A sustainable seafood spot spearheaded by JCT Kitchen and No. 246’s Chef Ford Fry, The Optimist and its little sister, The Oyster Bar at The Optimist, are on track to open next month in West Midtown. Executive Chef Adam Evans gave Atlanta Eater the scoop on the menus, his cooking style and the restaurants’ “surf-like” culture.
How will your past experiences shape the kitchen/food at The Optimist? Everything that I have done up to this point will help shape the kitchen at The Optimist, especially my past experiences with cooking with wood fire, learning to cook seafood with proper technique and my general love for all things seafood that come from the Atlantic coast and especially the Gulf.
What do you want diners to feel during and after eating at The Optimist? I want our guests to experience simple, super fresh fish and shellfish and even well thought out "from the farm" items. We want a "Hamptons meets the South" experience with The Optimist. For the Oyster Bar, I want our guests to feel comfortable in their "Birdwell Beach Britches" and flip flops. So walking away, our guests will have experienced simply wood roasted and chilled shellfish with big flavors, while enjoying a relaxed setting.
How will the food at The Optimist and The Oyster Bar differ? The Oyster Bar will focus on all kinds of shellfish of the moment in a small plate, sharing setting. Maine lobster rolls, fried oyster loafs, gumbos, etc. The Optimist is a simple technique approached menu where each fish will be roasted in our wood burning ovens and paired with a little complimentary component. Creative and classic sides will be encouraged to share.
What is most unique about your cooking style? I try to be creative but keep it simple. It really all begins with your product. If it doesn't come in to me at the restaurant pristine, then it’s going to be hard for us to produce a dish that is memorable and delicious. So it’s important for us to know the purveyors and what exactly they can provide to us. I try to be really thoughtful about textures and components that go onto a plate. When I order a fish dish at a restaurant, I want to taste and recognize the distinct flavor of the fish first, but I also want it to have layers of flavor and a texture that compliments the fish. I also am a firm believer that it’s my job to teach others around me to think about what they are doing - to think like a cook should and better themselves as chefs.
Can you give us a sneak peek at the menus? What items should people look forward to? We think everybody is going to really love our garlicky Virginia clams & pork belly with hand torn sopping croutons and also our mussels in a crabby-coconut broth with birds eye chili and picked herbs.
Anything else? The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist will embrace a surf-like relaxed culture where everything is cool! We look forward to what we will find in the igloo coolers coming up from the coast, just off the boat.