Bistro Niko – Atlanta
I was excited to finally make it to Bistro Niko today. I would have preferred to have dinner there, but I was invited for a ladies that do lunch gig, so that is what I did! Bistro Niko is the latest addition to the Buckhead Life Restaurant group and is located in the new Sovereign Building on Peachtree Rd. (which also is home to the revamped Buckhead Club). The “Niko” part of the name is a bit confusing for a French bistro, but the restaurant is named after Niko Karatassos, who runs the Buckhead Life group (so I suppose that makes sense).
I tried to get a reservation for dinner at Bistro Niko twice before Christmas with no success. They were incredibly busy on the weekends shortly after their opening in early November. Since the main dining area was fully booked, I asked about having dinner at the bar instead. I thankfully was advised by the maitre d’ not to do that. He said the bar was far too busy and loud to enjoy dinner. I certainly appreciated their honesty.
I have to say that the restaurant has a very classy, Parisian feel about it. In fact, it reminds me of a fussier and much larger version of Brasserie Le Coze (which I miss terribly). Brasserie Le Coze was the little restaurant that used to be right next to Neiman Marcus before the renovation at Lenox Mall. It reopened as FAB (French American Brasserie) in downtown Atlanta a few years ago.
Bistro Niko was not terribly busy today (a Wednesday) at 12:30, which was surprising. It is a large space, so I imagine keeping it busy at all times may be difficult these days. I also have read some mixed reviews, so I do not know if that has had an impact. However, I would say that most of the reviews have been pretty complimentary. My friend had been to lunch once before and had a nice experience. In fact, she enjoyed the Tarte Aux Champignon ($11) so much on her last visit, she ordered it again today.
We each had a glass of Pouilly Fuisse ($13 a glass). It was a lovely wine, however, I thought for that price the pour could have been a bit more generous. I ordered Chicken Paillards that were served with bits of asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes and arugula ($16). The chicken was lightly sauteed in what tasted like a mixture of butter and olive oil and the serving was so large that it actually filled the plate. It was a light dish (other than the portion size) and was good, but I thought it lacked something. I actually had to add a bit of salt to perk up the flavors. I know this is the latest trend in restaurant kitchens. Chefs are letting the patrons add their own salt rather than loading it up in the kitchen. However, the chicken was still a little flat to me. I think a bit of lemon or fresh thyme might have brightened up the dish.
My friend had the endive salad which was served with blue cheese and walnuts ($9). The presentation was quite nice and she said it was very tasty. As mentioned earlier, she had the mushroom tart as well and said it was as good as she had remembered from the last visit. We did not have dessert, although Baba au Rhum sure sounded tempting! I do have to mention that the service was quite attentive. We were there for 2 hours chatting and our waiter knew when to come and check on us and when to just let us be.
One of my favorite things about Bistro Niko is the open kitchen area that you see upon entering the restaurant. I thought that was a really nice touch (especially if you like kitchens and kitchen toys and enjoy cooking). I also love the atmosphere. It is a little bit of Paris when you cannot be there. However, it was noisy (even when the restaurant was not very busy), so if you like a quiet lunch or dinner, this might not be the place for you. I can imagine that it would be very loud on a crowded evening. Obviously, the bar area gets quite busy and noisy. There is so much glass, brass and tile and nothing to absorb the noise.
The menu is traditional Parisian brasserie complete with Coq au Vin and Steak Frites. There is also a nice selection of appetizers, tarts and sandwiches, if you are interested in a lighter meal. The wine selection is comprised of primarily French offerings. There was a broad selection of both white and red wines. Within the whites, which I selected from, prices ranged from approximately $7 to $13 a glass.
I enjoyed the food enough to want to go back and have dinner. We are not fond of loud dining spots, but I am willing to give it a try. The restaurant is beautiful and I certainly am happy to have another French brasserie in Atlanta. Was I “wowed”? I do not know if I would say that. I think the food presentation was nice, I like the feel of the restaurant, but I would like to have dinner and see how the food and service is in the evenings.
Regardless, it is a wonderful addition to the dining scene in Atlanta. It is attractive, fun, parking is easy (they have valet parking) and it is very French (except for the Niko part)!