The corner of E. Andrews and W. Paces Ferry in Buckhead is choke full of Atlanta’s forgotten culinary greatness. Yes, the converted home that housed one of Atlanta’s most notable restaurants (Seeger’s) has gradually morphed from a place of legend and shi shi into an establishment for the more casual dinner. Coast Seafood & Raw Bar is the current resident, and they’ve set out to fill the void left when Steamhouse Lounge moved to Midtown.
The restaurant is operated by Tom Catherall’s Here To Serve, a restaurant group whose fooderies dot our cityscape with thoughts of greatness that always fall short. In fact, 111 W. Paces’ previous tenant, aptly named Home, was one such example. The restaurant’s brief flirtation with success came when Catherall brought in Atlanta’s darling chef, one Richard Blais. That Blais up and ran just a few months after showing up was not a surprise (it’s kinda been his m.o.). It was also no surprise that when Blais left, so too did Home’s business. Now, just a few months after H2S shuttered the cougarville that was Lola Bellini Bar in favor of the
disgusting Cantina Taqueria, they have followed suit with Home and Coast Seafood.
After being heavily reworked by previous tenants, the transition from Home to Coast has been minor. There’s a new paint job and some thematically appropriate artwork, but the remaining items seem the same. Perhaps the tables are different, but it’s hart to tell since Home was a table cloth establishment … Coast goes the route of brown paper. The one notable addition is the deck outside. It sits just a few feet off the ground and houses a handful of tables. It’s a little out of place (it blocks the view of the restaurant from the street corner), but does its job. To provide you your food, Catherall employed Chet Huntley as the GM and Quentin Donnaud as the executive shucker. You might remember Donnaud, as he handled things at Home as well.
This half-cocked rework gives way to an experience that plays like an poorly spliced movie … it’s not all that horrible, but it is a little disjointed. Take for example the glass door and windowed kitchen; they just don’t fit the theme of neighborhood oyster bar. After all, do we really need reservations for a place like this?
All that was on display when Papa Buddha and I walked in around 7pm the other night. At the time, the bar had a few patrons and so did the patio. The rest of the tables were empty and made it feel like a ghost town. Quickly seated by one of the “Hottie Hostesses” H2S seems to employ everywhere, we settled in and got to business.
Our server showed up with a smile and an attitude that made you feel right at home. After handing us our menu’s and taking the drink orders, she pranced away just full of happiness. She came back to take our orders and then returned a few other times to make sure we had everything we needed. For the most part, she left us to our own conversation. Kudos!
The menu fills an expanded page and includes all the standards, as well as a few “mix it ups,” but nothing that should scare you away (assuming that you don’t mind seafood). In addition to apps and salads ($6-$12), there’s a platoon of raw/steamed options, then baskets of friedness, some seafood sandwiches, a series of “fresh catch” items, and then specialties. Most everything hangs around the $15 price point, not too bad considering the cuisine and location.
To start with, Pops and I sampled the crab & shrimp Vietnamese summer rolls ($6) and the fried calamari ($6). The summer rolls come with a chili lime dip that did little to invoke my culinary obsession. It was very sweet, and the only chili and lime I could think of were personifications of previous engagements. In other words, it was from the jar (or might as well have been). The crab stick and shrimp were fresh, but not sushi grade quality. But, the two rolls filled the plate and certainly didn’t bother me given the $6 price tag (it’s Buckhead after all!).
I then turned my attention to the calamari. It was a traditional rendition and one that was indistinguishable from any number of versions I’ve had at any number of restaurants. The calamari was fresh, and not overcooked. The aioli was appropriately portioned, allowing for just the right amount of decadence, and the portion was more than reasonable. While the marinara sauce was a joke, I just can’t get all hot and bothered by something like that given the circumstances.
Seeing as we’re raw food freaks, and health(ier) was in order, we had a sampling of seafood courtesy of the $35 Coast Seafood Tower. Included were about six mussels, a handful of shrimp, a lettuce cap of crab meat, a lobster tail (probably about 8oz.), and four gulf oysters. To supplement the quintuplets of protein, there was a cracked pepper mignonette, cocktail sauce, and pink brandy sauce.
We dove right in and had no problem skewering crab meat, slurping oysters, or tearing into the lobster tail. Surprisingly, we never did have to duel each other for the right to de-shell a shrimp. Yes, old age has mellowed the Buddha boys.
As things go, this is where I normally dive into a diatribe of descriptors hoping to communicate just how each morsel of food met its end. It just isn’t necessary. The shrimp tasted like shrimp, the crab like crab, the mussels like mussels. All of it was fresh, but nothing drove a message home. It’s the type of food that populates our seafood restaurants in Atlanta, and you can easily score some for yourself if you walk into any Publix in the city. But you can’t nail a place when you ultimately end up with a plate that looks like this:
I can’t really complain, but I won’t get excited about anything that happened (save for the hostess … hey … I’m a dude!). Coast didn’t score as well with me as Steamhouse did back in the day; however, it’s at least as good as Steamhouse is now … and my first meal there was far less problematic than my first meal at Steamhouse. One meal in, Coast is nowhere near the disaster of H2S’s Cantina but also not worthy of my heart. The stranded island of Atlanta needs an SOS: “Send great seafood!”