Monday, October 31, 2011

Catching up with Richard Blais & Jared Lee Pyles @HD1

Chefs Richard Blais and Jared Lee Pyles of HD1 Restaurant.
This is what a soft opening is all about - I drove past HD1 Restaurant in Poncey Highlands twice before I realized it was the place I was supposed to be for lunch. (Of course, that could be a statement about my driving and directional abilities and the fact that these days it's a bit of a deal for me to drive anywhere other than the traditional Atlanta mom-stops of the Varsity, the botanical garden, the zoo and the aquarium.)

But the building is just the slightest bit off the street and the sign didn't grab me, and so I circled the block twice before parking across the street. I was there for a media lunch with Chef Richard Blais, the Top Chef All-Stars winner and partner in Atlanta's gourmet burger boutique, FLIP Burger. For HD1, Blais and Executive Chef Jared Lee Pyles have created another fun venue, more casual than FLIP, with an inventive menu that pulls the hot dog and all its possibilities off of the kid's menu and out of the ballpark and drops it smack in the middle of the adult's plate before topping it with everything from barbecue and cole slaw to tripe and tongue.

We began by nibbling on pressure-cooked boiled peanuts with African spices (barberry, dried chile, cumin, garlic and onion). They were unbelievably good, as were the lemon pepper chicken wings, gussied up with lemon curd and Szechuan pepper.

HD1's boiled peanuts with African spices. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

As delicious as these items were, we flipped out over the Waffles fries with maple-oy sauce. Chick-fil-a needs to send its fry cooks to apprentice at the hand of the cooks here - these fries were perfectly crisp and not greasy and the Asian-inspired sauce had that sweet and sour thing going. Chef Pyles' sauce is a play on Mae-Ploy chili sauce - it's made of maple syrup, honey, Sambal, rice wine vinegar, cilantro and lime.
Waffle fries with maple-oy dressing. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 And now to the dogs: we tried three and all were very good, but one stood out to my barbecue-loving tastebuds - the Eastbound and Down - a frank topped with Carolina pulled pork, sweet mustard slaw and mop sauce. I liked the combination of the tender, smoky pork and the crisp slaw, that was shredded just right - not too coarse, not too fine. In keeping with the "super-local" mandate of the restaurant, the franks are all made by Atlanta charcuterie The Spotted Trotter. Just as much attention was given to the buns - they are a Northeastern style bun, according to Blais, meant to cradle the dog and toppings. The buns are made according to HD1's recipe, but at an off-site bakery - the recipe is a "Ghana sweetbread, a little like broiche or media noche."

Haute dogs. Photo provided by The Reynolds Group.

We finished the meal with soft serve ice cream - Chef Pyles likes to experiment with flavors, drawing inspiration from the supermarket candy aisle. The flavor of the day was inside-out Whopper - chocolate with malted milk topping.

In addition to showing off the menu at HD1, Chef Blais was very accommodating during the lunch, answering questions about all of his business ventures - including a new restaurant, The Spence, opening at Georgia Tech; a cookbook to be published by Clarkson Potter in Fall 2012; and his stake in a t-shirt company called Tasty Cotton, which features the Blaisian (noun):

"Any individual possessing a fixation towards liquid nitrogen, sous vide or faux hawks."

If you need directions to HD1, I can happily oblige, now that I know the neighborhood so well. HD1 opened without a lot of fanfare and because of the walk-up counter, the waits for food are not long, Blais said.  Parking is conveniently located across the street at the Chelsea building. 664 N. Highland Avenue, Atlanta 30306. (404) 815-1127.

Text and images copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer, unless noted otherwise.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Will put this on my list for my next visit to Atlanta!

Angela said...

How totally fun!

Helene Dsouza said...

those peanut and the waffels and the hot dogs... I realy d like that now cause my stomache i grumbling. Atlanta is a bit far though. =/

Felicia said...

Those dishes look and sound intriguing, and I love your pictures of them! Glad you got to enjoy it!

Carolyn W. said...

Looks like a good choice for a Saturday adventure downtown. Do they have inside eating as well as the walk-up windown?

lucy@acookandherbooks said...

Carolyn - it's lots of fun! Plenty of inside seating. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

The boiled peanuts sound divine, as do the waffle fries with the sauce. The next time I'm in Atlanta I'm heading there BEFORE the Lenox Mall!


lucy@acookandherbooks said...

Bell - I'll take you there because I know the way! The boiled peanuts were great - I need to find my notes on the seasoning mix. Worth trying at home.