Atlanta Dining

Alma Cocina Welcome Addition to Downtown ATL

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The addition of butternut squash to the guacamole gives it a beautiful color and a delicious new flavor

I have trouble with menus like the one at Alma Cocina, the newest restaurant from Fifth Group. Faced with dishes with ingredients such as braised lamb with cucumber-mint salsa, butternut squash, poblano-goat cheese potato gratin and charred corn on the cobb with garlic aioli, I feel like Kim Kardashian picking out a pair shoes for the day. How can I possibly decide about so many delectable choices?

The challenge started with picking out one of their Latin American-inspired signature cocktails. Stick with a variation on my new favorite and get the Mojito Moorea, which includes a hint of vanilla? Or try one of the ginger drinks, which are delightfully refreshing. I finally decided on the El Centro, one of Alma’s many tequila drinks, which has fresh ginger and chamomile aromas. Chris went for the Naranjarita, which has blood orange infusion, orange brandy and hand-squeezed citrus juices. See what I mean?

The refreshing orange-flavored Naranjarita cocktail. Salt on the rim of course.

Described as contemporary Mexican cuisine, the food at Alma includes such wonders as the recommended butternut squash guacamole. We scraped up every bite. With the help of our excellent server, Ric, we finally narrowed down our choices for the rest of the menu.

We had to try the Corvina sea bass ceviche, which Ric served with another basket of chips and advice to dig all the way through the layers to get to the avocado mousse. In a losing battle not to appear too gluttonous, we may have passed on the butternut squash soup, which is one of our favorites. But the addition of lamb meatballs and tequila-compressed apples put that on the must-try list.

The selection of five types of taquitos was tough, but Ric let us have one order with one of each of the braised lamb and the fried avocado and we opted to share one entrée – the grilled flat iron steak with the potato gratin, avocado-arugula salad with adobe sauce.

We had to admire the layered lusciousness of the poblano-goat cheese potato gratin before taking a bite.

We found all the dishes delicious but by the time the entrée arrived we had about reached our limit and could have stopped there. But of course we had to try a few bites because calling it quits. We took the leftovers home where I hid them for (my) future consumption.

My husband’s general response to being offered a dessert menu is, “Well, we’ll just take a look.” This time that quick look turned into this response to Ric when he returned to our table. “We are so full, we are only having two desserts.”

I opted for the churros, served with three sauces, and Chris opted for the light yet yummy grapefruit-mint sorbet.

The quality of the food isn’t too shocking when you learn about the experience of Executive Chef Chad Clevenger, who has staged at two Michelin starred restaurants on the French Riviera and was the award-winning chef/owner of Agave Grill and Mel’s Bar & Grill in Denver.

Open only since early December, Alma has already garnered a large lunch crowd and was close to full the weeknight we were there for dinner, with several parties stopping by for a drink at the bar.

There’s only one solution to the problem of two many tempting dishes on a menu — a return visit as soon as possible.

One Ninety One Peachtree Tower, 191 Peachtree Street, NE, across the street from the old Macy’s building. 404-968-9662. Alma offers free parking from an entrance on Peachtree Center Avenue.

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