Redbird, the restaurant from former Watershed owner Ross Jones and chef Zeb Stevenson, opens today in the old Bacchanalia space at Westside Provisions District (WSPD). Redbird isn’t a Southern food redux for Stevenson, but where the chef can finally throw out the often irrelevant restaurant descriptors and cook what he wants, without constraints.
The menu at Redbird features approximately 24 items broken out into cold dishes and a few snacks, shared appetizers comprising of several vegetable dishes, a la carte entrees such as a pan-roasted striped bass, and four desserts. Dishes are woven together through corresponding flavors or shared ingredients. Stevenson advises ordering “a little bit from here and a little bit from there” and filling up the table with food to be enjoyed family style.
Since summer squashes are in abundance right now, Stevenson has been working on a chilled dish containing grilled squash with a coriander dressing. The dressing is based on a Vietnamese technique where sugars are caramelized and deglazed with vinegar and lime juice. Toasted coriander and sesame seeds are added to the dressing. The dish is topped with fresh cilantro and chopped, toasted cashews.
“Our goal at Redbird is to take every single ingredient and try to coax the best flavors out of them and let them be the best versions of themselves. It’s all about technique,” Stevenson explains.
In other words, food on the plate may look simple, but everything on the plate may have taken two days to create.
The dinner menu offers playful dishes like pommes dauphine (puffed mashed potato dumplings wrapped in choux pastry) served with a tomato conserve, fresh cream, and chives and rice and summer truffle croquettes.
For those who have followed Stevenson since his days at the Livingston where he threw one of Atlanta’s more memorable food events — the five course “blood dinner” — this “free-spirited” approach to food isn’t terribly surprising. However, the chef admits that 15 months away from the daily grind in a restaurant kitchen provided him time to focus on his cooking and hit the “reset button”.
“Being away for over a year put everything into perspective. I understand who I am as a cook much more now than I ever did in the past,” says Stevenson. “I’ve matured. I know I’m an elemental cook and I speak a language of simplicity. Redbird and this menu is methodical and not flashy...it’s earnest and personal.”
Assisting Stevenson in the kitchen is chef de cuisine Christian Perez (City Pharmacy). He calls Perez a “badass” and someone who “cares deeply about the food she cooks.”
Along with cocktails and beer, Redbird features a selection of by-the-glass and bottle wines from family-owned wineries and small producers on its mostly French and Spanish-leaning list. But, Stevenson says to expect a few surprising domestics thrown into the mix.
An open kitchen affords Stevenson the ability to access the 90-seat dining room quickly or to continue cooking at his marble top station, referred to as the “lab”, while greeting people entering the restaurant. Redbird also includes a 34-seat patio, overlooking the train tracks that divide the WSPD complex.
“Opening this restaurant is exciting,” Stevenson says. “I’ve never had this unrestricted, unrestrained ability before at a restaurant to express my views about food and cooking. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating, but it’s also the right time for me.”
Lunch: Monday - Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Monday - Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m (11 p.m. on Saturdays); Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. redbirdatl.com.