Since I took my husband there for his birthday, I am happy to report that *almost* everything we put in our mouths there was paradise.

I’ll be honest, they had me at the free rolls. These things were as decadent as they come – simultaneously light and airy while glossy with butter and sprinkled with a more-than-ample amount of salt. Mmmm – best rolls I have had in years, hands down.

All of the other savory fare was equally impressive. The fried oysters were both crisp and melty, without the slightest hint of a fishy aftertaste, while our mains really blew us out of the water – pun intended. I had the speck-wrapped mahi mahi with braised escarole and preserved lemon. Every bite was perfection. They clearly use lots of fat and salt in every dish here, but I am not complaining.

My husband also enjoyed his scallop dish, and we both went wild for the sides of Brussels sprouts and fried rice. I didn’t even know I liked Brussels sprouts, but I could not stop eating these little guys! All the while, we felt very chic, like we were truly out on the town in the big city (we live deep in the burbs now).

Despite all of this grandeur, there were a few let-downs at The Optimist. First of all, the staff assured me on the phone that they would put a candle in the dessert for my husband should we order one. That is really the sole purpose I ordered a dessert, because we were both stuffed to the gills (pun intended again) by the time we finished the main course. But alas, I wanted him to have a special finish to the meal, so we ordered the mini lemon meringue pie.

Unfortunately, not only was there no candle, but the meringue had the distinct taste of animal – like someone had used the wrong ingredient in it or it had been stewing in the fridge next to a vat of duck fat. Either way, it was off-putting to the point that my husband (who never really gripes about anything) shared this disappointment with the waiter.

The other disappointment of the evening, unfortunately, was the waiter. He got very friendly towards the end of the meal, but had zero personality leading up to it, making it super obvious that he was just being nice to try to get that good tip before we left.

Despite these drawbacks, I am definitely optimistic about recommending The Optimist for a special occasion meal – just skip the dessert, as it does not seem to be their strong point. Though it did give me and my husband a good laugh for several days – “remember when we had duck fat for dessert???”

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