Monday, July 22, 2013

The Branded Butcher

When news of the Branded Butcher's arrival in Athens hit my husband's ears, he was pretty darn excited. A restaurant specializing in charcuterie?  My meat loving spouse thought he died and woke up in the Atlanta food scene.  Due to his enthusiasm, I agreed to the Branded Butcher as the restaurant to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.  We could not have chosen a better restaurant, because the Branded Butcher was absolutely the most fun dining experience we have ever had in in Athens.  Because we have only eaten there once, I'm hesitant to out right say it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Branded Butcher might be the best fine dining restaurant that Athens has to offer.  

When we arrived at the restaurant, I was underwhelmed by the ambiance, and therefore nervous about the upcoming meal.  The restaurant itself is dark and sort of bare, and honestly could use a little more pizzazz. However, the food was so interesting and delicious that even the most exotic of surroundings would likely have been ignored while dining at the Branded Butcher.  So perhaps they are wise for saving money on the decor part of their budget.

The menu is divided into several  parts: Snacks, Oysters, Charcuterie, Cheese, Firsts, Mains, and Desserts.

While the Mains looked interesting, they paled in comparison to the Charcuterie choices.  We therefore decided to choose a bunch of items from the charcuterie to share, and then split the Vegetarian Main to get some veggies in our meal.  It proved to be a great choice, because sampling all the different types of meat made the meal such a fun adventure.  I highly recommend doing this yourself, because I think it's the best way to really experience the creativity and food art the Branded Butcher has to offer.  We were brought one Charcuterie at a time, which really added to the food journey feel.

The first item we were served was the Chicken Liver Mousse, made with a sherry reduction and served with Marcona almonds and bread.  This ended up being my personal favorite item we ate that night.  It was completely decadent.

The second item was the Scotch Egg, which was my husband's favorite (and nearly mine as well).  The Scotch Egg was made with sausage, celery root remoulade, and whisky gastrique.  The flavors complimented each other beautifully, and the egg was perfectly cooked.  

The third item served were the Baked Oysters. They were probably our least favorite of the Charcuterie. Compared to the other items we had, the oysters were a little boring.  Plus there was broken shell mixed in with the stuffing part for most of the oysters, which made eating a little tricky.  

The fourth item was the Pork Belly Confit, served with a deviled egg puree, black pepper sabayon, and watercress.  This was the item on the menu that we both expected to be our favorite when we ordered it. While it was delicious, we both found it to be just a tad salty, which prevented it from claiming the number one spot.

The final part of the savory dishes was the Veggie Plate, which included cauliflower soup with curry oil, grilled bread, local lettuces with radishes, and a grilled spring onion.  Everything on the plate was excellent. The cauliflower soup had me licking the bowl, and the grilled spring onion had my husband and I dueling forks to get the last bite. The only issue I could see with the dish was that it was rather small, so if you ordered it by itself with no other sides, you would likely leave very hungry.

We finished our meal with a flourless chocolate cake, which was fine. I've had better, and I've certainly had worse.  Like the oysters, it just wasn't at the same level as the rest of the exciting meal.  

Shortly after our dining experience, dear friends of ours also went to the Branded Butcher for their own wedding anniversary, and they also had a wonderful dining experience.  They told me that the stand out items they ordered were the Bratwurst and Porchetta di Testa from the Charcuterie, and the Seared Duck from the Mains.  I definitely plan on trying all three of those on my return visit.  And yes, I see many return visits to the Branded Butcher in my future.

So was our meal perfect at The Branded Butcher?  Nope.  But that didn't stop it from being the best overall meal I've had in Athens.  The Branded Butcher offers fun, creative, adventurous, and yes, risky, food to their patrons.  The majority of meals I have had in Athens have been great, but none as memorable as The Branded Butcher.  I cannot wait to go back for another culinary adventure.

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