Hugh Acheson may be best known for serving fresh takes on Southern cooking at Empire State South in Midtown and Five and Ten in Athens, but the Canadian-born chef just opened two new restaurants in Atlanta, one of which is an ode to Canada’s capital and the neighboring city of Montreal.
Now open at the Hyatt Centric hotel in Buckhead, Acheson reconnects with his French-Canadian roots at Mount Royal, a Montreal-style steakhouse named for a mountain just west of the city, while dialing up the bar bites at rooftop lounge Spaceman.
Acheson and chef Sam Herndon (head of Acheson’s culinary team) provided Eater with a glimpse into the creation of the menus for Mount Royal and Spaceman, along with five dishes people should try when they visit.
Originally from Ottawa, Atlantans first saw Acheson leaning back into his regional Canadian roots with By George, which opened at the Candler Hotel in downtown Atlanta three years ago. The menu blends familiar French dishes and ingredients with those found throughout the South. At By George, one might dine on beef tenderloin drizzled in bordelaise sauce and sides of whipped potatoes and kimchi creamed spinach, followed by delicate profiterole topped with chocolate sauce and local pecans and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Acheson, who refers to himself as “quietly Canadian,” describes the menu at Mount Royal as an ode to Montreal and Ottawa, where prime cuts of steak pair with French-Canadian classics like Lyonnaise salad, meat pies, and sour pickles. But the chef still taps into the bounty of Southern ingredients here. Over half the dishes at Mount Royal contain vegetables or ingredients sourced from local farms and food purveyors, right down to the sorghum and flour.
“The tourtiere is one of the quintessential dishes of the Quebec region, and a staple item of the Mount Royal menu,” says Acheson.
This traditional meat pie is filled with seasoned braised pork, ground veal, and ground pork stuffed inside a flaky puff pastry and served with a small salad of frisee hearts (curly endive) dressed in black truffle vinaigrette.
Ora King Salmon
“We try to delve deep into classic techniques that just aren’t around as much anymore, because frankly they require more work,” says Acheson.
The chef sources the Ora King salmon for this dish from New Zealand. The fish is gently flatten to an even thickness. Next, a layer of soft-cooked leeks is spread over the salmon, before the fish is rolled into a pinwheel shape.
“From there, you chill it, slice it and poach it in a sauce of buttered seafood stock (nage), trout roe, lemon juice, and chervil (French parsley),” he adds. “It hits all the spots — delicate, buttery rich, texture, and it’s visually really beautiful.”
“This dish [top right corner] originally comes from the town of Vichy in the center of France, and it’s known for its great water, so here we cook with a spring water to replicate,” Acheson says. “Quebec has a strong French heritage, and the carrot vichy is our homage to the history.”
Acheson credits James Beard for bringing French food to prominence in the U.S. and helping to “popularize” the carrots, which are cooked in a small amount of water, butter, and sugar. The carrots are then sprinkled with fresh parsley.
“To cook vegetables that guests crave is such a treat for us, and we really deliver on this carrot side dish,” he says.
High atop Mount Royal on the 15th floor of the hotel, Spaceman offers a more casual vibe with its indoor-outdoor lounge and skyline views. It also showcases the playful side of Acheson and his cooking. Look for cocktails pairing mezcal with bitter orange vodka and bianco and dry vermouth or cognac and fino sherry alongside amped-up bar bites, including green chicken chili nachos, hummus and bagel chips, and snow crab legs with Aleppo lemon butter.
Fripper’s Hot Dog
Spaceman sources hot dogs from Atlanta sausage company Fripper’s, owned by Colin Miles.
“This locally based company offers an amazing hot dog. Often people are willing to pay for an $18 hamburger and will avoid any hot dog over five or six bucks, but honestly a lot more technique goes into making an amazing hot dog than a burger,” says Acheson.
The deluxe dog at Spaceman is topped with crispy potato sticks and chow-chow relish mixed with black truffles. It’s then drizzled with French dijon mustard and a dusting of more black truffles and served on a Martin’s potato bun.
Single Layer Nachos
Herndon says a scene from the movie “Saving Silverman” serves as the inspiration for the nachos on the menu at Spaceman.
“One scene that always makes me laugh is when Jack Black claims, much to Steve Zahn’s chagrin, that when eating nachos, ‘dude, if you get the nachos stuck together, that’s one nacho!’ Every chip has as much of the toppings as possible,” Herndon says.
Nachos here come two ways: topped with green chili chicken or red guajillo chili mushrooms. The chips are then topped further with queso fresco, pickled red onions, jalapenos, black beans, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
“Everyone orders the green chili chicken, but honestly, the mushroom vegetarian version with guajillo is the way to go.”
3301 Lenox Square Parkway, Atlanta. mtroyalatl.com; spacemanatl.com.
Mount Royal open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. Lunch Monday - Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Spaceman open Wednesday - Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Public transit information: Within walking distance of Lenox MARTA train station and accessible via MARTA bus 27.
Disclaimer: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here. It is highly advised people wear masks indoors or when in crowded situations, regardless of vaccination status, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.