|The bright, modern Atrium, brings fine dining to Dumbo|
Add Atrium to the growing list of fine dining restaurants that have embraced Brooklyn as their home. Unlike, Battersby, which squeezed itself into a cramped, exposed-brick interior, Atrium is situated in an airy, modern, two-level space, without an exposed brick in sight. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of 15 Main Street in Dumbo, a former warehouse converted into modern condos, which include the insane, still-for-sale clocktower residence at the top (and the home of actress Anne Hathaway).
The sleek, modern decor includes a large open kitchen and a hanging garden along one wall, which was left when former tenant the Governor vacated the space in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The bright lofted ceiling with stringed cafe lighting creates the illusion of an atrium.
|Drinks at Atrium|
The team of DB Bistro alums has created a French-influenced American menu. Most dishes are rich with complex, bold flavors and make good use of French technique. There is a need for some lighter fare, which will hopefully make an appearance on the menu by springtime.
The drinks include fantastic creative cocktails, created with the help of a PDT alum. The best of the bunch include the smooth but strong “Tea & Kalamansi,” which combines bourbon, Assam tea, and cocchi. A long wine list – perhaps too long – features a good collection of Spanish riojas, as well as an unusual and refreshing txakoli rosé from the Basque country.
|The excellent steak tartare|
The menu is divided into starters, pastas, mains, and sides, and also includes oysters and a recently added cheese & charcuterie board. The bright and friendly wait staff helpfully assist in navigating the many menu categories.
Bread is a menu item that costs $3, which would normally irk me, but this bread was superb. Smoked over applewood, the round loaf was crisp on the outside, giving way to a pillowy interior with just the right amount of smoky flavor. A homemade olive butter was a rich accompaniment without too strong of an olive flavor.
The best appetizers at Atrium are also the richest.
A hand cut steak tartare with chopped beets, red miso, and an egg yolk was the best steak tartare I’ve had in a very long time. The beef was excellent and well seasoned, the beets added some sweetness to the meat, and the strong red miso provided another bold flavor. An egg yolk tied all the ingredients together, and crusty bread served as the perfect vehicle.
|The Lamb Merguez with sweet Piquillo pepper|
A spiced lamb sausage Merguez-style was combined with a sweet lightly breaded Piquillo pepper, lentils, and an arugula puree. This was a great contrast of spicy and sweet, and a beautiful dish. The arugula didn’t add much, but it enlivened the plate.
Atrium’s rendition of a Caesar salad was also outstanding, and took full advantage of the charred romaine trend. Chopped rows of charred romaine were neatly arranged on a wooden cutting board, and combined with a smoky Parmesan-bacon dressing, and some crunchy croutons.
An attempt at a lighter dish of fluke crudo with celery root, grapefruit slices, and dill was less successful. In comparison with the other dishes’ bold flavors, this one fell a little flat – the predominant flavor was dill, and the fluke was under-seasoned. The grapefruit provided less citrus than was needed.
I would have liked to see more finesse in pulling off a lighter dish without sacrificing the bold flavors of the restaurant’s more hearty offerings.
|The middle-course star: quinoa tagliatelle|
Pastas occupy the middle portion of the menu and work as either appetizers or mains. They are perhaps best used, however, as a mid-course shareable dish for the table. The best of the bunch is a house-made quinoa tagliatelle with cauliflower, lemon, and cumin, with crunchy quinoa on top.
This is a knockout dish, which no meal at Atrium is complete without. Preserved lemon provides a bold lemon flavor, while cumin oil adds a subtle – perhaps, too subtle – note of cumin. The cauliflower, hidden underneath the mold of tagliatelle, was well cooked.
The main courses are large portions and include an excellent roasted chicken for two, prepared two ways: the dark meat in a pot pie with a puffed puff pastry top, and the rest roasted with plenty of rosemary. Crispy potato wedges are served alongside dill crème fraîche. A cook presented the roasted chicken to us whole before departing to break it down.
|The large roasted chicken for two (or more)|
The roasted portion was tender and delicious, and I enjoyed that part of the dish the most. The pot pie had a decadent homemade puff pastry that I could easily eat by itself, but the chicken was hard to find and less impressive. The potato wedges were crispy and enjoyable by themselves; the dill crème fraîche seemed superfluous, though was tasty.
Another main topped with a puff pastry is the “Daube Provençal” – a hearty beef stew with bacon and a side of macaroni. It’s unusual to see two of the five mains dishes at a restaurant topped with a similar, albeit excellent, puff pastry. The beef was nice and tender, though the broth was overly rich, especially when combined with pastry and macaroni.
|The “Daube Provençal”|
Atlantic cod seemed out of place with Asian flavors – it was served over subtle dashi, bok choy, daikon, and woodear mushrooms. The attempt at lighter fare was well thought out but under-seasoned.
A side of pommes purée with melted Gruyère was to die for, one of the best mashed potatoes I’ve had. Rich, no doubt, but without the overly buttery flavors of some other preparations.
Atrium is a welcome addition to the fine dining-starved section of Dumbo. With a few lighter dishes to go along with its excellent drinks, Atrium could also serve as a great neighborhood spot. I look forward to returning, especially when the weather gets warmer, accompanied by a stroll through nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park.
15 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Recommended dishes: cocktails ($13), lamb merguez ($12), beef tartare ($13), charred romaine ($11), quinoa tagliatelle ($16), roasted chicken for two ($28 per person)